A Short History of Old Beetley , Beetley and East Bilney

The earliest mention of the village of Beetley occurs in the Doomsday Book in 1086. At this time it was part of the manor of Elmham held by William Beaufoe, Bishop of Thetford. The villages name is believed to derive from two Anglo Saxon words betel or bietel meaning a wooden mallet and lea a woodland clearing i.e. A clearing where mallets were made.

The decayed parish of Bittering Magna was many years ago divided between Beetley and neighbouring Gressenhall. In 1774 Beetley together with Great Bittering and Gressenhall secured an enclosure act. At the time, 20 acres of Beetley Common were allocated to the poor for firing.

East Bilney does not appear in Doomsday, the area being split between Earl Warren of Gressendale (Gressenhall) and the Bishops of Norwich and Elmham. The village gets its name from “bin” an abbreviation from the tribal name “Billinger” and “ey” meaning isle. The later refers to the fact that Bilney was an island before the river Nar was embarked.

Thomas Bilney, a learned divine of Cambridge, who was burnt at Norwich in 1531, was supposed to have been born in the village. His ashes were buried in an urn in the churchyard. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. During Kett’s Rebellion in 1594 the upper stage was thrown down, it being finally repaired in 1906.

On land near the church called “Bloodfield” were found several spurs, horse bits, and sword hilts. The site was believed to be a battle ground during the Civil War.

In 1838 an Almshouse for three aged couples from the Launditch Hundred was built by Rebecca Pearce.

East Bilney Hall was erected in 1867 by W.T.Collison Esq.

A School Board was formed in 1874 for both Beetley and East Bilney erecting a school at Hungry Hill in 1875. The villages of Beetley and East Bilney were amalgamated into a single Parish in 1935.

Source:Beetley and East Bilney Parish plan 2004

The only Public House still open in the Parish is the New Inn on Fakenham Road, Beetley. There were at one time five public houses within Beetley and East Bilney according to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk, The New Inn, Gravel Pit House, The Punch Bowl, The Swan and The Horseshoes.

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