top of page

Scarning Village


The parish of Scarning is situated in central Norfolk about halfway between Norwich and King's Lynn. We are a largely agricultural parish, with a number of farms set in almost four thousand acres of land. The village has been in existence for over 900 years and is recorded in the Domesday Book. At that time, the village was known as Scerninga. 


Although there is no evidence of Roman structures, a large number of Roman artefacts have been found, including brooches, coins and fragments of pottery. Medieval finds include buckles, pilgrim bottles, a candle snuffer and an iron dragon figurine found on Scarning Fen. In 1912, a bronze spearhead was found deep in the soil at Potter's Fen. 


The village has a celebrated school, founded by William Seckar in the early 17th century. The Seckar Trust continues to support children at the school. 


Among the school's more famous pupils were Horatio Nelson's father, Edmund, who was born at Bradenham and whose relatives lived for many years at nearby Wendling and Sporle. King George III's Lord Chancellor, Edward Thurlow, was another pupil. After being thrown out of university he went on to become one of the more controversial figures of the late 18th century. Another pupil was Sir Charles Turner, who made his fortune in the law and married Robert Walpole's oldest sister. The Turner family was responsible for construction of the magnificent Customs House in King's Lynn.


At least six members of the Nelson family were trustees at the school. Other trustees at the school have included the wealthy Astley family of Melton Constable Hall, Richard Warner of North Elmham Hall, whose Grand Tour portrait by Batoni is in the National Gallery, and the Wodehouses of Kimberley Hall, near Wymondham. 


Our most famous schoolmaster, Robert Potter, made a name for himself in London through his translations of the Greek tragedians and became embroiled in a literary scandal with Dr Johnson. 

At the start of the 17th century, Scarning was known as 'the land flowing with milk and honey.' This was a reference not only to the fertile agricultural land, but to the number of minor gentry who owned and occupied estates here. There were manor houses at Drayton Hall, Scarning Hall and Northen Hall (next to Dereham Road). 


Among the older properties still standing are Old Hall Farm on Watery Lane, Scarning Dale, Railway Farmhouse and Park Farmhouse. 


By the middle of the 18th century, our largest landowner was John Conyers of Copped Hall in Essex. Conyers was a Governor of the Foundling Hospital in London and married the daughter of Richard Warner, one of our school trustees. Copped Hall is open to visitors at certain times of the year.


Following the death of John Conyers, his estate was sold to John Lombe, a hatter's son, who inherited a vast estate on the death of an uncle and went on to acquire nearby Bylaugh Hall. In 1756 Lombe sat to Pompeo Batoni in Rome, as part of his Grand Tour. His younger brother, Edward, who had attended Scarning School, went on to build and occupy Salle Park. 


John Lombe's estate subsequently passed to the Evans-Lombe family, who were long time supporters of the village, in particular through their links with the Village Hall. The Hall was opened in June 1902 and was the brainchild of our reforming rector and author, Augustus Jessopp. The land on which the hall stands was donated by Henry Evans-Lombe. Guests at its opening ceremony included the adventure writer, Rider Haggard, who lived at nearby Bradenham Hall. Rudyard Kipling donated books to the Hall's library.

Straddling the border with East Dereham is Vicarage Park. The park was first laid out in the late 17th century and by 1815 had expanded to cover over 100 acres, complete with planned walks for the gentry and arranged views in the style of Capability Brown. This area now forms a pleasant location for walkers and joggers, and the Parish Council provides and maintains a large play area on this site, which is adjacent to the Draytonhall Lane housing estate. 

In 1902, a golf club was opened near Fen Road. The resident farmers still plough up golf balls on the site. The village had its own cycling club, dancing club and cricket club. In 1946, Arthur Faulkner Wright presented the village with its own playing field. The five acre field had previously played host to grazing cows. 

In 1965, the village's population was around six hundred. The construction of the Draytonhall Lane estate and other smaller developments has increased our population to more than two thousand. We are a proud and flourishing village. 

There is more about the village and its history including photographs on the village website. 


Scarning: Portrait of a Village by Nick Hartley is available through the Norfolk County Council Library Service, as is a wide ranging` history of the school entitled Arcadia: A History of Scarning Free School.  

Scarning Village Sign
bottom of page