CAISTOR ST. EDMUND, or Caistor-next-Norwich, is now a small village of detached dwellings, on the east side of the river Tas, Taus, or Tesse, 3 miles S. of Norwich. Its parish contains 147 inhabitants, and 1020A. of land, nearly all the property of Mrs. Harriet Dashwood, who has a neat mansion here, and is lady of the manor and patroness of the Church, a small edifice, with a square tower and three bells.
The rectory, valued in the King's Book at £9, and in 1831 at £447, with that of Merkshall annexed to it, is in the incumbency of the Rev. John Arthy.
Caistor, though now an inconsiderable village, was at an early period the most flourishing city of the Britons, if not the residence of the Icenian kings. It was an important Roman Station, called Venta Icenorum, afterwards (for the sake of brevity) called Castrum, which the Saxons again altered to Castor. It was deserted after the departure of the Romans, in 446, and its ruined walls are said to have been employed in the erection of Norwich. (See page 54. [This is in the "History of Norwich" section of the directory])
Though the walls are gone, sufficient vestiges still remain to shew the shape and military characteristics of this once formidable fortress, which occupied an area of 32A.2R.36P., about a furlong south-west of the village, and having a gentle descent to the river, which was formerly a much larger stream, supposed to have been navigable for Roman barges. The encampment is in the form of a parallelogram, with the corners rounded off, like those of Burgh and Dorchester, and consists of a single foss and vallum.
It was also surrounded by a strong wall, as an additional rampart, built upon the vallum. The interior area occupies 21A.1R.21P., by which it appears that this station was of greater magnitude than any other in this part of England, being capable of containing 6000 men. The north, east, and south sides, exhibit large banks, raised from a foss of considerable depth, and the west side has one formed on the margin of the river.
In these are the foundations of four gates, the principal of which was the porta prætoriana. At each corner was a raised mound, on which stood bastion towers. The fosse and vallum, in some parts, are 140 feet wide, and in others not more than 90. On the margin of the river is the foundation of a massive tower, composed of layers of Roman tiles and flints, embedded in a strong cement.
Within the area of the camp, near the south-east corner, stands the parish church, which is evidently constructed partly with the ruins of the rampart walls, as it exhibits many Roman tiles, intermixed with flint. The whole is now cultivated. Many Roman urns, coins, and other antiquities, have been found at various periods. The coins, many of which are preserved at Norwich, are of various emperors, from Nero to the time of the lower empire; but they are principally of Constantine. About twenty years since, the bronze figure of a satyr, and another in the shape of a foot, were found, and supposed to have been used as lamps.
In 1821, the remains of two bodies, with the teeth in a perfect state, were found on the west side of the encampment; and at the distance of more than two furlongs to the north-west, at the top of a natural elevation, four beautiful Roman urns, containing calcined bones, &c., were dug up in 1815; and many others were afterwards discovered near the same spot. A coin of pure gold, bearing a fine impression of Nero, was picked up in a turnip field in 1844.
After the Romans had left Caistor, it was still regarded as a place of defence, and as such was held by the Saxon and Danish kings, till Edward the Confessor conferred it, with other possessions, on the abbey of St. Edmund's Bury; but the Norman Conqueror gave it to one of his followers, and it is now in the liberty of the Duke of Norfolk, who has a paramount jurisdiction; though the manor, and nearly all the soil, belong to Mrs Dashwood.
In 1787, the Rev. John Freeman left two old houses, in Norwich, for schooling poor children of Caistor; but they only yield about £3 per annum.
The poor have the following yearly rent-charges, viz., £5 out of land at Shimpling, left by Thos. Pettus, in 1618; 3s. 4d., left by Thos. Neale, in 1597; and 3s. 4d. by Wm. Middleton, in 1673. They have also a cottage, let for £3; and a Fuel Allotment, of 23A.3R.6P., awarded at the enclosure, (40 George III.,) and now let for £30. 10s. a year, which is distributed in coals.
Dashwood Mrs. Harriet gentlewoman Arthy Rev. John Rectory Cogman Robt. blacksmith Davy Anthony joiner King James farmer Spurrell John (Old Hall,) farmer Warren Wm. (house, Bracondale,) farmer Williamson Thos. farmer
Copyright © Pat Newby.