Village History

The story of our village

Docking has a long and fascinating history. Evidence from either within the village or from the surrounding fields shows humans have been present here for many millennia. The earliest evidence may be from nomadic people who only set up temporary camps, but later evidence clearly shows a more permanent settlement.

Early finds

Neolithic flint tool

There is plenty of evidence of early occupation from the Palaeolithic (before 10,000 BC), Mesolithic (10,000 BC to 4000 BC) and Neolithic times (4000 BC to 2300 BC) in the form of scrapers, axes and arrowheads. From the Bronze age (2300 BC to 800 BC) there are signs of  earthworks including barrows and axe heads, and from the Iron Age (800 BC to 43 AD) there have been finds of pottery. The distribution of these finds points to small populations of hunter gatherers. It’s in the Roman period (43 AD to 409AD) when the finds evidence indicates a more permanent settlement of Docking. There have been plenty of finds from this time including pottery, coins and earthworks.

Details of the many finds, earthworks, buildings etc can be found on the website of the Norfolk Heritage Explorer.

The origin of the name

Originally either DOCCE, ‘the place where docks grow’ – Old English docce (dock, waterlily), or DOCCINGAS, in Anglo-Saxon ‘the place of Docca’s people’, referring to a local Anglo-Saxon leader (Fring means ‘the place of Frear’s people). The oldest written record of the name seems to be in the will of Aelfric, Bishop of Elmham, d. 1038, who owned land here acquired during the reign of King Cnut, spelling it DOCCYNGE. In Domesday Book, 1086, it is spelled DOCHINGA, DOCHINGE, DOCKINGE and DOCKINHE. In 1334 it is DOKKYNG, and on Saxton’s map of 1574 it is DOCKINGE. By the time we get to Faden’s map of 1797 it has become DOCKING the spelling we use today.

Domesday Book

Domesday Book was commissioned in 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in 1086 and contained records for more than 13,000 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time). By the time the  book was compiled Docking was a modest settlement, the main centre of habitation being at Summerfield (two miles from the present Docking) of which now very little remains except the farmhouse and a few cottages. Most of the early village of Docking was to the south of where the village is now, mainly in the parkland of Docking Hall. The following is an extract from the entry for Docking in Domesday Book under the heading ‘Lands of Eudo Son of Spirwic.’
“The hundred of Docking.
He also holds DOCKING where Aelfric held before 1066 under Stigand.
Always 1 plough in lordship.
5 villagers; 5 smallholders. Then 2 slaves.
Then 1 men’s plough; now 1½ ploughs. Always 1 cob; 1 cow; 17 pigs; 80 sheep; 1 plough could be restored. Value 20s.
The whole has 1 league in length and ½ in width, it pays tax of 5s 2½d, whoever holds there”.

Docking Priory

We have yet to discover any physical remains of the priory that was at Docking. It was an alien priory of the Benedictine monks of Ivry in the diocese of Evreux in Normandy, northern France. It was ranked as an alien grange or manor and active from 1209 till 1415 when it was dissolved and granted to Joan, Dowager Queen of England.
The alien priories disappeared early; they were dependent on parent houses in France and unpopular. In 1414 an act was passed suppressing all alien priories and this included Docking.
The priory was endowed with tithes from Heacham, Southmere (Summerfield) and Titchwell and the rectories of both Docking and Southmere. It had a gross income of £13 per year. The priory was endowed by Henry VI. In 1440 it was granted to Eton College, which he created and which owned land in Docking.
The location of the Priory is unknown although Richard Le Strange (Monasteries of Norfolk) says it was ‘connected’ to St Mary’s church though whether this means physically we don’t know. So far we have found a number documents relating to Docking priory but as yet they have given us no clue as to it’s actual position. Most simply lead to a dead end although we hope they may still give us some indication of the size of the community at the time.

Further research on the Priory

We were pleased to receive news that a visitor to the Heritage Room was so inspired when she was told about Docking Priory that she took on a personal project to research it.

Vikki Bilbey, who was visiting relatives in the village, studied for a BA in History as a mature student and used the skills she had acquired to dig deeper into the mystery. She has put her findings on her blog, which you can read here – Did the Village of Docking have a Priory?. They make fascinating reading and Vikki will welcome your comments.

St Mary’s Church

The oldest building in the village is the Grade II-listed Church of St Mary the Virgin. Find out all about it on this page.

War Memorial

War memorial

Docking, like many other villages, has its own war memorial dedicated to those who fell in the two World Wars. It is made of rough grey granite and consists of a cross surmounting a column on which the names of the fallen are inscribed. The whole memorial stands on two large granite slabs. It was erected  in about 1920 at a cost of just under £190.

Details of those listed on the memorial can be found on the website of Roll of Honour. The heritage group has further details of many of the servicemen shown on it.

Union Workhouse

Hush a bye-baby, on the tree top

When you grow old your wages will stop

When you have spent the little you made

First to the poorhouse and then to the grave

Docking Union Workhouse

The workhouse, or poorhouse, was seen as a last resort for those with no money or other means of support and life in them was intended to be as off-putting as possible. The threat of the Union workhouse was intended to act as a deterrent to the able-bodied pauper and poor relief (food, clothing etc) would only be granted to anyone who was desperate enough to face entering the horrendous conditions inside.

Docking’s workhouse was built in 1835-36 at a cost of £9,125 just outside the village on the road towards Sedgeford and Heacham. It was constructed to house the poor of 36 surrounding parishes and was one of the largest workhouses in Norfolk. It was designed by John Brown, the Norfolk county surveyor who designed many other workhouses in East Anglia. Originally based on a double-cruciform plan it was built to hold around 450 “inmates” as they were called though it was never filled to capacity, with numbers rarely exceeding 100.

In 1916 it was taken over by the military when it was used for billeting the service personnel from the nearby airfield of RAF Sedgeford. After the war ended in 1918 it was returned to the Board of Guardians who then considered whether to turn it into tenements to help ease the housing shortage, or whether to use it as an isolation hospital. It was eventually decided to sell the building and in 1920 it was purchased by Docking Rural District Council for the sum of £1,580 who then converted into 12 council dwellings, the building having completely lost its north and south ranges by this time was known as “Burntstalks”.

It was later sold by the council and is now a range of private apartments called “Norfolk Heights”. For a more in-depth look at Docking workhouse, and workhouses in general, visit the Docking page of The Workhouse website.

A recent Heritage Group project was to document all the inmates of the Workhouse  on the day of the census every ten years from 1841 to 1911. The results of this mammoth investigation can be downloaded from our Union Workhouse page.


Docking Airfield

Lockheed Hudson

During World War Two Docking was home to a very active frontline airfield. Situated just to the north of the village it was one of 43 wartime airfields that could be found around Norfolk. Details about the airfield and how it effected the village during this period can be found on the Wartime Docking page.



The Village Hall

The Dr W E Ripper Memorial Hall

Parts of the village hall in Docking, known today as the Dr W E RIpper Memorial Hall, date back almost 150 years. The flint annexe was built in 1869 and was originally a Working Man’s Institute where the men of the village would gather to read newspapers which were provided daily. In the 1920s the main part of the hall and the small extension, made of red brick, was built by the Oddfellows.

In later years part of the annexe and the small extension that now houses our heritage room was used as the doctor’s surgery and continued to be used as such until a new surgery was built nearby in 1982. In 1969 Mrs Nancy Ripper purchased the hall for the sum of £3000, dedicated it to her late husband Dr W E Ripper, and gave it to the village. You can find out more about Dr Ripper by going to the People from the Past page.

The Village Sign

Docking sign
The Docking village sign
The village name sign

The village name sign was made to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI in 1936. Made of oak, the carving shows Docca, reputed Anglo-Saxon founder of the village, and his son.  The bishop’s mitre in the oak tree represents Aelfric, the Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Elmham (d. 1038), who owned land here. The sign was erected on the 12th May 1937 with the official unveiling ceremony taking place on 30th October of the same year. Originally the sign was surrounded by a simple chain fence which can be seen in the picture on the right, the concrete and tile base was added later in around June 1939.

Docking today

Bell Meadows
Demolition of the King William public house

The Docking we know today has changed greatly from the Docking of yesteryear. Almost all of the trades and businesses have disappeared, leaving just a handful surviving.

Of all the pubs and beerhouses only one remains open, the Railway Inn. Many of the premises that were once home to these businesses have been turned into private homes, or demolished and replaced with modern housing. Many are now used as holiday homes.

Docking has lost much of its history but there is still a lot left to be discovered and recorded and you can help us to do it. Do you live in an old building here that still shows signs of its former use? Do you have any old pictures, or documents that will help us to reveal a hidden past?  Have you ever dug up anything mysterious in the garden? If you can help in any way please contact us.