Abandoned Communities ..... Norfolk
Evidence for the state of the village in 1596 comes from a plan of the estate produced for Sir Edward Coke. Edward Coke had bought the manor in 1580, and soon afterwards built a large manor house that appears on the map. He was a prominent lawyer who became Attorney General in 1594. Trials for which he was subsequently responsible included those of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Much later in his career he got into trouble himself and was imprisoned for a short period in the Tower of London during 1622. While in the Tower he wrote some Latin verses that ended with a prayer that he might pass his last days at Godwick.

The 1596 estate plan shows the manor house, the church, and the mill with its water wheel. But houses are depicted only on two or three of the tofts. A few years later Edward Coke built a large barn across the line of the main street, effectively bringing to an end any sense that a village community still existed at Godwick.

In 1602 the church at Godwick was recorded as being wholly ruined. The tower alone was rebuilt in the seventeenth century. Three possible explanations for this rebuilding have been offered by E Rose, a monuments inspector who visited the site in 1977 and 1981. The tower may have been constructed as a folly to go with the manor house and the barn; there may have been an intention, never completed, to rebuild the whole church; or it may have been the minimum needed to fulfil a legal obligation to maintain the structure of the church.

The ruins of Edward Coke’s manor house were demolished in 1962. The barn, however, is still there.

Go to the website of Godwick Hall if you would like to think about holding your wedding in the barn.

The site of Godwick village is on private land, but under the Environmental Stewardship scheme it is open to the public. Two sets of information boards will guide you as you stroll around the earthworks and imagine the village as it may have been six or seven hundred years ago. The older set of boards are now very dirty and some of the information on them is of doubtful reliability. The more recent set is excellent.

For a haiku about Godwick, and several other haiku about deserted villages in Norfolk, go to the page on Norfolk in the Poetry section .

Reproduction of part of the 1596 estate plan (with apologies for the bird droppings)


Sir Edward Coke, in a portrait painted by an unknown artist in 1593


The great barn