Soddenham is a village within the County of Norfolk and was referred to in the Domesday Book as “all waste.” In the Dark Ages herdsmen periodically visited the uninhabited thick woodlands, swamps and marshes to feed their livestock on acorns & beech nuts, but this was already a known bolt-hole for thieves and ne’er-do-wells for a much longer time.
Some of these people eventually decided to stay and made clearings in the woods to live in. Slowly, these crude dwellings developed into permanent settlements, but this was long before it became Soddenham. Norwich Parish records from 1512 describe the place as:
A number of loosely arranged dwellings, little more than turf covered pits, where families of up to ten (and sometimes more) would huddle together to escape the worst of the weather in relative warmth. Each pit housed a family of several generations of subsistence farmers, each specialising in a different crop. Although accurate records cannot be found, it is thought that each family cultivated their own particular moss or lichen, which would form the main staple of their diet. Crops would be buried inside the pit to be used as winter fodder, and sometimes traded with other families in times of plenty. Naturally, mortality rates were high, with an average life expectancy of around 32 years.
Village began to be officially recognised as Soddingham almost immediately following the death of Matthew Hopkins, witchfinder general in 1647, a date always included in its emblem along with a winged serpent in an ‘S’ shape in a variation of the ouroboros position. This infamous part of our history will be recorded in a different section.
Over the following centuries the village grew and lichen husbandry remained at the heart of progress, and several other industries flourished alongside bringing some minor prosperity but little influence in the region. These will be recorded in a different section, each one separately and in more depth.