Bramerton is a small village which lies on the southern bank of the River Yare, approximately five miles from the centre of Norwich in the county of Norfolk.
Today it is an area much enjoyed by visitors, particularly boating enthusiasts, walkers and nature lovers, but 95 million years ago Bramerton was a quite different place. Where today there are marshes was just warm open sea. Microscopic algae water plants called Coccolithophores (similar to those shown here) lived in abundance and when they died their tiny skeletons formed beds of soft chalk into which sea urchins, worms and shrimps burrowed on the sea floor leaving us with evidence of their existence in the strata now beneath the village. Much later, during the Ice Age, great glaciers helped mould the landscape of what is now the Yare valley.
The date of the first settlement of Bramerton is unknown but traces of Homo sapiens have been found in this area dating back thousands of years. Flint mining is known to have taken place in Bramerton and in 1926 a Palaeolithic implement was found at Whitlingham, about two miles upstream towards Norwich. In 1929 A large wooden henge and monument was recorded at Arminghall (about five miles to the west of Bramerton) and a flint axe head was discovered at Surlingham in 1933, just a couple of miles to the north east. A few years later, in 1952, an early Bronze Age axe was unearthed at nearby Rockland St Mary. A little further south at Hellington Corner, Thurton a farmer deep ploughing in December 1988 unearthed two clay pots containing bones dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1200BC). To the west, a barrow containing three burial pits was unearthed at Trowse and, in preparation for the building of the A47 Norwich bypass in 1989-91, crop marks were investigated and archaeologists found indications of at least two discreet episodes of prehistoric occupation. These and many other finds imply that this area has been inhabited from very early times.
Even as recently as the Roman occupation evidence indicates that what are now the rivers Yare, Bure and Waveney emptied into a huge estuary with a spit of land close to where Gorleston now sits. The sea came across what is now the lower Yare valley and lapped at the foot of the cliffs of what is known as Woods End; that part of Bramerton which presently borders the river Yare, and is indicated by the red arrow on the map adjacent.
Until nearby Norwich grew and prospered as a city the nearest large habitation to Bramerton would have been Venta Icenorum, a Roman county town in the parish of what is now Caister St Edmunds , 4 miles west of Bramerton. Evidence indicates that occupation at Venta Icenorum started around AD70. It was a settlement that was easy to reach by sea as the estuary at Bramerton lay nearby and the river Tas ran close to the main settlement.
Many will have heard of Boudica (right) who, with her husband Prastagus, ruled over the Iceni tribe which occupied the east of England. The Iceni used Vent Icenorum as their market place and it was Boudica who subsequently led a rebellion against the Romans. Generations later the others used the river as an easy way to penetrate inland. It is almost certain that in AD866 the Vikings sailed up the estuary, probably stopping off at Woods End common, as perhaps did Sweyn, King of the Danes, in AD1004 as his fleet sailed up the estuary to sack Norwich, supposedly in revenge for earlier atrocities against his people.
Thankfully those who moor here today come with more peaceful intentions – to enjoy the beauty and bird life of the marshes opposite, to stretch their legs with a walk along the Wherryman’s Way, to the visit the nearby chandlery (Snuggtopz) or to eat at the Water’s Edge restaurant.