West Runton - History


Fossils of animals, birds and insects are regularly exposed from the eroding cliffs on the beach. The cliffs of West Runton were once part of the Cromer Forest Bed formation which is exposed at intervals along the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk, from Weybourne to Kessingland. The forest bed was formed in the Quaternary Period and dates to between 700,000 to 500,000 years ago.

West Runton's most famous fossil from that period is the "*West Runton elephant". In 1990 the fossilised remains were first discovered down on the beach after winter seas had eroded the cliff. By 1992 at least 25% of the elephant's skeleton had been recovered, and then in 1995 the Norfolk Archaeological unit, with a grant from the National Lottery and some commercial sponsorship, managed to recover almost the entire skeleton. The archaeologists were able to learn from the fossil that the elephant was a Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) and male, stood about 4 metres high, and weighed about 10 tonnes. He was about 40 years old when he probably got stuck in a shallow swampy river channel. His carcass was scavenged by Hyenas, as their teeth marks were found on some of his bones. The mammoth's remains have now been preserved and it is planned to return them to the village for future display. It is currently being prepared for display in Norwich Castle Museum.

Evidence of early antiquity in West Runton is scant. However, evidence of Roman habitation were found just south of the village up on Beeston Regis Heath in 1859, when a complete set of quern-stones were found dating from Roman times. Quern-stones were used to grind materials, the most important of which was usually grain to make flour for bread-making. Up on Beeston Regis Heath there can be found circular pits called "Hills and Holes" (from the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey map of the area), which are thought to date from prehistoric times. During the Saxon-Norman to Medieval periods these pits were dug to obtain iron ore, which was then smelted in a furnace to produce iron. In the Domesday book, the settlement of Runton is given the name of Rugutune and Runetune.

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