The Origins of the Village Name

Those seeking the origin of the name Scarning have a number of options. The Norfolk historian Walter Rye suggested the origin of the name was Danish and that those who settled in the area were from the village of Skjerning. It has also been suggested that the village derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon patronymic Scearningas, denoting the original settlement of a family or descendants of Sceam. Augustus Jessopp, the village’s Victorian rector and author of a number of historical books, called it Skeorn’s Inga. Scarn also means dirt or mud and Ing a meadow. On the other hand, a copse hidden rivulet called the Scar is said to separate Scarning from Dereham, while there are those who believe the village’s name is born out of the numerous springs that are found within it.

What is certain is that the village can trace its origins to before the Norman Invasion. Archaeological evidence indicates the presence of some form of settlement in the area for thousands of years. In 1912, a bronze spearhead was found deep in the soil of Potter’s Fen and twenty years later a Neolithic adze was discovered in a field overlooking Rushmeadow. Other finds in the parish include Iron Age brooches, Roman coins and medieval rings.

The abundance of names, however, continues. In the Domesday Book, the settlement is called Scerningha. The village is also referred to in old documents as Skarning, Scernynge and Scherninge amongst other names, while an inscription in the parish church records the death of Mark Browne, ‘deceased at Scharning the fifth day of July 1693.’

The one certainty would appear to be that there is no one certainty when it comes to the village and its name. For more on archaeological finds in the parish go to

If you want to know more try and find a copy of Nick Hartley’s book “Scarning a portrait of a village”. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print but a copy of the book can be obtained from Dereham Library.

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