I have already done a piece (June 30 2012) on the ancient origins of the village’s name, and its connection with the Vikings; connections also reflected in the Danish elements in the place-names of adjoining villages of Saxlingham Nethergate, Saxlingham Thorpe and Howe. The Domesday book records the name as merely Newton but I am sure the Flotman part of the name was already in use. There is so much Viking influence hereabouts that this Danish word for a seaman must date back to the Vikings’ arrival as seamen from the North Sea. If you have heard the notion that this word refers to a ferryman carrying travellers across the river Tas, please ignore it. Before the bridge was built this shallow and narrow river would have been crossed by a ford. They would no more have needed a ferry or a ferryman here by Saxlingham mill than they need one a mile or so downstream where Shotesham mill used to be where a ford still exists. Now I will move a bit closer to our own times and consider the Newton Flotman of three or four hundred years ago.
Newton Flotman was the home of Thomas Blundeville in the 16th century. A man of wide and various interests he wrote the first book on the care of the horse (strictly speaking I should use the term equitation) in English and translated several works to that tongue from Italian. The most important of his inventions was the protractor, that invaluable tool used by geometry students ever since. He probably studied at Cambridge as a young man.
These cottages used to stand on the left as you approach the village from Norwich. They were timber-framed and may have originally been thatched. The porches appear to be later additions and make a greater use of brick than the main building, where only the chimney is brick-built. Nonetheless even the porches were still of great antiquity. I think I can remember when they were occupied, and if not they were certainly habitable. By 1970 when this picture was taken the main Ipswich Road (the A 140) which runs past had been widened and straightened, and the road level raised. They appear to stand in a hollow where once they were on road level. They stood just by the entrance to Shotesham Park on the Ipswich road. Other improvements of the same time involved the building of a new bridge over the river at Saxlingham Mill, replacing the structure which had carried traffic for about 400 years
Nearly opposite but on the other side of the road was Brighton’s Garage. A part of this garage remains selling motor bikes, but in 1970 it was a busy petrol station and shop. There is now no shop in Newton Flotman although the population has grown a bit in the last forty years. There is now no post office either. Back in 1883 the village supported a coal merchant, shoemaker, butcher, baker and two shopkeepers as well as a post office. Then it had a population of under 400 souls against today’s 1200.