The village has a very long history, at least 700 years and is part of the cultural fabric of the area and Norfolk as a whole.


The village of Wendling derives its name from a stream which runs through the town (as it was titled) called ‘Wandle and ing’ means meadow so ‘Wandle-Meadow’, shortened means Wendling ‘the winding stream by the meadows’. Before 1267 it was known as Wendlyng. In the time of the Confessor (1042 – 1066) Wendlyng was in the Manor or the abbot of Bury, and at the survey which was held of the abbot by Richard 1 (1189 – 1199) it consisted of a carucate of land, 2 villains, 6 borderers, 6 acres of meadow and one carucate in demean, one carucate and a half amongst the tenants. Peonage for one hundred swine and one stockman had twelve acres.
In the sixth year of Richard 1 (1195) a fine was levied on the day after St Alphegar, before :


  • Hubert Walter Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Richard Nigel Bishop of London
  • Gilbert Glanvite Bishop of Rochester
  • Herbert son of Hervey
  • William de Warren
  • Richard de Wiat
  • Thomas de Hurseburn, the Kings Justices.


Between William de Huntingfield and Isobel his wife the Abbot of Bury, wherby William de Huntingfield and Isobel quitclaimed all their rights in this town, a advowsa of the church, to the abbot in which the abbot conveyed to him and his wife and their heirs, the whole township of Wendling to be held of the said abbot and his successors by the service and payment of 60s rent per annum and they were to hold the men and tenants of the town by the same services and customs which they performed to the abbot’s predecessors before William son of Roger de Gressinghale held the same. This Isobel was daughter and sole heir of William de Gressinghale, lord of Gressinghale. In 1218 William de Saham, clerk son of Robert de Saham held lands in this town and was a benefactor to Wendling Abbey. An Abbey was founded in 1267 by a William de Wendling, who was one of Henry 3rds judges, and it was in use until at least the middle of the 16th century. However, it fell into disuse during the latter half of the 16th century onwards until around 1810 the last wall was used for road repairing. In the register Niger of Bury Abbey, is an entry of a deed of grant of John de Norwold abbot about the year 1298 of 50s per annum rent to William son of Ralph de Saham clerk which the convent received of Sir Jordan de Foliot, lord of this town, and of the Manor of Gressenhale, witnesses Sir Jordon de Sankevill then steward of the liberty of Bury Abbey, Sir Osbert de Caylby, Sir Robert de Cateston, Sir Warin de Hereford, Sir Ralph de Alneton, Sir Lauserce de Offington, Knights, Robert Norwold William de Badenham and Richard de Saham. In the 3rd year of Edward 1 (1275) Sir Adam Foliot lord held the arrige etc. For many years Wendling had its own railway station with a line that connected to Dereham and Kings Lynn. The railway, and station was heavily used during the second world war. Ammunition was brought in by train, then loaded into lorries to be taken to the American air force base nearby.


During the 1940’s and 1950’s the line was heavily used during the sugar beet season. Outside of this time little freight used the line.


Most passengers went either to Swaffham or to Dereham. Schoolchildren used the train in order to get to Grammar schools based either of these towns.


Unfortunately for the village, the line and station were closed in 1968.


Wendling has had a vibrant past with a strong community spirit and sense of fun, enjoyment, and ‘joining in’.

In the past there have been any number of village fetes, ‘get togethers’ with Whitsuntide being an especially important occasion with celebrations lasting up to three days and attracting large numbers of people from the locality.


There have been Easter bonnet parades, Jubilee Celebrations, and special occasions to which local people have given their support.


Today there are still Harvest Supper Celebrations, and an annual village fete with local people showing the same friendliness and hospitality they have always shown to visitors, and residents alike.


Sadly, most of the traditional trades and services have gradually closed down as the years have passed. The bakery, public house, and village shop have all closed down though there are enterprising people in the village who will, hopefully, reverse this trend.


There is also an expanding hotel called Greenbanks that caters for people who are interested in nature and conservation, and people interested in this subject may be drawn to the village in the future. Wendling has had a well used school since the late 19 century and pupils are now able to attend Beeston Primary School, or Litcham High School.


Undoubtedly, the most important event in modern times for the village was the influx of American airmen in the Second World War, and the establishment of the airbase in 1943. The arrival of American servicemen in such large numbers affected the local people in the area a great deal. With a different culture and attitude on life they brought a sense of vibrancy and fun at a very dark time in our nation’s history.


A lot of people benefitted from the gregarious, generous nature of the Americans, and many were sorry to see them go at the end of the war. However, others resented their brashness at times and were less sorry to see them leave. Even so, they left a mark on the area and many a firm friendship developed as a result of them being here. For a full account of the history of Wendling we suggest that you read Stephen Olley’s excellent book called Wendling, Longham and Beeston with Bittering – over 700 years village life.


Wendling Airfield – History

Wendling is situated in the heart of rural Norfolk, England and sits in an area of intensive farmlands and small villages. Work on building the airfield began in the early 40’s. The airfield was specially constructed for USAAF use to house 2,800 men in the Nissen huts surrounding the village of Beeston, which then had a very small population of about 400 people. It wasn’t until early August 1943 that its new tenants began to arrive. With the heavy arrival of the 392nd Bombardment Group, this small rural area was suddenly transformed into a hive of activity. Life in the communities suddenly had changed!


The 392nd arrived in early August 1943, and their first mission from Wendling took place on 9 September 1943, so little time was spent getting acquainted with the surrounding areas. When downtime did come for the soldiers, local towns and villages became very popular. The local pubs and lasses were especially popular, and being in such a rural location, the favourite mode of transportation was the bicycle. Although on many occasions, the mixture of blackouts, bicycles and beer resulted in many “mishaps” around Wendling and all of the other bases. Locals quickly became accustomed to having the “Yanks” as part of the communities. Ingenious locals soon latched onto the money these new found friends had and promptly set up various “businesses.”



A common business was laundering uniforms for the “Yanks.” A classic story from a villager at Beeston tells how the locals would steal the GI’s issue bicycles while they were happily drinking a few warm ones in the pubs. These were then sold back to the airmen who were in need of transportation, not realizing they were buying what was theirs in the first place!


B24 Over Germany




Information and Photos supplied by Mr J Gilbert




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