English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.


Major Settlement in the Parish of Hempstead with Eccles

Historical Forms

  • Eccles, Heccles 1086 DB
  • Ec(c)les 1223,1224,1225 Cur 1254–75 Val 1269,1286 Ass 1272 Ch 1294,1378 Cl 1316,1402,1428 FA 1313,1370,1395 FF 1535 VE 1384 DeedNRO
  • Eckeles 1230 Bract 1230 Cur
  • Ecclesse 14 Bromh 1315 Inq 1325 FF
  • Eckles 1302 FA
  • Ekkeles 1346 ib


This name goes back to British *eclesia < Latin ecclesia 'church', an element more common in the west, where it is usually held to indicate the survival of British Christianity (v. Journal 1: 47). Most of the old parish of Eccles has long since disappeared into the sea. A storm in 1604 destroyed the parish church of St Mary and the whole village. The tower of the ruined church was a landmark for sailors (“Eccles Steeple” or “Eccles Tower”) until its foundation was undermined by gales and high tides and the tower eventually fell down in 1895 (v. Norfolk Archaeology 12: 304 ff., 31: 147 and EAA 51: 148). A few remains, mainly heaps of flint, can still be seen on the beach at low tide (cf. Pevsner 125).