Hempton Bell was one of the three Inns in Hempton, all of which were still active in 1939, "The Buck" has been demolished, "The King’s Head" is a private residence and the Bell alone keeps open house.
Hempton is a tiny parish in the northwest of the county, close to the market town of Fakenham. The small village is clustered around the edge of Hempton Green. The Green is the same shape and size today as when it was depicted on Faden’s map of 1797.
Hempton comes from the Old English meaning ‘farmstead or village of a man named Hemma’. In the Domesday Book Hempton, which was held by William of Warenne, is recorded as a small holding, with four freemen and four smallholders and a church. Fragments of Middle and Late Saxon pottery (NHER 7109 and 7120) are the only Saxon finds so far recorded in the parish.
The deeds of the Hempton Bell can hardly be more frustrating to read. The earliest deed to hand, dated 1721, is marked Number 19 so one’s imagination wanders to the years previous when deeds 1–18 were being drawn up but all the evidence points to the existence of the Bell in the early 1600’s.
In the reign of Henry 1, (1100–1135) the Augustinian Priory of St.Stephen was founded about 150 yards from where the Bell now stands and, local legend has it that a building on or near the site of the Bell may have been an outlet for the local monks brewing activities which later supplied ale to the Hempton fairs during and after the reign of King John – all hearsay but all very plausible.