Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website and the archaeological records which are to be found here. Clicking on a question will reveal its answer.

If you cannot find an answer to your question here, please contact us using the button on the menu bar or by emailing heritage@norfolk.gov.uk.

What is the Norfolk Heritage Explorer?
The Norfolk Heritage Explorer is the online version of the Norfolk Historic Environment Record, the definitive database of Norfolk's archaeological sites and historic buildings which is maintained by Norfolk County Council's Historic Environment Service.
Why is this information being made publicly available?
The Norfolk Historic Environment Service is committed to making the information it holds available to the public and this is why the Norfolk Heritage Explorer has been created, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. We believe that making information about the historic environment more accessible will help people to get involved in heritage issues and to appreciate, enjoy and care for the county's rich heritage.
What sort of research is the Norfolk Heritage Explorer suitable for?
The Norfolk Heritage Explorer is an online version of the Norfolk Historic Environment Record. The NHE is designed to provide easy public access to information about Norfolk's historic environment. It is not designed for academic research, for planning or development-control related work, for archaeological desk-based assessments, commercial archaeological work or for legal purposes. For these you will need to use the Norfolk Historic Environment Record itself, with professional advice as appropriate.
How accurate is the information on this website?
The information given here is as accurate as possible, bearing in mind that the Norfolk Historic Environment Record has been compiled over many decades, by numerous people and from a huge range of sources, many of which have not or cannot now be checked.
Please note that the Norfolk HER also records changing interpretations through time so that, for example, it may describe ‘Roman urns’ found in the 1800s, which are now thought to be Early Saxon cremation urns. We keep both pieces of information on the record, rather than assuming that the latest interpretation is necessarily the correct one. Future archaeologists may well disagree with the interpretations which we record today.
How often is the information updated?
We aim to update the information on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer quarterly. However, due to the amount of new information constantly being acquired, it may take several months for a completely new record to appear on the website.
Why don’t some of the finds from the 19th and early 20th centuries have very many details?
These finds were made at a time when there was no standardised method for recording finds. Often finds were only recorded at parish level and it is possible that early identifications may be incorrect. In many cases the circumstances and date of discovery are also unknown.
What if I would like more detailed information?
If you would like more detailed information you will need to consult the Norfolk Historic Environment Record, which is maintained by the Norfolk Historic Environment Service. Visitors are welcome by appointment and you can contact us using the button on the menu to the left.
What about accessibility?
If you need information in large print, audio, Braille or in a different language please contact us and we will do our best to help.
What is a secondary file?
This is a file in which we store information which has not yet been digitised and made available online, including, for example, detailed lists of finds, illustrations, photographs, reports, architects plans and press cuttings. These documents are held in the archives of the Historic Environment Record and can be consulted by appointment
Where can I find the books and journals referred to in the records?
Some of these may be found in libraries in Norfolk or in the Heritage Centre in the Millennium Library in Norwich, but others will be specialist archaeological journals and not easy to track down. Visitors to the Norfolk Historic Environment Record can consult books and journals held in our archaeological library.
How accurate is the mapping?
In most cases the mapping is indicative rather than definitive, and areas of, for example, finds scatters, are likely to be approximate. It is also important to remember that the recorded extent of an archaeological site may be based upon surface finds or cropmarks, and that the below-ground remains may well cover a larger area than that shown.
Which sites are shown on the mapping?
Records relating to a site of find for which we know the location may be shown on the map as either points (for a single location) or as a polygon (for an area). However, there are many records, especially those created from antiquarian sources, where we do not know the precise location and these do not appear on the mapping at all.
Many metal-detectorists and landowners have asked us not to show the locations of metal-detected sites on the mapping. Information on metal-detector finds can be viewed by doing a search for all records in a parish, and that will retrieve all the records for that parish, regardless of whether they appear on the mapping or not.
Listed Buildings are mostly shown as points, centred on the building, rather than as polygons showing the designated or protected area.
Scheduled Monuments are shown as polygons, which do relate to the designated or protected area.
Why aren’t metal-detector finds shown on the mapping?
Many metal-detectorists and landowners have asked us not to show the locations of metal-detected sites on the mapping. Information on metal-detector finds can be viewed by doing a search for all records in a parish, and that will retrieve all the records for that parish, regardless of whether they appear on the mapping or not. Metal-detector finds are usually attributed to a parish, and with either no grid reference, a two figure grid reference or a four-figure grid reference as appropriate.
Why are there so many metal-detector finds on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer?
Norfolk has more metal-detector finds than most counties for a number of reasons: the landscape is rich in archaeological sites; most of the land is ploughed; there are several hundred metal-detectorists in the county; and there is a very long tradition of members of the public reporting archaeological finds.
The Norfolk Historic Enviornment Service identifies and records some 20,000 objects each year found by more than 400 metal detectorists, who have made an enormous contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Norfolk’s historic environment. We have been doing this systematically since the early 1970s, and Norfolk is the model on which the national Portable Antiquities Scheme is based.
Why isn't the Parish Summary a full account of the history and archaeology of my village?
The Parish Summaries have been prepared to give a flavour of the full range of records for each parish, and to provide examples of sites in different periods. As such, they do not make reference to every record from each parish. When writing the parish summaries it has not been possible to undertake research into historical documents or maps. We hope that the summaries will encourage users to delve deeper into the records, and to consult more detailed and authoritative sources.
What is a Scheduled Monument?
This is a site which is designated as a site of national importance, and these sites are legally protected from damage, development and even archaeological investigation without permission.
What is a Listed Building?
This is a building which is of recognised historical or architectural importance, and is subject to strict control over changes to its fabric and appearance.
My house is quite old, why isn’t it included?
Please don’t be offended if your house has not been included! We have records of all of the county's Listed Buildings and those houses that have been examined by us or by other building recording projects, but there are many buildings which are not Listed but are nonetheless of historic importance. If you can provide us with reliable information about the age of your house or any interesting features, we will be very happy to consider it for inclusion.
Why are details about my house being made publicly available?
Most of our information about historic buildings is already in the public domain, but if you feel that we have included details that you would prefer us not to, please let us know.
Which sites can I visit?
Most of the sites recorded on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer are located on private land, and these cannot be visited without the owner’s permission. There is information in the Out & About part of the website about sites which can be visited.
What if I disagree with your interpretation of a site?
We recognise that there may be alternative interpretations of archaeological sites, and we will be happy to record these and to include them on the website where appropriate.
What if I find a mistake on the website?
Please contact us and let us know so that we can review the information and make corrections or additions where appropriate.
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