Record Details

NHER Number:5750
Type of record:Building
Name:Site of Cathedral, Churches of Great St Mary and Holy Trinity, Domus Dei and Blackfriars, Thetford Grammar School

Summary

This is the site of the 11th century cathedral, the churches of Great St Mary and Holy Trinity and the ruins of the 14th century Dominican Friary (Blackfriars), in the grounds of Thetford Grammar School. Foundations of the Domus Dei (hospital) were discovered by workmen here in 1927. Further investigations during the 1950s and 1960s recorded Late Saxon metalwork and pottery as well as medieval piling, foundations and burials. In 1998, Time Team investigated the site. The Saxon and Norman buildings were not encountered, but significant parts of the Friary were revealed or clarified by a combination of excavation, geophysical survey and architectural analysis. The south wall of the chapel and the south end of the east and west ranges were revealed by excavation. Geophysical survey also produced a clear plan of the western half of the Friary cloisters as well as numerous traces of walls, presumably of ancillary buildings, to the northwest of the Friary nave. Excavations in 2005 revealed 17 inhumations in the eastern walk, and deposits indicating Saxon occupation were also observed.

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Documents/files/web pages

Location

Grid Reference:TL 8676 8306
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Site of Cathedral (Great St Mary's) and Holy Trinity; secular college. 1094-6. Later Cluniac (first) alien priory. Dominican friary, Domus Dei.

1927. Workmen strengthening the riverbank uncovered what was thought to be the foundations of Domus Dei.

March - April 1950. Pipe trenching on Haling Path by Grammar School.
Excavations cut into foundations 10 feet down and 40 feet in length, a wall approximately 2 ft 6in think, of flint, chalk and earth. Human bones found. Probably the remains of Domus Dei.
At the same time about 7 feet below the modern ground surface an iron ploughshare and two iron bars were found associated with late 8th - early 10th century pottery. A leather bag or purse was also recovered from this waterlogged layer. Wooden piling was recorded, part of ?medieval revetment of river bank.
See (S1), (S2) and (S3) for further details.
Information from NCM card.

1957. Casual find in sewer trench in Haling Path.
Medieval pottery sherd.

November 1959. Found while cutting drainage trenches.
Foundations of three walls of buildings in Blackfriars monastery. Inhumation with head to east and other human remains. Medieval pottery sherds and bones of cooked and butchered animals.
See (S4) and (S19) for further detail.
R.R. Clarke (NCM).

1963. Casual finds in garden of school house.
Late Saxon sherds and base of small crucible.
R.R. Clarke (NCM).

1964. Excavation.
Carried out by W. F. Edwards and A. B. Whittingham to investigate the extent of Blackfriars Cloister which had been uncovered by ploughing north of the school. Enough was recovered to determine the extent of the cloisters. The buildings were of ashlar and flint, two stories high and roofed with pottery tiles and Collyweston. Glazed tiles paved the cloisters and in the south west corner was the base of the newel staircase. The kitchen appears to have been lain north of the north west corner of the cloisters, however there was damage in this area due to drainage works sometime in the 1950’s. A lane lay between the north wall of the church and the south cloister range. Finds included worked stone, Late Saxon sherds, floor tiles, medieval coin and pottery
See (S5) and (S19) for further details.
R.R. Clarke (NCM) and E. Rose (NAU).

[1] explains the sequence and buildings as follows:
Great St Mary's was established as the cathedral but this was removed to Norwich in 1094-6.
The Secular Canons College may perhaps have stayed on the site afterwards.
The site was granted to Cluniac monks 1103-4 but they soon removed to the Priory site north of the river (NHER 5748).
The site was granted to Dominican Friars Preacher around 1303, confirmed in 1335 and in 1348 they took over the Domus Dei site against the bridgehead which had been in existence before 1296, also called Maison Dieu.
Holy Trinity stood immediately to the south-west.
A bequest was made to a new belltower in 1489 and for roof repairs in 1511.
Martin says this site was ruined after 1547 when divine service stopped.
Possibly demolished as part of Dissolution.
E. Rose (NAU), 7 April 1986.

(S6) gives a suggested reconstruction of the layout of Blackfriars.
E. Rose (NAU), 8 December 1989.

1990. Documentary research.
See appropriate sections from (S7) in file.

March 1998. Excavation.
In March 1998 the site of the Saxon church of St Mary the Great, the postulated 11th-century cathedral of Bishop Herfast and the 14th-century Dominican Friary in the grounds of Thetford Grammar School, was investigated by Time Team as part of the Channel 4 television series. The Saxon and Norman buildings were not encountered, but significant parts of the Friary were revealed or clarified by a combination of excavation, geophysical survey and architectural analysis. The south wall of the chapel and the south end of the east and west ranges were revealed by excavation. Geophysical survey produced a clear plan of the western half of the Friary cloisters as well as numerous traces of walls, presumably of ancillary buildings, to the north-west of the Friary nave.
Geophysical survey produced a clear plan of the western half of the Friary cloisters as well as numerous traces of walls, presumably of ancillary buildings, to the northwest of the Friary nave.
See published article (S20) and report (S8) for further details. See also publication draft (S9) and extract from geophysical survey report (S10). The results of this work are also summarised in (S17).
D. Gurney (NLA), 1 December 2005. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 24 February 2014.

See drawings, copy of schedule etc. in file.
E. Rose (NLA) 14 September 1999.

See NHER 51705 for a Type 22 pillbox previously recorded under NHER 5750.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 27 August 2008.

February 2004. Watching Brief.
Previously recorded under NHER 40168, contexts 1-73 used.
In situ remains associated with the Friary were observed in six out of eight trenches. The mortar deposit observed in five of the trenches is probably the floor of the Friary, or a bedding layer for a more substantial tiled floor. A later phase of mortar floor probably associated with the Friary was observed within Trench 2 but nowhere else on the site. This deposit coincides with the inside of the Friary buildings.
The remains of two substantial flint and mortar wall cores coincided with the projected line of the cloister walls. Other wall cores hint at possible internal divisions within the Friary.
A fairly thick layer of building debris found in four of the trenches probably indicates a major phase of demolition of the Friary. Above this and covering most of the site was a layer which could either be evidence of a deliberate levelling of the site or simply a buildup of topsoil during the period of abandonment of the Friary and the construction of the Coach House and Coachman's House.
Indications of possible occupation after the demolition of the Friary were seen in several layers of mortar floor interspersed wi6th sand bedding layers. These may be associated with a structure that pre-dates the Coachman's House, and were only observed in Trench 2.
See report (S11) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S16).
A. Cattermole (NLA) 6 March 2007.

April 2005-June 2007. Evaluation, Excavation and Watching Brief.
Previously recorded under NHER 40168, contexts 110-460.
The evaluation trenches revealed that the proposed new building would straddle the south-west corner of the Dominican Friary, the walls and robbed out walls of which still survive. The evaluation also confirmed the presence of inhumations along the eastern walk.
The excavation revealed seventeen discrete inhumations. Evidence of a pre-Dominican phase was also discovered in the form of robbed-out walls and early floor surfaces truncated by the construction of the Dominican cloister.
See unpublished report (S12) and assessment report (S13) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S14) and (S15).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 28 August 2008.

Monument Types

  • WELL (Unknown date)
  • OCCUPATION SITE (Saxon - 410 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CHURCH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1000 AD? to 1072 AD)
  • CLOISTER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COLLEGE OF SECULAR PRIESTS? (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GRAVE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CATHEDRAL (Medieval - 1072 AD to 1094 AD)
  • CLUNIAC MONASTERY (Medieval - 1094 AD to 1114 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1094 AD to 1114 AD)
  • ALMSHOUSE (Medieval - 1100 AD? to 1319 AD?)
  • HOSPITAL (Medieval - 1100 AD? to 1319 AD?)
  • DOMINICAN FRIARY (Medieval - 1335 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SCHOOL (Post Medieval to Modern - 1540 AD? to 2050 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • BURNT FLINT (Unknown date)
  • FLAKE (Unknown date)
  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • OYSTER SHELL (Unknown date)
  • XFIRED CLAY (Unknown date)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CRUCIBLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • LAMP (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PLOUGH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • BIRD REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUTTON (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAME (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • KNIFE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • NAIL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PAINTED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP END (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TACK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • THIMBLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL PLASTER (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • WINDOW GLASS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BOTTLE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BRICK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SHOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOBACCO PIPE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WINDOW (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: Tatler, S.. 2004. KNN.
---Photograph: NAU. 2005. LMG-LMH.
---Photograph: NAU. 2007. LMJ-LMN.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford [3].
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.. 1989. NHER TL 8683 ACM-ACQ (DHS14-15, DHT1-2) 15-JUN-1989.
---Photograph: CLK 28-33, CSY 2-24.
<S1>Monograph: Rogerson, A. and Dallas, C. 1984. Excavations in Thetford 1948-59 and 1973-80. East Anglian Archaeology. No 22. p 53.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1950. Ancient Finds at Thetford. Part of Domus Dei Hospital Discovered IN Eastern Daily Press. 24 March.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1950. Eastern Daily Press. 14 April.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1959. Eastern Daily Press. 24 November.
<S5>Unpublished Document: Edwards, W.F. and Whittingham, A.B.. 1964. Thetford Grammar School for Boys.
<S6>Monograph: Norton, C. et al. 1987. Dominican painting in East Anglia: the Thornham Parva retable and the Musée de Cluny frontal.. pp 82-101.
<S7>Monograph: Batcock, N. 1991. The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology, 51. Microfiche 5:G12.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Bellamy, P. 1999. Thetford Grammar School, Thetford, Norfolk. Archaeological Investigations by the Time Team March 1998. Terrain Archaeology. 5021.1.
<S9>Unpublished Report: Bellamy, P.S. & Trevarthen, M.. 2010. Excavations by the Time Team on the 14th century Dominican Friary in the grounds of Thetford Grammar School, Norfolk, 1998.. Publication draft.
<S10>Unpublished Contractor Report: GSB Prospection. 1998. Thetford Grammar School: Geological Survey. GSB Prospection. 98/31.
<S11>Unpublished Contractor Report: Tatler, S. 2004. An Archaeological Watching Brief at Thetford Grammar School, Coach House Area, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 921.
<S12>Unpublished Contractor Report: Emery, G. 2009. An Archaeological Excavation at Thetford Grammar School, Thetford,Norfolk. NAU Archaeology. 1455.
<S13>Unpublished Contractor Report: Emery, G. 2007. Archaeological Programme of Works in advance of a new Sixth-Form building at Thetford Grammar School, Thetford. Assessment Report and Updated Project Design. NAU Archaeology. 1139.
<S14>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. 2006. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2005. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt I pp 124-136. p 134.
<S15>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 2007. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2006. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt II pp 261-273. p 271.
<S16>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. 2005. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2004. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt IV pp 751-763. p 761.
<S17>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 1999. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1998. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 369-387. p 384.
<S18>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1961. Medieval Britain in 1959. Medieval Archaeology. Vol IV (for 1960) pp 134-165. p 140.
<S19>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1966. Medieval Britain in 1964. Medieval Archaeology. Vol IX (for 1965) pp 170-220. p 181.
<S20>Article in Serial: Bellamy, P. S. and Trevarthen, M. 2011. Excavations by the Time Team on the 14th-century Dominican Friary in the grounds of Thetford Grammar School, 1998. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLVI Pt II pp 181-189.

Related records

51705Parent of: Pillbox at Thetford Grammar School (Monument)

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