Record Details

NHER Number:5758
Type of record:Monument
Name:Site of Saxon Town on the Primary School Grounds, Hilary Road

Summary

This large site is located within the area of the Late Saxon town at Thetford. Excavations in 1949 and 1952-1953 identified a Late Saxon road (NHER 5929) which runs across the north-eastern edge of the area as well as the remains of several Late Saxon buildings and pits adjacent to the road and several inhumations. Finds from these features have been dated to the 10th and 11th century and primarily indicate domestic occupation, although industrial activities including colouring textiles and iron smelting may also have taken place in the vicinity. The settlement is contemporary with that excavated to the north at NHER 5847 and NHER 5756, and it has been suggested that the road (NHER 5929) may be a continuation of that excavated within NHER 5847. During redevelopment of the eastern and southern portion of the site in the 1950's and 1960's at least twelve additional inhumations were recorded as well as additional isolated features and pottery finds. In 2007 and 2010 further occupation evidence was recorded at Queensway school. It is believed that the Late Saxon town ditch (see NHER 5886) crossed the south-western portion of the site.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 867 823
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

1870. Casual Find.
Pottery sherds, bone awls, stone and bone amulets, and hut sites were observed in the field now occupied by the gasworks (NHER 5868) and across the road. The 'site across the road' is believed to refer to the site at St Mary's Estate (NHER 5847). Alternatively, it could refer to this area of Saxon occupation, which is also located across the road. The finds are thought to date to the Saxon period based on comparison with finds from NHER 5847 and this site.
Information from note by W.G. Clarke in an article in (S1).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 January 2008.

1949. Evaluation. G. Knocker.
'Probing' suggested the presence of a road running north-northwest to south-southeast across arable land east (west?) of Bury Road. Knocker believed this was a continuation of the road found on sites 2 north and 2 south in 1948-9 (NHER 5847).
See (S3, p 47) and (S4) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 21 August 2008.

September to November 1952. Excavation. G. Knocker, Site 6.
Four trial trenches, two small areas, and five test holes were excavated prior to residential development of this area.
A cobbled road running approximately northwest-southeast was observed in all four trial trenches in the east of the site, with a total recorded length of 155m. This may be a continuation of the Late Saxon road previously observed to the northwest, in G. Knocker's Sites 2 South and 2 North (NHER 5847). The width of the road varied from 4.6m in Trial Trench 1 in the north to 2.4m wide in Trial Trench 3 in the south. Only one phase of construction was recorded, but in at least one trench the road was overlain by a layer of sand which may have supported a second surface that had since been destroyed by ploughing.
In the northernmost trench, which was extended as Area A, a post-built structure, two areas of burnt clay likely representing floors, and several pits were recorded. Immediately south, in Trench 2 (which was extended as Area B), several more pits and an inhumation were observed. The inhumation was orientated with head to the north and had been disturbed by a later pit, but remains undated.
The material collected from the features indicates that there may have been some activity in this area earlier than the 10th century, but the majority of the features are likely Late Saxon and the area was abandoned by the end of the 11th century. Finds primarily consisted of pottery, bones, and shells, indicating domestic activity along the road. Spindle whorls, heckle teeth, and a single sherd from a pot used to make madder dye indicate that textiles were produced. In Trial Trench 3, to the south, the road was paved entirely with iron slag, and east of the road was a feature described as a confused mass of iron slag, stones, burnt clay, dark soil, and sand. It remains uncertain whether iron was worked nearby or the slag was transported for construction of the road. Other finds from the excavation include two bone ice skates, a variety of iron tools, an iron arrowhead, and several iron keys.
Of the five test holes excavated towards the west of the site only two produced pottery and occupation material. Unfortunately little of the records of this material has survived.
See (S3, pp 47-9) and (S4) for further details.
Photograph of buckle in file, also photograph of brooch from area B (S3, p 68, fig 109, no 4) in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 03 October 2008.

July 1953. Casual Find.
An inhumation was found at TL 8677 8223. The burial was orientated northwest-southeast, with a Late Saxon sword laying along the left side.
Textile report by E. Crowfoot noted in file but not fully referenced.
See (S3, p 53, fig 145, no 305), (S5), (S6), (S7) and notes in file for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 21 August 2008.

1953. Casual find.
Three burials were discovered at an undisclosed location while preparing the site for new houses. One of the burials was accompanied by an undated iron spearhead (S3, fig 144, no 303) and a knife. Museum records indicate that one of the other burials was accompanied an iron spoon bit (S3, fig 117, no 16), but G. Knocker's entry in his Small Find Log Book states that the spoon bit was found unstratified within a drainage trench on the Bury Road site. The third burial was represented only by a portion of the skull.
See (S3, p 53) and (S8) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 21 August 2008.

1957. Casual Find.
A Late Saxon stone hone was found on the Bury Road by [1].
See note in file.

April 1962. Casual Find.
Three inhumations were found on the west side of Bury Road, just south of the junction with Queensway, while digging a trench for an electricity cable. All of the burials were orientated with their heads to the west. Inhumations 1 and 2 were located about 20 feet apart. R. R. Clarke and E. B. Green recovered a few bones from inhumation 1 and skull fragments from inhumation 2. One of the individuals was identified as a male, aged 35-40.
At least three additional burials orientated with their heads to the south were found in foundation trenches for Nos 8 and 10 Kingsway. These were also examined by R. R. Clarke and E. B. Green. Interment I was identified as a child. The grave was cut into glaciated chalk and the fill contained charcoal fragments amd small flints. One or two larger flints were recovered from the infill immediately above the body. Interment II was located about 13 feet to the east of interment I and was also identified as a child. This grave had been cut into sand and lined with chalk, and its fill also contained flints. Interment III was identified as a female, aged approximately 30-40.
See (S2, p 53), (S7), (S19) and notes in file for further details. Plan in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 21 August 2008.

1962. Casual Find.
Groundworks in Tudor Close, just west of No 12 Kingsway, dug into a refuse pit which contained half of a wheel-turned bowl in a reddish ware, identified as Late Saxon.
See note in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 August 2008.

1963. Casual Find.
Parts of a human skull were found during construction of an extension to Queensway infants school. The finds were located about 200 to 250 yards from the modern road [2].
See note in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 August 2008.

1963-4. Casual Find.
An inhumation was discovered by contractors on the site of the Queensway Junior School. The skeleton was incomplete, but was surrounded by stones and covered by a late 10th or early 11th century limestone grave slab. The grave slab was decorated with a cross in a circle at either end and interlace on either side. The in situ remains were only observed by the workmen. The skeleton was left in situ and the grave slab was given to the Norfolk Education Committee and the primary school located west north west of the hospital (S9). In 1984 T. Gregory noted that the slab had been moved to the foyer of the Charles Burrell High School. However, by 2002 it had been removed to the Norfolk Archaeological Units stores at Gressenhall and was to be accessioned by Norwich Castle Museum for display (S11 and S12).
The workmen also reported that several other inhumations were found at the same time, but the bodies were 'thrown away'.
See (S3, p 53), (S10), (S11), (S12), (S20) and notes in file for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 21 August 2008.

1964. Casual Find.
Early medieval pottery sherds were found on a spoil heap near the location where the grave slab (above) had been found in 1963-4.
See note in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 August 2008.

1967. Scheduled.
The Primary School Grounds in the west of this site have been scheduled as part of the Saxon town. At the time of scheduling it was stated that 'remains may be expected of industrial workshops, etc. the line of the town defences crosses the south-western part of the area.'
See (S15) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 06 October 2008.

Around 1974. Casual Find.
Late Saxon Thetford ware sherds were found in a garden of a new home in 'a road off Queensway'. The finds were located approximately 10 feet below the ground surface, below the chalk floor of a building .
See note in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 August 2008.

29 June 1992. Field Observation.
Concrete slabs were removed from the north end area for the creation of a nature reserve at Queensway School (with Scheduled Monument Consent). Andrew Rogerson (NAU) examined the soil beneath, but no archaeological remains were exposed. Holes exposed from the removal of fence posts were also examined, but no archaeological remains were identified. A single sherd of Thetford ware was recovered from TL 86743 82423.
See note in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 August 2008.

April 2007. Watching Brief. Contexts 1000-1013.
Monitoring of groundworks for the installation of a shower block adjacent to Queensway Middle School recorded material dated from the Late Saxon to the post medieval period.
A ditch feature was identified at the eastern end of both the southern and northern foundation trenches. The ditch had been disturbed in the north by installation of an existing manhole and in the south by an existing sewer pipe. Its fill contained a fragment of undated smithing slag, Late Saxon and medieval pottery, a fragment of a lava quern of uncertain date, and animal bone fragments including cattle, pig, sheep and rabbit. The date of the ditch remains uncertain, and it may have been in-filled in stages.
The only other archaeological feature identified was a small pit located in the north-western corner of the foundation trenches. The pit contained cinders, brick fragments, one fragment of 16th to 18th century glazed red earthenware, and post medieval clay pipe fragments. It was probably a post medieval rubbish pit.
See report (S14) for further details. See also desk-based assesssment report (S13).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 03 October 2008.

March 2010. Test Pitting.
A total of 10 test-pits were excavated along the route of a proposed cycle route within the scheduled area of the Saxon Town off Hilary Road. A Late Saxon gravel surface that could be interpreted as a road or yard surface was observed along with a refuse deposit from a midden or refuse pit. Finds from the test pits included Late Saxon Thetford Ware pottery composed of domestic cooking or storage vessels locally produced between the 10th and 11th century. A small number of pottery sherds that had been imported to the site from the 7th to 10th century pottery production site at St Neot's in Cambridgeshire. Three sherds of post-medieval domestic vessels were also recovered. Medieval to post-medieval plain tile and post-medieval pan tile were recovered from test-pits in the western end of the site. A single undated clay tobacco pipe was found in the topsoil in the eastern end of the site. The animal bone assemblage mainly comprised waste from butchery and food production and included cattle, sheep/goat, pig, goose, possible rabbit and wild boar. Some of the cattle may have been used for traction as there was some distortion in the foot bones that may have resulted from physical stress. The presence of rabbit could be an early occurrence of this mammal in the archaeological record before warrening was introduced by the Normans in the 12th century.
See (S17).
S. Howard (NLA), 17 August 2010.

13 December 2010. Evaluation.
Archaeological evaluation ahead of the construction of an extension to the north of the present school building recorded Late Saxon and undated finds but no archaeological features. These finds included five body sherds of pottery dating to the Late Saxon period (Thetford Ware and St Neots-type Ware), a small abraded fragment of lava possibly from a quern, a small quantity of smithing slag, two corroded iron nails, and a large assemblage of animal bone. The animal bone was found in good condition but highly fragmented from butchering. Two types of species were identified which included cattle and sheep/goat, a single mussel shell was also collected.
See (S18) for more details.
M. Langham-Lopez (HES), 14 January 2013.

Monument Types

  • FLOOR (Unknown date)
  • DITCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DYE WORKS? (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FLOOR (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FLOOR (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • GRUBENHAUS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HEARTH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HOUSE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HUT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • MIDDEN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ROAD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • RUBBISH PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TOWN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DITCH (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PIT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • MUSSEL SHELL (Unknown date)
  • QUERN? (Unknown date)
  • SLAG (Unknown date)
  • ADZE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ARROWHEAD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • AXEHEAD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BODY SHERD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BRIDLE FITTING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BROOCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CHAIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • CHISEL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DRILL BIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • GOUGE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • GRAVESTONE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HANDLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HECKLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HOOK (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HORSESHOE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ICE SKATE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KNIFE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • NAIL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • RING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SLAG (Late Saxon - 851 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • SPEARHEAD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SPUR (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • STAPLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SWORD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TEXTILE EQUIPMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • WIRE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DAUB (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1900 AD?)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1900 AD?)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1799 AD)
  • BOTTLE (Post Medieval - 1800 AD to 1860 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Archive: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards.
---Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Leigh-Hunt, A.. 1870. The Capital of the Ancient Kingdom of East Anglia.. p 162.
---Slide: Hickling, S. & Westall, S. (NAU). 2010. Slides 1-21 An archaeological evaluation at Queensway Community Junior School, Thetford. By NAU Archaeology.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Early Saxon. Thetford.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford [11].
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Archive: Bolingbroke Collection.
<S2>Monograph: Dunmore, S. & Carr, R.. 1976. The Late Saxon Town of Thetford: An archaeological and historical survey.. East Anglian Archaeology. Vol 4.
<S3>Monograph: Rogerson, A. and Dallas, C. 1984. Excavations in Thetford 1948-59 and 1973-80. East Anglian Archaeology. No 22. Pp 47-9, 53.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1952. Discovery of an Ancient Road. 19 September.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1953. 'Viking' Sword Found at Thetford. [unknown]. unknown.
<S6>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1953. 'Viking' Sword Dug Up at Thetford. 7 August.
<S7>Map: Finder's Map..
<S8>Article in Serial: Clarke, R. R. 1954. Selected Archaeological Finds Made or Reported in Norfolk in 1953. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 6 (for 1953) p 4.
<S9>Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S10>Correspondence: Deacon, J.. 1992. Letter regarding creation of a nature study reserve at Queensway School and burials discovered in 1963-4.. 22 February 1992.
<S11>Unpublished Document: Warren, M.. 2002. Email regarding ownership of Anglo-Saxon grave slab from Thetford. 14 August 2002.
<S12>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. Stone needs new setting. 27 November.
<S13>Unpublished Document: Penn, K.. 1996. NAU Report No. 857. Proposed development at Bury Road, Thetford. The Archaeological Implications. A Report for WS Atkins Environment..
<S14>Unpublished Contractor Report: Hobbs, B. 2007. An Archaeological Watching Brief at Queensway Middle School, Queensway, Thetford. NAU Archaeology. 1294.
<S15>Slide: Various. Slide. 1-6.
<S16>Scheduling Record: English Heritage. Scheduling Report.
<S17>Unpublished Contractor Report: Hickling, S. 2010. An Archaeological Evaluation at Queensway Community Junior School, Thetford, Norfolk. NAU Archaeology. 2290.
<S18>Unpublished Document: Phelps, A.. 2011. NAU Archaeology Report No. 2466. Archaeological Evaluation at Queensway Infant School, Thetford, Norfolk..
<S19>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1965. Medieval Britain in 1962 and 1963. Medieval Archaeology. Vol VIII (for 1964) pp 231-299. p 237.
<S20>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 173.

Related records

5929Parent of: Late Saxon road (Monument)

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