Record Details

NHER Number:5886
Type of record:Monument
Name:Late Saxon town ditch and post medieval bank

Summary

A linear embankment running southeast from Red Castle (NHER 5746) to the London Road was identified in the mid 19th century. Excavation at various locations along the embankment in 1959 and 1964 dated this earthwork to the post medieval period, but also recorded a large Late Saxon ditch below the post medieval earthwork. This has been identified as the western portion of the Late Saxon town ditch and appears to have followed roughly the same course as the later earthwork, only strongly deviating at the northwestern end where it likely continued below the later Red Castle earthworks. Possible northern portions of the ditch were observed at Red Castle in 1966 (see NHER 5746) and on the far side of Brandon Road in 1961 (see NHER 5895). A community excavation led by NAU Archaeology at Redcastle Furze Primary School in 2005 (see NHER 41937) confirmed the date of the earthwork near its southern end but did not reach the Saxon ditch. It is thought that the ditch likely continued southeast, roughly along the line of the hedgerow on the eastern edge of the London Road cemetery. A southern segment of the ditch has been identified at St Barnabas' Hospital (see NHER 1092), and eastern segments have been identified at NHER 25296 and NHER 32339.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 8629 8268
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Approximate course of Late Saxon town ditch and post medieval bank.
A linear embankment running southeast from Red Castle (NHER 5746) to the London Road was identified in the mid 19th century. Excavation at various locations along the embankment in 1959 and 1964 dated this earthwork to the post medieval period, but also recorded a large Late Saxon ditch below the post medieval earthwork. This has been identified as the western portion of the Late Saxon town ditch and appears to have followed roughly the same course as the later earthwork, only strongly deviating at the northwestern end where it likely continued below the later Red Castle earthworks (S2). Possible northern portions of the ditch were observed at Red Castle in 1966 (see NHER 5746) and on the far side of Brandon Road in 1961 (see NHER 5895). A community excavation led by NAU Archaeology at Redcastle Furze Primary School in 2005 (see NHER 41937) confirmed the date of the post medieval earthwork near its southern end but did not reach the Saxon ditch. It is thought that the ditch likely continued southeast, roughly along the line of the hedgerow on the eastern edge of the London Road cemetery (S5). A southern segment of the ditch has been identified at St Barnabas' Hospital (see NHER 1092), and eastern segments have been identified at NHER 25296 and NHER 32339.

November 1867. Observation.
A cutting in Norwich Castle Museum's Bolingbroke Collection (S1) describes an embankment as follows:
"from the southeast of the hill (Red Castle, NHER 5746) an enbankment runs 100 yards towards the London Turnpike, cut halfway by a deep ditch that Blomefield (S3) and Thomas Martin call the foundations of a hermit's chapel. the enbankment then turns southwest and runs parallel with the road for a mile and a half, ending in a mound at the borough boundary. Various other banks and ditches run off it." (Transcribed by E. Rose, 1976)
The first section of this description definitely refers to the town ditch, although the 'hermit's chapel' may be a misreading of sources referring to St Martin's Church (see NHER 5746) and the bank observed along London Road was likely a late boundary that has since disappeared.
E. Rose (NAU)

1959. Excavation.
A section of the town ditch was revealed within a contractors trench located alongside London Road (30ft wide and 8ft deep). Following this discovery, G. M. Knocker excavated five trial trenches across and close to the presumed line of the defences between London Road and Red Castle (NHER 5746).
Trench 1 was located approximately halfway between London Road and Red Castle (context 1). The bank at this point was about 1.5m (5 ft) high. Excavation of the trench determined that the bank was formed during the post medieval period and it overlay a Late Saxon ditch measuring about 12.8m wide by 3.5m deep, having been recut at least once. Thetford ware pottery sherds were recovered from the lowest fill of the recut ditch while the primary fill contained early medieval, St Neot's, and a fragment of Stamford ware and five medieval sherds were recovered from the top of the fill. The ditch was sealed by a layer of gravel, above which the bank had been constructed, and the bank contained a post medieval pottery sherd, glass, and tile.
The other four trenches were located just south of Red Castle (context 2). The Late Saxon ditch was located in Trench 4, but the base and sides of the feature were not reached. Further south, it was also likely located in the western portion of Trench 3. Smaller, undated ditches were recorded in the eastern portion of Trench 3 and within Trench 2. Trench 5, located to the west, was wholely situated within a ditch, but this was most likely orientated northwest to southeast and appears to have been associated with Red Castle.
See (S2) and (S5) for further details.
Also see (S8) for further information.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 19 September 2008.

1964. Field Observation.
Barbara Green (NCM) observed the underlying Late Saxon ditch within a contractors trench which had been mechanically excavated through the post medieval earthwork bank. Late Saxon pottery was recovered from the feature.
See (S2, p 60) and (S9) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 22 September 2008.

1964. Excavation.
B.K. Davison excavated four trenches across the town bank within the same area as those dug by G. Knocker in 1959.
Trench A (context 3, TL 8608 8295) was located south of Knocker's Trench 3 in order to investigate a resistivity anomaly. A 7.6m wide ditch was observed, flanked to the north and east by four smaller ditches.
The eastern edge of a ditch and the eastern edge of a bank were noted in Trench B (located between Knocker's trenches 3 and 4). Two ditches, one 7.6m wide and the other 10m wide, were observed in Trench C, immediately north of Knocker's Trench 4. Trench D was excavated in two sections and also recorded the eastern and western edges of a ditch approximately 8m wide.
Pottery was recovered from beneath the post medieval bank.
See (S2, p 63) and (S5) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 19 September 2008.

September 1974. Scheduled, SAM 331.
A central section of the ditch located adjacent to Redcastle Furze School has been scheduled.
In 1974 this section was described as "A grass and tree-covered bank adjacent to the scheduled area of the Saxon Town (NHER 5756). Knocker's excavations showed that the Saxon ditch lay partly beneath this. Houses along southwest side. Cut by footpath across centre."
Information from (S6).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 19 September 2008.

N.B. course and site of trenches on NAU 25in record map may not be exact, as plan in publication of this area does not show modern street pattern.
E. Rose (NAU) 11 December 1984.

August 2005. NAU/AHM Community Excavation. Contexts 1-6.
A single trench was excavated across the Town Bank just south of Redcastle Furze School and south of Knocker's Trench 1. Post medieval finds were recovered from the base of the bank, on the surface of make-up deposits. However, there was also Late Saxon pottery, testifying to Late Saxon activity nearby. Natural deposits were not reached during the excavation and it remains likely that the Late Saxon ditch lies either immediately below or in front of the Town Bank at this point. See NHER 41937 for furthe details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 19 September 2008.

August 2005.
Scheduled monument consent granted concerning hand excavation and backfilling at the site.
See (S7)
H. White (NLA), 23 March 2009

Monument Types

  • DITCH (Unknown date)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TOWN DEFENCES (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford [2].
---Article in serial: 1960. Other Archaeological Excavations 1959. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 12 (for 1959) p 2.
---Article in serial: Clarke, R. R. 1960. Stone Implement Petrology. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 12 (for 1959) pp 2-3.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Archive: Bolingbroke Collection.
<S2>Monograph: Rogerson, A. and Dallas, C. 1984. Excavations in Thetford 1948-59 and 1973-80. East Anglian Archaeology. No 22. pp 60-3.
<S3>Serial: Blomefield, F.. 1805. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk.. Vol II.
<S4>Monograph: Dunmore, S. & Carr, R.. 1976. The Late Saxon Town of Thetford: An archaeological and historical survey.. East Anglian Archaeology. Vol 4.
<S5>Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S6>Scheduling record: English Heritage. Scheduling Report.
<S7>Scheduling record: DCMS. 2005. Scheduled Monument Consent.
<S8>Article in serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1961. Medieval Britain in 1959. Medieval Archaeology. Vol IV (for 1960) pp 134-165. p136.
<S9>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

41937Parent of: Post medieval bank, Redcastle Furze Primary School (Monument)

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