Record Details

NHER Number:5746
Type of record:Monument
Name:Red Castle, Thetford

Summary

This is the site of an Anarchy period (1135-54) earthwork castle, which was rediscovered in 1867. The area of the castle is now visible as an oval-shaped earthwork with a bank and ditch. Excavations here in 1957 revealed occupation debris from the Roman to medieval periods. Within the earthwork these excavations revealed an early stone church, perhaps with a timber predecessor and probably dedicated to St Martin. Large quantities of human remains have been recovered from this site, and an inhumation cemetery associated with the church was discovered in 1957.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 8593 8305
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

12th century Anarchy earthwork castle, rediscovered in 1867.

1910.
Human remains found in such abundance that "stone raisers placed them in rows and used them as Aunt Sallies".
Information from (S1).

1957. Excavation.
Test pits in woodland to the west of the enclosure revealed Late Saxon occupation. Other test pits excavated outside the earthwork revealed a pattern of a later disturbance of Romano-British occupation debris.
Inside the enclosure, on the northern side, was the remains of a church, probably the church of St Martin. This possibly started as a Middle Saxon timber framed building around which a clunch church was erected c.1030AD. Much of the church was destroyed in the 18th and 19th centuries but the chancel with an altar and part of the south nave wall were found. The chancel measured 18ft 9in by 16ft 6in internally. The walls were of mortared chalk clunch. Clasping buttresses had been added around 1200. The church had been deliberately destroyed at some time. Documentary research to support the identification of this as the church of St Martin has been carried out by A.B. Whittingham (S2). He also notes that St Martin's was mentioned in Domesday Book as a daughter church of St Mary, but does not occur in a 1368 inventory of church goods which suggests that it may have been disused by then.
The burial ground immediately to the south and south-east of the church was excavated. Middle Saxon, Late Saxon and early medieval pottery was found in grave fills. The remains of about 61 adult skeletons and 24 children were found. Several of the burials were in chalk sarcophagi, some of which also had headstones. One skeleton was buried in a sarcophagus without a lid. Another sarcophagus was partly mortared and had a boat-shaped section at the western end. Detailed analysis of the human remains has been carried out by Calvin Wells (S2). Two skulls were of particular interest as they had been decapitated. Both were found in hollowed out basins of earth which had been lined with flints and chalk blocks.
Excavations also produced Early to Middle Saxon occupation debris and postholes. Hearths were found beneath the church.
Information from (S2).
See (S7) for further information.
R.R. Clarke (NCM), amended A. Cattermole (NLA), 30 July 2008.

1958. Excavation.
The ditch outside the main 12th century ditch is probably of the same date.
Information from NCM card.

1964. Context 2 at [1]. Excavation.
Late Saxon pottery sherds, daub and animal bones found in a rubbish pit cut through by a sewage trench.
Information from NCM card.

October 1966. Field observation of roadworks to the north side of Red Castle.
The outer tail of the Red Castle rampart was cut back by approximately 2m and scarped to 45 degrees. Three successive ditches, each running north-south, were sealed by the rampart, which ran north-east to south-west at this point.
Information from (S3).
E. Rose (NAU), 11 December 1984.

1986. Documentary research by [1].
Documentary evidence suggests that this was the site of St Lawrence's church, rather than St Martin's.
E. Rose (NAU), 7 April 1986.

1990.
The only addition to the fabric of the church was a vestry. It seems unlikely that the church was in use much beyond 1200.
Information from (S4).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 30 July 2008.

Carolyn Dallas's analysis of the pottery from this site (S3) clearly shows that this was an Anarchy castle and not, as elsewhere suggested, an 11th century Norman castle.
E. Rose (NLA), 22 November 1996.

The Scheduled area was extended in 1998.

1999. Earthwork survey.
The surviving earthworks consist of the southern two-thirds of a near-circular raised enclosure, 80m in diameter. An internal bank survives, up to 0.6m high and well spread, as does the western portion of a 2m deep surrounding ditch. Extraction pits have destroyed the northern part of the ringwork, while road improvements have caused further degradation.
Information from (S5).
See also (S6).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 18 July 2008.

Appropriate section from reference (S2) in file.

Before 9 October 2002. Metal detecting. Redcastle Plantation opposite site of Warrener Public House.
Roman coin.
See list in file.
A. Rogerson (NLA) 30 January 2003.

Monument Types

  • EXECUTION SITE? (Unknown date)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman to Medieval - 43 AD to 1539 AD)
  • OCCUPATION SITE (Roman to Medieval - 43 AD to 1200 AD)
  • HEARTH (Early Saxon - 411 AD? to 650 AD?)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Early Saxon - 411 AD? to 650 AD?)
  • POST HOLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BOUNDARY BANK? (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • CHURCH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD? to 850 AD?)
  • INHUMATION (Middle Saxon - 651 AD? to 850 AD?)
  • POST HOLE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • CHURCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • INHUMATION CEMETERY (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • POST HOLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • WALL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHURCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RINGWORK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ARROWHEAD (Unknown date)
  • BUCKLE (Unknown date)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Undated)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Unknown date)
  • PRICK SPUR (Unknown date)
  • WHETSTONE (Unknown date)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • JAR (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • QUERN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • COIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LOOMWEIGHT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • NAIL (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CENSER? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COMB (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Article in Serial: 1959. Other Archaeological Excavations 1958. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 11 (for 1958) pp 1-2. p 2.
---Scheduling Record: English Heritage. Scheduling Report.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford [4].
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Article in Serial: 1958. Other Archaeological Excavations 1957. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 10 (for 1957) pp 1-2. pp 1-2.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Middle Saxon. Thetford.
<S1>Publication: Clarke, W.G.. Unknown. Manuscript note. 1910.
<S2>Article in Serial: Knocker, G. M. and Wells, C. 1967. Excavations at Red Castle, Thetford. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXIV Pt II pp 119-186.
<S3>Monograph: Rogerson, A. and Dallas, C. 1984. Excavations in Thetford 1948-59 and 1973-80. East Anglian Archaeology. No 22. p 63, fig 104 and 106.
<S4>Monograph: Batcock, N. 1991. The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology, 51. Microfiche 5:G12. pp 54-5.
<S5>Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104. p 180.
<S6>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2000. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1999. Norfolk Archaeology. XLIII Pt III pp 521-543. p 538.
<S7>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. & Hurst, J. G. 1960. Medieval Britain in 1958. Medieval Archaeology. Vol III (for 1959) pp 295-326. pp 298-299.

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