The Twelve Archaeological Days of Christmas

This article has been developed from a presentation used at Christmas 2006 at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. The display was used to demonstrate different aspects of Norfolk's Historic Environment Record in an interesting and entertaining way.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me,

Twelve drummers drumming… 

Castle Acre Drum Towers 

NHER 46817 

These drum towers are one of the few surviving parts of the walls around Castle Acre.  The towers form part of the northern Bailey Gate and date back to 1200. The main road into the village still runs through them.

Eleven pipers piping…

Tobacco Pipes

Tobacco pipes are a fairly common archaeological find in Norfolk. The size of the bowl increased over time as tobacco became cheaper. Tobacco pipes have been recorded at over 600 sites in the county.

Ten lords a-leaping…

Lord Nelson’s Monument or The Norfolk Pillar

NHER 4302

A memorial to Lord Nelson, erected in 1817. A figure of Britannia stands on top of an Ionic column facing towards Nelson's birthplace. The monument has recently been restored.

Nine ladies dancing…

Pilgrim badges – Our Lady of Walsingham

Pilgrim badges are souvenirs collected at religious centres like the shrine at Walsingham. These medieval badges depict Our Lady of Walsingham and come from the shrine. Over 100 pilgrim badges have been recorded from the county from a variety of different pilgrimage centres.

Eight maids a-milking…

The Maid’s Head Hotel, Tombland, Norwich

NHER 602

The Maid’s Head Hotel dates back to at least the 15th century. The building that you can see now mostly dates to the 17th century and is an amalgamation of at least six different buildings. Legend has it that the hotel is haunted by a lady in grey – maybe a maid off to do her milking?!

Seven swans a-swimming…

The Swannery, Hospital Fields, Norwich

NHER 624

The swannery was a place where swans were bred in the medieval period. The water filled swan pit seen in the picture dates to the late 18th century. Captive swans would have been allowed to swim and exercise in the pond.

Six geese a-laying…

Geese on a gravestone

NHER 10335

Late 19th century headstone depicting woman with flock of turkeys in St Mary's churchyard, Ashby St Mary.

An unusual late 19th century headstone in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Ashby St Mary. (© NCC)

Geese are depicted on an unusual 19th century headstone in the churchyard of Ashby St Mary. The deceased is depicted feeding her geese.

Five gold rings…

Bronze Age gold rings

NHER 43133

Photograph of a set of Bronze Age gold rings threaded onto one large gold ring found in Gresham.

A set of Bronze Age gold rings threaded onto one large gold ring found in Gresham. (© NCC)

Nine Bronze Age gold rings threaded onto one large gold ring were found during the digging of a soakaway in Gresham in 2004.

Four calling birds…

Late Saxon bird brooch

NHER 24332

Photograph of a Saxon Ringerike style bird brooch from Stoke Holy Cross.

A Saxon Ringerike style bird brooch from Stoke Holy Cross. (© NCC)

This Late Saxon brooch was found in Stoke Holy Cross by a metal detectorist. It dates to the 11th century AD. This style of art is known as Ringerike style and comes from Scandinavia.

Three French hens…

Roman cockerel-shaped brooch

Roman brooches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are shaped like animals like this cockerel-shaped brooch. The wings are decorated with red and blue enamel. Similar brooches have been found in Norfolk.

Two turtle doves…

Post medieval dovecote, Threxton

NHER 4692

Photograph of the exterior and interior of a post medieval dovecote at Threxton.

The exterior and interior of a post medieval dovecote at Threxton. (© NCC)

This post medieval circular, clay lump dovecote is built on a flint base. The nesting holes are arranged around the interior wall. There are the remains of a conical slate roof.

…and a partridge in a pear tree!

Medieval horse harness pendant, Cawston

NHER 43114

Photograph of a medieval horse harness pendant from Cawston depicting a hunting dog running past a tree with a partridge type bird sitting in the branches.

A medieval horse harness pendant from Cawston depicting a hunting dog running past a tree with a partridge type bird sitting in the branches. (© NCC)

This horse harness pendant is very worn and damaged. It depicts a hound running in front of a tree with a partridge perched in its branches. The details have been picked out in white to make it easier to see.

M. Dennis (NLA), 22 December 2006.               

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