How to adopt a monument

At Norfolk Historic Environment Service we work hard to promote and preserve Norfolk’s historic landscape. A number of archaeological sites and buildings across Norfolk are in a state of neglect but not all can be realistically protected or improved by existing legislation or by NHES or other heritage organisations. Equally there are many people who wish to intervene to save these sites from further deterioration and obscurity. This article provides ideas about how the communities, groups, societies, schools or clubs could conserve and enhance their local sites. 

Clippesby Mill is a brick tower mill built in about 1830. The mill, which is now derelict has an 'upturned boat' cap.

Clippesby Mill, a brick tower mill built in about 1830 (© NCC)

A neglected piece of heritage has a range of potential benefits:

- the chance to get active and rediscover the past

- the chance to learn new skills

- the chance to transform a disused space into something useful for the local community

- the chance to carry out research into the history of the site

- the chance to improve access to information about the site

- the chance to help with site management

- the chance to improve on-site interpretation

 What follows below is a series of ideas for adopting a monument. These can be adapted as necessary. Below the general guidelines is a series of different case studies carried out in Norfolk.

 Step 1 Choose your site

Any monument can be proposed for adoption, irrespective of its size, age or location.  You may already know of a site or building in your local area that needs your help. If not you may be able to identify a site using the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website (  

Two of the chancel walls are the only standing remains of St Andrew's Church.

Two of the chancel walls are the only standing remains of St Andrew's Church, Barnham Broom. (© NCC)

Step 2 Contact the land owner, land manager and occupier

You must discuss your ideas with the landowner before you proceed with any work.

Step 3 Establish site status

Use the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website to find out if the monument is a scheduled ancient monument or a listed building. These types of monuments require complicated permissions before any work can be carried out on them, Contact Norfolk Historic Environment Service (contact details below) for advice about whether your aims are likely to be given consent or not. You also need to check whether the site has any other special designations for example a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or National Scenic Area (NSA). This information can be downloaded from the MAGIC website ( There may be additional environmental interests that should be taken into account. For example a medieval moated site might be occupied by great crested newts. More information about these types of environmental concerns can be obtained from Natural England ( and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (

You should also contact the Norfolk Monument Management Project ( to see if the site is being managed as part of the project. 

View of the derelict watermill in 1982.

Thurning Watermill was built in the early 19th century. (© NCC)

Step 4 Carry out research

At this stage it is sensible to find out as much as you can about the history and archaeology of the site. This will provide you with the information you need to plan your work and also be useful if you are planning to submit grant applications for any work (for example Heritage Lottery Fund Your Heritage grants, Start with the Norfolk Heritage Explorer ( but also consider referring to the Norfolk Historic Environment Record ( in Gressenhall and search for related documents at the Norfolk Record Office ( More information about carrying out research into a particular area or site can be found in the How to investigate an area article. This would be a good time to begin to formulate broad aims for the project – what would you like to achieve and how do you plan to achieve it?

Step 5 Choose your team

You may need to set up a committee to oversee the project. You may like to assign roles such as Chairman, Secretary, Publicity Officer and First Aider. Think about whether you need volunteers for physical work, or if the project requires more “behind-the-scenes” staff. If you are applying for funding for your work you will need a written constitution and a bank account. You can find out more about the structure and governance of voluntary organisations on the National Council for Voluntary Organisations website ( or via their HelpDesk (0800 2 798 798). 

Photograph of St Ethelbert's Church, Burnham Market.

St Ethelbert's Church, Burnham Market. (© NCC)

Step 6 Consult with local organisations

Ask the parish council, parochial church council and other local organisations and communities if they support your idea.

Step 7 Obtain written consent

At this stage you should obtain formal written consent from the landowner. Ensure that the landowner fully understands what you are planning to do and how you will do it. Ask them to sign a detailed project proposal. This proposal should be sent to Norfolk Historic Environment Service for inclusion in the Norfolk Historic Environment Record.

Step 8 Produce a project timetable and action plan

Now that you have permission from the landowner and given the details to Norfolk Historic Environment Service you should produce a detailed timetable for your plans. This may change as you proceed. You should have a general framework with deadlines for particular pieces of work. You should define how you intend to achieve your aims by building up an action plan or scheme of work. Independent professional advice from Norfolk Historic Environment Service can prove crucial at this point. 

Photograph of a 19th century house constructed of puddled clay and straw with a skin of bricks added to the south wall in the 19th century. This type of construction is typical of vernacular architecture in the Broads.

Photograph of a 19th century house constructed of puddled clay and straw with a skin of bricks added to the south wall in the 19th century. This type of construction is typical of vernacular architecture in the Broads. (© NCC)

Step 9 Obtain costings

Once you have a detailed plan of the work you intend to carry out you need to get quotes for the work involved. For high costings it is sensible to get several quotes. Remember not all projects will involve costings. Many projects can be completed with volunteer time and physical effort rather than financial outlay.

Step 10 Apply for funding

In your application for funding (if necessary) remember to include money to maintain improvements to the site. You can obtain advice on applying for funding from Norfolk Historic Environment Service. Site management can often be worked out via a Management Agreement with the landowner. However, if necessary you should include site maintenance costs in funding applications. If you carrying out local fundraising or sponsorship schemes these can now be started.

Step 11 Obtain consents

Where required consent applications should be sent off (for scheduled monument or listed building consent). Ensure that you have sufficient time to receive consent before you start work as these consents can take some time to be processed.  

Step 12 Get insured

Third party liability insurance is essential for any work carried out. Archaeological organisations can get suitable insurance through the Council for British Archaeology (CBA). A risk assessment should be completed for every activity carried out. You may also need to consider asking someone to act as Health and Safety Officer for the project.

Step 13 Promote your project

Once you have obtained approval from the relevant authorities and you have a well-developed idea of what you intend to do you should prepare press releases and inform local and national media.

Step 14 Carry out work

After all the preparation you can now go ahead and carry out the work.

Step 15 Record your results

It is important to keep a record of your project and changes you have made to the site. These should include before, during and after photographs and plans. When the work is complete you should write a final report and send it to Norfolk Historic Environment Service for inclusion in the Norfolk Historic Environment Record. You may also like to distribute copies to members of the team, funders and local supporters. 

Mid 19th century windpump.

Mid 19th century windpump at Potter Heigham. (© NCC)

Useful Contacts and Further Reading

Norfolk Historic Environment Service 

Union House, Gressenhall, Dereham, Norfolk NR20 4DR

Phone: 01362 869280

Fax: 01362 860951

Norfolk Monuments Management Project

Union House, Gressenhall, Dereham, Norfolk NR20 4DR

Phone: 01362 869291 or 07879 877845

Fax: 01362 860951

MAGIC website

The first web-based interactive map to bring together geographic information on key environmental schemes and designations in one place.  

A post medieval lime kiln opposite the Swan Inn.

Lime kiln at Guist. (© NCC)

Norfolk Historic Environment Record

Union House, Gressenhall, Dereham, Norfolk NR20 4DR

Phone: 01362 869282

Fax: 01362 860951


Norfolk Record Office

The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ

Phone: 01603 222599

Fax: 01603 761885


National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Regent's Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL

Phone: 020 7713 6161

Fax: 020 7713 6300



Phone: 0800 2 798 798

Textphone: 0800 01 88 111 (minicom)


Council for British Archaeology

St Mary's House, 66 Bootham, York YO30 7BZ

Phone: 01904 671417

Fax: 01904 671384




Case Studies

Wymondham Abbey (NHER 9437) – a small scale geophysical survey by volunteers

A small-scale project to investigate the area of the former Wymondham Abbey was carried out during the Norfolk Heritage Explorer project. A small group of volunteers undertook a geophysical survey of part of the scheduled area to try and understand the layout of the abbey buildings more clearly.

The site was chosen because of the forthcoming publication of a book celebrating the abbey’s 900 years of history. The project was instigated by the abbey archivist, Paul Cattermole, who was keen to find out more about the remains of the abbey buildings. The land was owned by the church and so the Church Commissioners were approached for permission to carry out the work. The tenant farmer who used the land for sheep grazing was also informed.

Preliminary research identified that the site was a scheduled ancient monument. The archivist had already spent many years researching the archaeology and history of the abbey but the record office, Norfolk Historic Environment Record and the abbey archives themselves were delved for further information about the buildings and about previous archaeological work carried out on the site.

A team of local volunteers was formed to carry out the work. Megan Dennis, Norfolk Heritage Explorer Outreach and Education Officer took on the role of project coordinator. Having first aid qualifications she also became the official first aider.

An application for scheduled monument consent was written and sent to English Heritage Eastern office. Norfolk Landscape Archaeology were informed of the work. A project timetable covering two weekends was produced and distributed amongst the team. Costings were not incurred as equipment was borrowed from organisations within the county. No funding was applied for. Scheduled monument consent was received and insurance organised. A risk assessment was written for the volunteers involved in the work. The project was not promoted to the public because the main aim was to discover more about the layout of the buildings rather than involve large numbers of volunteers in the fieldwork or as onlookers.

The geophysical survey took place on the allotted weekends and in the end the work took rather longer than originally anticipated, spilling in to the following week. A full record of the work was completed and a final report written. This was distributed to all the volunteers involved, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology and the Abbey archivist. This report is now available online on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer (Wymondham Abbey, NHER 9437). Although this was a very small-scale project it did enable a group of volunteers to become more involved in their local heritage, learn new skills and gain a closer understanding of the underground remains of the abbey.

Redcastle Furze Primary School, Thetford (NHER 41937) – a community excavation

A community excavation in 2005 was carried out on the Town Bank which lies on the line of the known Late Saxon defences (NHER 5886). The community excavation was commissioned by The Ancient House Museum on behalf of The Thetford Society. The site was chosen because it was thought that the bank in the school grounds may have been part of the Late Saxon defences of the town.

The land was owned by the local authority who gave their permission for the excavations. The site was found to be the only part of the Saxon bank that was a scheduled ancient monument. The Thetford Society records were examined, along with the archive at the local library to find out more about the history of the site before scheduled monument consent was obtained.

The Community Excavation was open to families from the local community and the excavation was run by NAU Archaeology, directed by Ken Penn and supervised by Zoe Way and Adam Barker. Staff members of The Ancient House Museum were also involved in additional activities such as sorting finds, making clay pots and striking coins. The project was overseen by Stuart Wright, Chairman of The Thetford Society.

The excavation ran for a week from 22nd to 26th August 2005. A detailed timetable of events was created. The professional team of archaeologists at NAU Archaeology were employed to run the community excavation.

Funding was obtained from the Local Heritage Initiative (LHI). The Initiative is a partnership between the heritage lottery Fund, Nationwide Building Society and the Countryside Agency. The LHI awarded The Thetford Society a grant of £17,820 to run the event.

Consents were obtained for the excavation from English Heritage and insurance was secured. Risk assessments were carried out for the excavation itself and also all the associated activities. Local media were very interested in the event and carried several articles publicising it.

The excavation itself revealed that the upstanding bank in the stretch within the school grounds may be of much later date than supposed, with post medieval finds from the base of the bank. However, there was also Late Saxon pottery, testifying to Late Saxon activity nearby.

The project was recorded by the NAU Archaeology. The creation of the archaeological archive was included in the costings of the project. The final report was given to Norfolk landscape Archaeology, the local history archive in Thetford library, The Ancient House Museum and The Thetford Society. The results of the excavation were reported more widely in the local press and are now available on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website (NHER 41937).

Binham Priory (NHER 2081) – a presentation and preservation project

Binham Priory is owned by English Heritage but is managed by The Norfolk Archaeological Trust and Binham Parochial Church Council.  

The ruins of Binham Priory from the south.

The ruins of Binham Priory. (© NCC)

A partnership of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, the Binham Priory Trust and Binham Parochial Church Council has been awarded a grant of up to £648,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This represents 73% of the eligible costs of the Binham Priory Access and Conservation Project. It is altogether a most gratifying achievement for this collaborative venture involving the church community and the Archaeological Trust.

The elements of the project that directly involve the Trust are:

- conservation of the ruined medieval gatehouse and precinct wall

- a new interpretation panel at the gatehouse

- the study and publication of the finds, including the architectural stonework, from the 1930s excavations which were put into store as war broke out and never properly examined

- display of some of this material in new showcases in the church

The Trust has been offered matched funding for the work on the gatehouse and the precinct wall by English Heritage.

Alongside this the church community will be:

- building a new entrance and toilets for the church within the footprint of the north aisle demolished in the 19th century

- improving the paths to the church and the cloisters

Enhanced intellectual access to the priory will be provided by a set of fresh interpretation panels in the cloisters and the ruined east end of the priory church by English Heritage and by a range of education initiatives organised by Binham PCC and Binham Local History Group. This will all stretch beyond the confines of the priory to include self-guided walks around the historic core of the village and longer walks and cycle routes to other places of interest in the area. 

The west front of Binham Priory.

The west front of Binham Priory. (© NCC)

It is, no doubt, the strong conservation element of the project and the very fruitful partnership between the Trust and the wider Binham community which attracted the Heritage Lottery Fund to make such a generous offer. There is still match funding of around £80,000 to be found before the project can be completed.

The contract with the HLF has been signed and we are now waiting for their approval to start work. The first sign of activity will be the demolition of the relatively modern shed and reinforced concrete bullpen embedded in the gatehouse and the erection of scaffolding around the gatehouse. In this first year we hope to complete the conservation of the gatehouse and make a good start on the precinct wall.

The close cooperation between the Archaeological Trust, the local community and English Heritage is surely one of the best possible ways to organise conservation and promote heritage awareness in the county.

Text on Binham Priory by Peter Wade-Martins.

M. Dennis (NLA), 31 July 2007.

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2024 Norfolk Historic Environment Service