Record Details

NHER Number:1013
Type of record:Monument
Name:Middle Saxon and Late Saxon settlement, North Elmham Park

Summary

Excavations between 1967 and 1972 revealed an extensive Middle Saxon and Late Saxon settlement including buildings, boundary ditches, and two timber-lined wells. This is one of the most extensively excavated Middle and Late Saxon settlement sites in the country, and provides a detailed insight into the developments which took place within a rural settlement at this time, with evidence for the construction of increasingly complex and substantial domestic buildings and the frequent reorganisation of the surrounding landscape. The settlement is associated with the site of the Saxon cathedral at North Elmham (NHER 1014). In the early 11th century the cathedral cemetery was extended, and 194 graves were recorded during the excavations. Activity continued on this site in the medieval and post medieval period, when a large number of pits were dug to extract the underlying clay.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TF 9869 2142
Map Sheet:TF92SE
Parish:NORTH ELMHAM, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

North Elmham Park. Middle Saxon/Late Saxon settlement associated with cathedral (NHER 1014).

December 1966.
Earthwork survey by P. Wade-Martins and K. Wade (NAU).
Copy in NCM.

1967 to 1973. Area excavation.
The excavation revealed features dating from the Middle Saxon to the medieval period, and finds of prehistoric to post medieval date.
The earliest excavated remains (Period I) relate to an area of Middle Saxon occupation which was found to cover most of the site. The most prominent features dating from this period were eleven boundary ditches. Three of these run approximately north-south with the remainder laid out at right-angles to these, creating a regular pattern to the early settlement. These ditches enable the identification of a pattern of streets and boundaries which was replaced in the tenth century.
Four Middle Saxon building sites were recorded within the excavated area. The first (Building H) was a small, single-phase building at the northern end of the site. The second (Buildings S1 and S2) lay to the east of the central street on an east-west alignment and was of two phases. The third area contained a complex of three superimposed buildings (Buildings AA, Z1 and Z2) and were just to the south of Building S. The earliest of these (AA) was a small house similar to Building H. This was replaced first by Z1, a much larger house, which was itself almost entirely rebuilt and enlarged to form Z2. The final building (Building AM) was at the southern end of the excavation and was possibly a bakehouse contemporary with Buildings S1 and Z1. An earlier oven shows that there may have been an earlier bakehouse in this location, but no further traces were identified. Buildings H and AA were thought to date to the 7th century, while buildings S1, Z1 and AM were assigned an 8th century date. Buildings S2 and Z2 were thought to date from the late 8th to early 9th centuries.
In addition to the ditches and buildings, two deep, timber-lined wells were recorded at the southern end of the site, approximately 12m apart. These were dated to the 8th to 9th centuries. Well I apparently preceded the earliest of the boundary ditches, and Well II cut through the foundation trench of Building AM. When Well I was located in 1967 it was the first of its type to be found preserved in Britain. It was sunk through the boulder clay into the underlying sand to a depth of almost 12m. Well II was discovered during the 1971 excavation season and proved to be a comparatively shallow (6.3m) storage cistern for collection of surface water.
Four artefacts of particular interest date from the Middle Saxon phase: a bone comb, two coins and a Tating ware pottery sherd.

The second phase of finds and features (Period II) dates to the late 9th and 10th centuries, contemporary with the use of Thetford ware. The earliest features from this period are two latrines (Buildings W and X) and associated cess pits, both of which are situated over infilled Middle Saxon ditches, and have some form of sunken floor. These features are thought to date from the late 9th century. In the early to mid 10th century a rectangular post-built hall was constructed, measuring 7m east-west and 18m north-south. Later in the tenth century, three further buildings were constructed close to Building U (Buildings O, P and Y). Building P was a large L-shaped hall forming the northern and western boundaries of a courtyard which was bounded to the east by Building U. To the south of Building P was a large latrine (Building O), forming the fourth side of the courtyard. To the south of this is Building Y, an outbuilding of some kind. The excavator regards this group of buildings as a possible palace complex belonging to the bishop.
The third phase of activity identified during the excavations (Period III) dates from the 11th century. This period was marked by the colonisation of this area by villagers, and the establishment of a number of fenced enclosures containing houses, outbuildings and animal pens. Two distinct phases of activity are visible within the 11th century. In the early part of the century many new structures were built, and it is difficult to distinguish between houses and outbuildings during this phase of development. By the middle of the 11th century, many of these earlier structures are replaced by larger and more substantial buildings, some of which can be identified as houses.

Also within Period III, the cathedral cemetery expanded into the excavated area, presumably as a result of population growth. 194 graves were excavated and their distribution shows that they formed the south-west corner of the inhumation cemetery. Around the excavated parts of the cemetery was a perimeter foundation trench delimiting a rectangular enclosure aligned very closely with the existing cathedral ruins. Pottery recovered from 23 of the excavated graves suggests a Late Saxon or early medieval date for the extension to the cemetery.

The late 11th and early 12th centuries (Period IV) saw the cathedral cemetery fall out of use, presumably once the see had moved to Thetford. It remained an open space and was later extended to form an area of common land. The excavator notes that it is particularly interesting to find evidence for the formation of a village green out of an area which had previously been part of the Late Saxon settlement. Towards the end of Period IV there were two animal folds and a lime kiln within this area. The position of the lime kiln suggests that it was probably used for making mortar for the nearby church, built in the 12th century for the Bishop of Norwich. This period also witnessed the arrival of larger and more developed house types. At the northern end of the site all three Period III houses were abandoned and replaced by a single structure (Building A). All the old property divisions were removed and replaced by a single enclosure. During Period IV there was clearly a reduction in the number of households occupying this site. Also within this phase, a large hall house was built (Building AK), and is thought to have been the early medieval vicarage house, as documentary sources dating from around 1244 describe a vicarage standing to the west of the church.

The final phases of activity on this site (Periods V and VI) were not considered in great detail during the excavations. The archaeological features from these periods consisted mainly of clay pits, which truncated many of the underlying earlier features. In the southern part of the excavated area were two toft boundary trenches running east-west, one of which corresponded to a surface earthwork. Documentary evidence indicates that there was a market on the green during the 14th century, and that by the 16th century this area had become known as Bell Green. The twelfth century decline of settlement on the hilltop was reversed, probably in the 13th century, so that by the mid-15th century the streets around the market place were again lined with houses. It is possible that the excavations also located the Cromwell family's 16th century manor house, to the south of the park drive. By 1678 Bell Green was probably enclosed and the old vicarage house demolished. In the 1720s Richard Warner began to lay out his New Park by taking in an area of arable land to the west of the village. By 1831 the park had been extended to include the excavated area.
Finds recovered during the excavation and not mentioned above include prehistoric worked flints, Bronze Age, Roman, Middle Saxon, Late Saxon and medieval pottery, Roman tile, Roman and Early Saxon metalwork.
See (S1) for further details and see (S15), (S16), (S17), (S18) and (S19) for short summary for all phases.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 2 January 2008.

Winter 1984 to 1985. On the surface of the excavated site, between vines on backfilled spoil.
One Thetford-type ware rim, one Grimston green-glazed handle sherd, two sherds late medieval/post medieval.
A. Gregory (NAU), 27 July 1985.

1984. 'In North Elmham Park Vineyard' (in 1984 this was almost certainly this site). Metal detecting.
About a dozen jettons, mostly Nuremberg with reischsapfel.
Also French 14th/15th century with French ancient arms and cross (photograph by finder [3]).
One French with modern arms and cross on back similar to last (not seen NCM).
One fragment of gilded bronze strip with one toothed edge.
One fragment arm of medieval purse mount.
E. B. Green (NCM), 1984.
(Details passed to NLA in 1999)

See reports (S1) to (S6), press cuttings (S7) to (S14) and photographic references in file.

(S20) includes data on the scientific dating of a whetstone from this site. It was dated to 11th century.
A. Beckham (HES), 22 January 2020.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to 19th Century - 1000000 BC to 1900 AD)
  • BAKEHOUSE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BUILDING (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • DITCH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • HEARTH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • OVEN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • WELL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BUILDING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CESS PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CISTERN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • LATRINE PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TIMBER FRAMED BUILDING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BUILDING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LIME KILN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUILDING (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Undated)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Undated)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BRICK (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • DRESS COMPONENT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • AWL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • COIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • KNIFE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • NAIL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • PIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • AXEHEAD (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BALANCE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BOOK FITTING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BOX (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BUCKET (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CANDLE HOLDER (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CAULDRON (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COMB (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DIE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DOOR FITTING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DRESS COMPONENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FISH HOOK (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KNIFE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • LATCHLIFTER (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • NAIL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PERSONAL ORNAMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PERSONAL ORNAMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • QUERN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TEXTILE EQUIPMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TEXTILE EQUIPMENT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARROWHEAD (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • AWL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BALANCE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUTTON (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CANDLE HOLDER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOOR FITTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRESS COMPONENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISH HOOK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HAMMER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HARNESS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HORSESHOE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ICE SKATE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • JETTON (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • KNIFE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LOCKING MECHANISM (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • NAIL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • NEEDLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PADLOCK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PADLOCK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PUNCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PURSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SHEARS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SICKLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRIKE A LIGHT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TEXTILE EQUIPMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOKEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BELL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAULDRON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • COMB (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FORK (UTENSIL) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HARNESS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HORSESHOE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • KNIFE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • KNIFE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • NAIL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • RING (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SPOON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SPOON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SPUR (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • STUD (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • VESSEL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: See file.
---Serial: 1969. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1969. No 16. p 5.
---Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104. p 58.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 92 SE 6.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Elmham (North) [5].
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Elmham (North) [3].
---Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1969. The Norfolk Research Committee's Excavations at North Elmham, Norfolk, 1967 and 1968. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 18 pp 4-6.
---Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1972. North Elmham Park Excavations, 1970. Norfolk Research Committee Newsletter and Bulletin. Series 2 No 4 pp 13-14.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Evening News. 1971. Norfolk dig unearths a 12th century hall. 4 June.
<S1>Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1969. Excavations at North Elmham, 1967-8: An Interim Report. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXIV Pt IV pp 352-396.
<S2>Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1970. Excavations at North Elmham, 1969: An Interim Report. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXV Pt I pp 25-78.
<S3>Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1971. Excavations at North Elmham 1970: An Interim Note. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXV Pt II pp 263-268.
<S4>Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, P. 1972. Excavations at North Elmham. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXV Pt III pp 416-428.
<S5>Monograph: Wade-Martins, P. with Yaxley, D.. 1980. Excavations in North Elmham Park 1967-1972. East Anglian Archaeology Report. Vol IX, parts 1 and 2.
<S6>Article in Serial: Fletcher, J. 1982. Dendrochronology of the Preserved Timbers from Well II excavated in North Elmham Park. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXVIII Pt II p 192.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Evening News. 1968-1969. [Articles on the tours to the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society].
<S8>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1968. Visitors see historic side of North Elmham. 26 August.
<S9>Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1969. WEA party visit excavations.. 3 October.
<S10>Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1969. Saxon buildings come to light in dig.. 3 October.
<S11>Publication: Eastern Evening News. 1971. Norfolk dig unearths a 12th century hall.. 4 June.
<S12>Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1971. Lining Saxon well. 1 October.
<S13>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1967-1971. [Articles on the well found during 1967 in North Elmham].
<S14>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1971. Anglo-Saxon timbers may be reassembled.. 3 December.
<S15>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1969. Medieval Britain in 1967. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XII (for 1968) pp 155-211. p 159.
<S16>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1971. Medieval Britain in 1968. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XIII (for 1969) pp 230-287. pp 234-235.
<S17>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. & Hurst, D. G. 1971. Medieval Britain in 1969. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XIV (for 1970) pp 155-208. p 161.
<S18>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1972. Medieval Britain in 1970. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XV (for 1971) pp 124-179. p 1219.
<S19>Article in Serial: Webster, L. E. and Cherry, J. 1973. Medieval Britain in 1971. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XVI (for 1972) pp 147-212. 157-158.
<S20>Article in Serial: Crosby, D. D. B. and Mitchell, J. G.. 1987. A Survey of British Metamorphic Hone Stones of the 9th to 15th Centuries AD in the Light of Potassium-Argon and Natural Remanent Magnetization Studies. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 14. pp. 483-506.

Related records - none

Find out more...

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2022 Norfolk Historic Environment Service