Record Details

NHER Number:13746
Type of record:Monument
Name:Probable site of Downham Hall medieval great house and associated earthworks


Cartographic evidence suggests that this is the site of a medieval great house, thought to have originally been an abbot's or bishop's manor. A bibliographic source records that in 1659 the Wodehouse family, the owners of Kimberley Park (NHER 30466) in which the site now lies, took over the property, but it was abandoned in 1712. There are extensive earthworks at the site defining a possible semi-circular enclosure or moat and a possible fishpond. In the wider surroundings, further earthworks and cropmarks (NHER 57399) define a seemingly later field system, although parts may be contemporary with the moat or enclosure, some perhaps representing causeways or hollow ways giving access to the site.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 098 046
Map Sheet:TG00SE

Full description


Earthworks surveyed by NARG, said to be site of Downham Lodge.
Report in file.

On arable around edge six medieval glazed and unglazed sherds found. [1].
Identified by A. Rogerson (NAU).

Downham Lodge was occupied by Wodehouses in 17th/18th centuries between Old and New Kimberley Halls. See (S1).

December 1978.
Long east-to-west pond marked by Ordnance Survey seems completely modern, but may occupy south side of moated enclosure as there are indications of a north and east side.

Ordnance Survey regard it as a medieval fish pond [1], but writer cannot see why. North of pond (field boundary moved south) all pasture; many humps and bumps, presumably outer enclosures of house or surrounding tofts. Hollow way leads east to road; another to north-west, marked on OS and curving, may be an old approach to Kimberley House. Remains indicate Downham Lodge was an existing medieval house when Wodehouses took it over in 1659, and thre is information that it was a bishop's manor [1]. Abandoned 1712.
1827 estate plan in Norfolk Records Office shows a small building here, and the southern pond as curving round on west.
1996. Found on molehills [2], [3].
One sherd 17th-18th century stoneware.
One sherd late medieval/Trans ware.
E. Rose (NLA), 28 June 1996.

Under good grass cover, with minimal erosion by cattle.
H. Paterson (NLA), 2 April 1998.

March 2003. Scheduled.
Scheudling Description:
The monument includes earthworks and buried remains of what is believed to have been the medieval manor of Downham Hall, situated on the eastern side of Kimberley Park. A map of Kimberley Hall and grounds made in 1714 shows the area containing the earthworks as a field named Old Hall Grounds.
Downham Manor, within the parish of Wymondham, was part of the endowment of Wymondham priory (later abbey) on its foundation early in the 12th century, and it is recorded that in 1492 the then Abbot, John Kertelyngge, was forced to retire to his manor of Downham Hall, following a visitation by the Bishop of Norwich which found the abbey to be in a very disorderly state. At the dissolution of the abbey in 1538, Downham Hall and manor were leased to John Flowerdew of Hethersett, and in 1623 the manor was sold to Richard Buxton, from whom it was acquired by the Wodehouse family. The seat of the Wodehouse's at that time was Kimberley Hall, on a moated site which is the subject of a separate scheduling. In the mid-17th century they removed to Downham Lodge, where they lived until the present Kimberley House was built in 1712. Downham Lodge, as shown on a map of Kimberley Park dated 1700, appears to have been at what is now Downham Lodge Farm rather than on this site, which had almost certainly been abandoned by that time.
Faden's map of Norfolk, published in 1797, shows Downham Common immediately to the north of the site, and the former common edge is still marked by a substantial ditch between 8m and 13m wide and up to 1.5m deep, bordered along the south side by the remains of a bank. This feature, which perhaps served as a sunken track or hollow way, extends westwards from the Barnham Broom Road on the east side of the site, curving towards the boundary on the north west side of the field containing the earthworks. A shallower and narrower ditch, embanked along the southern side, branches westwards from it about 38m from the boundary.
The site of the hall, some 45m to the south of the former common edge, is visible as a sub-rectangular enclosure with internal dimensions of approximately 125m by 90m, aligned NNE-SSW and convex at the northern end. This is surrounded on the east and west sides and around the northern end by a ditch, ranging from 5m to 8m in width and open to a variable depth up to 1.2m, which could be the remains of a partly infilled moat. The southern end is bounded by a long, rectangular pond about 18m in width, probably used for conserving fish, but perhaps designed also to be an ornamental feature. A causeway across the ditch on the north west side of the enclosure may not be an original feature.
The enclosure is bisected north east-south west by a linear depression about 12m wide which extends from a field boundary bordering the Barnham Broom Road (about 100m east of the enclosure) to the opposite field boundary on the west side. This feature appears to be a later hollow way, established after the abandonment of the site, and where it cuts across the ditch on the east side of the enclosure it widens into an irregular depression which is almost certainly the result of later disturbance. There is, however, some evidence for an original subdivision of the enclosure at this point; there are traces of a bank running across the enclosure along the south side of the linear depression, and more substantial remains of internal banks extend southwards from this along the inner edges of the ditches on either side of the enclosure and the pond across the southern end. Slight irregularities in the ground surface within the enclosure are thought to be the result of occupation, and other evidence of such occupation has been recorded in the form of fragments of medieval and post-medieval pottery found on the surface.
A broad low ridge, bordered on either side by ditches, runs SSE from the ditch or hollow way at the common edge to a point just east of the enclosure ditch, where it is cut by the hollow way from the east. This corresponds to the northern part of the eastern boundary of Old Hall Grounds as shown on the map of 1714, but is perhaps an earlier feature, since it does not extend the whole length of that boundary. It has the appearance of a track or causeway leading from the common to the enclosure, although, if so, the common edge ditch was probably bridged at the point of crossing. Later field boundaries are marked by the slight remains of rectilinear ditches to the south east of the manorial enclosure and crossing the enclosure ditch to the north west.
Information from (S3) and (S9).
M. Horlock (NLA), 1 September 2003.

Informant [4] states that this is the abbot's manor, rather than belonging to a bishop.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 22 May 2006.

July 2012. Norfolk NMP.
Of the earthworks described above, only the semi-circular moat or enclosure and the fishpond now form part of this record. The more extensive earthworks visible in the wider area are now recorded as part of NHER 57399.

The earthworks described above are which are thought to relate to the site of Downham Hall, are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs (S4)-(S7), centred at TG 0987 0462. Elements have also been captured by Lidar (S8). The earthworks across this whole area are partly tree-covered and difficult to map. They are also difficult to relate to previous surveys; in terms of the NAHRG survey, only a written description, no actual plan of the site, is contained in the Secondary File, while the description in the Scheduling Report seems to confuse north and south, stating that Faden’s 1797 Map of Norfolk places Downham Common to the north of the site, when it is in fact shown to the south.

Despite these difficulties, a semi-circular enclosure or moat is apparent, the most substantial element of which is the extant pond, possibly a former fishpond, along its southern side. The relatively insubstantial of the other sides of the enclosure, particularly that to the east, suggests that this was perhaps never a moated site, or at least not one with a complete circuit. Short lengths of ditch and bank appear to continue beyond the enclosure circuit, but only for a short distance, hinting at relationships with the surrounding landscape. More evident across the wider area is part of a presumably medieval to post medieval field system (NHER 57399), parts of which clearly post-date the enclosure but elements of which might have originally been part of the contemporary landscape.

The historical evidence given in the Scheduling Report suggests that this was indeed an abbot’s, rather than a bishop’s, manor, and that although the site was acquired by the Wodehouse family they may not have lived here, but rather at Downham Lodge Farm, by which time this site had probably been abandoned.
S. Tremlett (NMP), 22 July 2012.

Monument Types

  • CURVILINEAR ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISHPOND? (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HOLLOW WAY (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • MANOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOAT? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG0904 S-U.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Map: Environment Agency. 2001. LIDAR TG0804 LAST RETURN 26-NOV-2001 © Environment Agency.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Article in Serial: Cozens-Hardy, B. 1961. Some Norfolk Halls. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXII pp 163-208. p 190.
<S2>Monograph: Williamson, T.. 1998. Archaeology of the Landscape Park: Garden Design in Norfolk, England, c. 1680-1840.. BAR (British Series). Vol 268.
<S3>Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF346.
<S4>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 3G/TUD/UK/52 5240-2 31-JAN-1946 (NMR).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 4127-8 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1973. OS/73320 071-2 16-JUN-1973 (NMR).
<S7>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1989. NHER TG 0904S, U (NLA 216/DPZ5, 7) 21-FEB-1989.
<S8>Map: Environment Agency. 2001. LIDAR TG0804 LAST RETURN 26-NOV-2001 © Environment Agency.
<S9>Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF346.

Related records

30466Part of: Kimberley Park (Monument)

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