Record Details

NHER Number:2760
Type of record:Building
Name:Thetford Warren Lodge


Thetford Warren Lodge dates to the 15th century. It takes the form of a tower house and was probably occupied by the gamekeeper of the Prior of Thetford and used as a hunting lodge. The thatched roof burnt off in 1935 and before the fire the lodge had wings attached forming terraces of thatched cottages of 18th/19th century date. The building has sometimes been referred to as the Lazar House, which is erroneous as there is no evidence of a leper hospital here.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 8393 8406
Map Sheet:TL88SW

Full description

Thetford Warren Lodge dates from the 15th century. It is a tower house, probably used as a hunting lodge. Bricks within the structure are medieval. The roof was burnt off in 1935, and it was subsequently renovated by Ministry of Works in 1949.

The Ministry of Works notice board reads:
'A small 15th century stone house with defensive features, the principal chamber being on the first floor. Probably intended for the gamekeeper of the Prior of Thetford who enjoyed right of free-warren.'

Whittingham regards Thetford Warren Lodge as built around 1530 by Sir Richard Fulmerston.

'A large square building with a sort of mosque like dome - remains of an old stone staircase.' (S1).

Drawn by T. Martin in 1740, when it had a thatched roof and an octagonal watchtower on the corner (S2).

R. R. Clarke (NCM): photograph 'around 1900' reproduced in (S3) and wrongly labelled Old Lazar House, shows the building before the fire of 1935 showing that it had had wings attached forming terraces of thatched cottages of 18th/19th century date. The name Lazar House is mentioned in (S4) as being an erroneous local name for the building.
E. Rose (NAU), 6 March 1986.

March 1994. Visit.
The Warren Lodge is now fenced off from surrounding scrub woodland. The building is constructed of flint, some of which is coursed, with stone quoins and prominent putlog holes. The interior was not accessible at the time of visiting.
See (S5) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA), 28 March 1994.

Scheduled area extended in 1996.

The lodge is a rectangular building of two storeys measuring c.8.5m NNE-SSW by 5.8m, with a chimney c.1.6m wide and of two stages projecting from the west wall. The walls, which stand for the most part to almost their full original height and are up to 1m thick at ground floor level, are constructed of mortared flint rubble with some brick and tile and with limestone dressings which include many reused architectural fragments of 12th century type. The floor of the upper storey no longer survives, although its level is marked by an offset on the interior face of the walls. The flat roof, with skylight, is modern.
On the east side of the building, towards the southern end, is a door opening with pointed arch and brick vault which gives entrance to the ground floor. The internal and external stone surrounds of the entrance have been removed except for the base of the jambs on the north side. Slots lined with tile in the thickness of the wall to either side of the opening are thought to be for drawbars to secure the entrance. The lower apartment has a floor of worn brick. On the west wall are the remains of a large fireplace, and to the south of the entrance, in the south western internal angle of the building, is an obliquely set, narrow doorway with pointed arch and jambs of stone opening on to a newel (spiral) stair which leads to a similar doorway on the first floor. The stair was originally crowned with an octagonal turret which projected above the level of the roof of the building. This no longer survives but was still standing in the early 18th century, as shown in a sketch of the building dated c.1740. The south eastern angle of the building, which forms the external wall of the stair, shows evidence of rebuilding, probably following a collapse, the repair being clearly marked by the inclusion of random ashlar and brick in the fabric. The ground floor was lit by five narrow window slots: one in the east wall to the north of the entrance, one centrally placed in each end wall and two in the west wall, to either side of the chimney. At first floor level there are four wider, rectangular window openings, one in each wall. All the embrasures are widely splayed internally. Where the external stone dressings of the windows remain intact, the jambs are of reused masonry with double bevel, and where the stone has been removed, in the east window on the upper floor and all except the north window on the ground floor, the impressions remain visible in the surrounding mortar.
The most prominent feature of the upper apartment is a large fireplace in the west wall, which is finely built of brick with ashlar jambs and moulded brick base. To the south of this is the western window opening, and in the south western angle, opposite the entrance to the stair, is the narrow, arched doorway to a garderobe in the thickness of the wall. A rebate for the door can be seen in the stone surround. In the west wall behind the garderobe is a large inserted opening, and below this, in the outer face of the wall, is a narrow breach through which the circular garderobe shaft can be seen. In the east wall, above the doorway on the ground floor, there is a rectangular opening with stone jambs giving on to a recess in the thickness of the wall, with a quatrefoil light to the exterior. A rectangular slot in the floor of this recess, opening on to the vault of the doorway below is interpreted as a 'murder hole' (through which missiles could be dropped on anyone attempting to force an entrance).
The interior of the building shows evidence of alteration including the subdivision of the northern end of the ground floor to create two small, additional rooms, one above the other. The partition walls do not survive, but the floor at this end, to the north of the fireplace, has been lowered and the interior face of the lower walls has been cut back by c.0.45m, truncating the splay of the northern window embrasure and leaving impressions in the mortar where flints have been removed. Above this, and below the level of the upper chamber, two small, rectangular openings were inserted in the east and west walls to light an intermediate floor. These alterations were probably carried
out at some time after 1740, since the inserted openings are not shown in the sketch of the lodge as it was at that date. The sketch indicates that there was then a small lean-to structure against the north wall and another small shed to the west of it. Two single storey thatched wings were subsequently added and a communicating door inserted in the south wall of the original building. These additions were demolished after a fire in 1935, but are recorded in a photograph of c.1900. The outline of their roofs is marked by differences in colour on the external faces of the north and south walls, and the blocked opening of the inserted door is also visible in the south wall.
The remains of slates bonded into the fabric of the west wall outline the pitch of the roof of another adjoining structure of unknown date.
A well, possibly contemporary with the original building, lies c.13.8m to the west of the lodge. The circular well head measures 1.6m in diameter, and is now capped with mortared flints.
Until the suppression of the monasteries in the 16th century, Thetford Warren was held by the prior of the Cluniac Priory of St Mary, Thetford, who enjoyed there the right of free warren (a license from the king to hunt small game). Subsequently, after the final dissolution of the priory in 1540, the monastic lands were granted to the Duke of Norfolk who had been its patron.
Thetford Warren Lodge is generally considered to have been built c.1400, and to have been occupied by the prior's gamekeeper, the defensive features of the building (the narrow slit windows on the ground floor, the 'murder hole' and the evidence for draw bars on the door) being for protection against armed poachers. The character of the building is indicative of high status, and its interior features and fittings are consistent with its having been intended as
a hunting lodge to accommodate hunting parties rather than a gamekeeper alone.
It is possible, however, that it postdates the dissolution, since the reused masonry which is an integral part of the fabric includes fragments which must originally have been part of an important, probably monastic building or buildings.
In the post-medieval period, until the early years of the 20th century, the area surrounding the monument was one of the most productive rabbit warrens in the Breckland region of Norfolk and it is known that Thetford Warren Lodge was occupied, from at least the 18th century onwards, by the warreners who managed and culled the stock. The later alterations to the building relate to this use, and it is recorded that the rooms on the ground floor were used for the drying of the rabbit skins on racks and for the storage of the traps, nets and lanterns used by the warreners.
Information from scheduling.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 20 June 2008.

2009. Breckland Warrens Survey.
Thetford Warren Lodge is a rectangular two storey building 8.5 x 5.8 meters with the walls standing to their original height and up to one meter thick at ground level. The construction is mortared flint rubble with brick, tile and limestone dressings. The staircase to the upper floor had an octagonal turret, which is shown on a 1740 sketch.
See (S6) for further photographs and sketch.
S. Howard (NLA), 12 January 2010.

Monument Types

  • HOUSE (14th Century to 21st Century - 1400 AD to 2100 AD)
  • HUNTING LODGE (14th Century to 21st Century - 1400 AD to 2100 AD)
  • RABBIT WARREN (14th Century to 19th Century - 1400 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOWER HOUSE (14th Century to 21st Century - 1400 AD to 2100 AD)
  • WARRENERS LODGE (14th Century to 19th Century - 1400 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Scheduled Monument
  • Higher Level Stewardship

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG8384 A,B.
---Publication: Clarke, W. G. and Clarke, R. R. 1937. In Breckland Wilds. Second Edition. pp 116-117, 127.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF179.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2003. Memories of a warrener (letter to the editor). 29 May.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1999. Bunny power in the Brecks. 2 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2008-2009. [Articles on the Breckland Warrens Survey].
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 721; Pl 74.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2000. [Letters to the editor regarding the Thetford Warren Lodge being called locally 'Leper House'.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. Burrowing into history: how rabbits changed the Brecks. 16 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2012. Vital work to begin on historic lodge. 5 March.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1960. [unknown]. 13 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2012. Ancient and modern at warren. 30 June.
---Publication: Wallace, D.. 1939. East Anglia. p.75. p 75.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF179.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF179.
<S1>Monograph: Leigh-Hunt, A.. 1870. The Capital of the Ancient Kingdom of East Anglia.. p 180.
<S2>Monograph: Martin. 1729. History of Thetford..
<S3>Photograph: 1985. Thetford: Ancient Burg. p.22.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1949. Preservation starts on Thetford's Fourteenth-Century Tower House. 11 March.
<S5>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1994. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S6>Unpublished Report: Mason, A. 2009. The Archaeology of the Warrens of Thetford Forest. pp 22-23.

Related records

54069Part of: Thetford Warren (Monument)

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