Record Details

NHER Number:26835
Type of record:Monument
Name:Earthworks and cropmarks of post medieval drainage ditches and water meadows


A system of post medieval system of drainage ditches acting as water meadows along Heacham river valley. The system is visible as both earthworks and cropmarks on aerial photographs.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 68978 37116
Map Sheet:TF63NE

Full description

April 2002. Norfolk NMP.
Extensive system of drainage ditches along the Heacham river valley. These mainly consist of ditches running parallel to the river, following the contours. These have another series of drains that are perpendicular to this, leading back into the river. The watercourse, now dry, running from TF 6847 3751 to TF 6883 3747, may represent an earlier course of the river. To the south of this from TF 6851 3748 to TF 6883 3747 is an embankment running alongside the northern bank of the river. This may relate to channelling water into the Caley Mill site at TF6851 3747 (NHER 13131). The area to the north of these features, centred on TF 6873 3766, is a series of channel both parallel and perpendicular to the main river. This area was the site of another mill (NHER 16297), so the arrangement of channels would relate to powering of the mill. The site NHER 16297 has also produced a massive spread of material ranging from the Iron Age through to post medieval. Site NHER 1468 also within this area is the remains of a medieval house. These finds and excavated features suggest that much was going on in this area and that the cropmarks and earthworks visible may not be showing the whole picture.
Another area of linear features can be seen to the west at TF 6829 3774. These appear to be part of the same system of water management. At TF 6890 3751 an aqueduct carries the present course of the river water over these other water channels, marked on 2nd ed map (6” 1902-7) (S5), and feeds it towards the Caley mill. The northern end of this aqueduct forms a wedge shaped, embanked pond, 170m long by 15m. To the north of this area is site NHER 1446, a possible medieval chapel site, however, no traces were noted in the cropmarks/earthworks.
At TF 6926 3734 are a series of banks, either side of the channel. These appear to have been cut through by the drains. The largest is 60m long and 5m across. It is not clear whether these banks relate to any of the water management features. To the south of this, centred on TF 6983 3716, are several linear and curvilinear features, either side of the river. To the west, the northern ditch leads into a sub-rectangular hollow at TF 6930 3718, 19m by 12m. The 100m long ditch to the west may continue the line of this ditch. The linear to the south, which is 320m long may be also be a continuation of the southern channel. These features are likely to be part of this drainage system leading into the river valley. This southern channel appears to be embanked to the north in-between the road and the river.
To the northeast of these features is SMR 26836, a circular mound, which may be the site of a medieval mill. To the south of this a wide ditch or hollow, 4m across, curves around along the parish boundary. To the south of this a bank can be seen to run along the contour higher up the valley, from TF 6941 3715 to TF 6944 3685.
Further along the valley to the south, a bank has been constructed across the valley floor at TF 6951 3664, either side of the river. Beyond this bank the nature of the water channels created changes. Running from 6948 3661 to TF 3974 3639 is a 11m wide channel alongside the river, again this has perpendicular ditches/drains running back to the main watercourse. The northern end of this channel turns towards the river and forms a rectangular trough, 50m by 15m. To the east, on the opposing side of the river, is another sub-rectangular sunken area at TF 6955 3661, again approximately 50m by 15m.
These drains, ditches and water channels are possibly the remnants of a system of water meadow along the side of the river valleys. Although at least three mills are recorded as being situated along this stretch of the river, so much of the water management may relate to supply for millraces. Either way these features are likely to be medieval to post medieval in date.
Floated water meadows are mentioned as existing in 1810 in Heacham, although it is not clear if these are the system referred to. A further two possible sets of water meadows are located near to the Heacham Harbour on the coast (NHER 33387 and NHER 26837). Most examples in Norfolk are thought to date from 1795 to 1815 (Wade-Martins & Williamson, 1994:27) (S6).
S. Massey (NMP), 26 April 2002.

Monument Types

  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DITCH (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DRAINAGE SYSTEM (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • MILL RACE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WATER MEADOW (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WATERCOURSE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status


Sources and further reading

<S1>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1571 4105-6 07-JUN-1946 (Norfolk SMR TF 6837A & TF 6737B).
<S2>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1606 2251-2 27-JUN-1946 (Norfolk SMR TF 6937B & TF 6837B).
<S3>Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1967. OS/67069 101-2 26-APR-1967 (Norfolk SMR TF 6837H-J).
<S4>Vertical Aerial Photograph: BKS. 1988. BKS 2310-1 03-SEP-1988 (NCC-4504–5).
<S5>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. Ordnance Survey Map. 25 inch to the mile. Second Edition. 1:2500.
<S6>Article in Serial: Wade-Martins, S. and Williamson, T. 1994. Floated water-meadows in Norfolk: a misplaced innovation?. Agricultural History Review. Vol 42 Pt 1 pp 20-37.

Related records - none

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