Record Details

NHER Number:26837
Type of record:Monument
Name:Cropmarks and earthworks of medieval to post medieval water meadows


A large site consisting of medieval to post medieval earthworks and cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. The site consists of a series of parallel bank and ditches arranged around more substantial ditches and hollows and possible areas of ridge and furrow. It is thought the feature may be related to water meadows or a similar agricultural practice.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 66754 37684
Map Sheet:TF63NE

Full description

April 2002. Norfolk NMP.
A large site mapped mostly from earthworks from RAF 1946 (S1) and 1953 photography (S2) to (S3), also visible on Ordnance Survey photographs from 1967 (S4) and Meridian verticals from 1969 (S5). A caravan park now covers a large proportion of the site. The majority of features appear to be banks and ditches arranged around a central ditch or gully. This earthwork runs from TF 6653 3749 to TF 6695 3777, at which point it turns to the south and then corners again to re-join itself at TF 6657 3767, forming a rectilinear enclosed area, approximately 100m by 120m. The width of this ditch varies from 5 to 10m. Further sections of this type of feature may run from TF 6672 3781 to TF 6698 3783.
The main area of feature is centred on TF 6655 2763 and measuring 310m by up 180m. These appear to be a series of banks and ditches running up and perpendicular to the main gully. They are similar to ridge and furrow, but are quite closely set. The feature as mapped varies from 17m to 100m. The ditches are between 1m and 3m wide and the banks are between 2m and 7m, however some of this regular linears are up to 12m wide in places. The northwest area is less regular, with other ditches cutting across the pattern of parallel banks and ditches, with some forming small rectilinear enclosed areas. The southwest area is the most complicated area, with at least two phases of linears. The lines running perpendicular to the main channel can be faintly be seen. Although these have been cut across by ditches running parallel to the main gully. No definite banks can be discerned in this section, however they were probably present.
The field to the northeast, centred on TF 6673 3774, appears to be covered with what appears to be very narrow ridge and furrow on the 1946 RAF. It may be that this is a continuation of the banks and ditches viewed in the adjacent area on the 1953 RAF photography, where more detail could be discerned. This area of feature is bounded by bank, up to 5m wide, running along the side of a drain. In the field adjoining to the east is another area of possibly ridge and furrow, visible on 1969 Meridian photography (S5). The field is centred on TF 6687 3776 and covers an area of 170m by 80m. The marks are quite blurred and wide, appearing to be up to 10m wide.
The site is cut into two sections by NHER 26838, a post medieval sea bank, marked as new on the 1781 Heacham Enclosure Map (S6). It is also appears to be bordered to the west by a very broad bank (26839). It is not clear whether the bank is directly related to the site. A group of linear features NHER 26840, are located to the northwest of this bank, which may be part of this site, suggesting that the bank may have been built over these linears.
The site appears to represent a system similar to water meadows, where water is fed around by the ditches and then drains back into the central gully. The site must have been fed by the Heacham River, which runs down to the west of the site. It is possible, however, that the site may have suffered from tidal incursions. It may be that the bank on it seaward side protected the site.
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 set of water meadows are located to the immediate north (NHER 33387) and a third group run along the side of the Heacham River valley. Most examples in Norfolk are thought to date from 1795 to 1815 (Wade-Martins & Williamson, 1994:27) (S7). The bank that cuts the site is marked on the 1781 map as new, however, it is not shown on the 1797 Faden map (S8), so it is possible that the 1781 map refers to a planned bank construction that took several decades to come to fruition. It is marked on the 1826 Bryant map (scale: 10 miles to 12¼ inches) (S9). This then does not stop the water meadows dating to the late 18th to early 19th centuries. The water meadows to the north are far more regular and appear to be of one distinct phase. It may be that these are an earlier attempt at the activity, giving way to the more uniform channels exhibited to the north.
S. Massey (NMP), 23 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)
  • FIELD SYSTEM (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • RIDGE AND FURROW? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WATER MEADOW (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

<S1>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1571 3302-3 07-JUN-1946 (Norfolk SMR TF 6637B-C).
<S2>Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1953. RAF 540/1007 0123 03-FEB-1953 (Norfolk SMR TF 6637D).
<S3>Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1953. RAF V.82/707 0638-9 04-FEB-1953 (Norfolk SMR TF 6637A-B).
<S4>Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1967. OS/67069 163-4 26-APR-1967 (Norfolk SMR TF 6637A-B).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: 1969. MAL 69025 080 03-APR-1969.
<S6>Map: 1781. Heacham Enclosure Award Map.
<S7>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.
<S8>Publication: Faden, W. and Barringer, J. C. 1989. Faden's Map of Norfolk in 1797.
<S9>Map: Bryant, A.. 1826. Bryant's Map of Norfolk.

Related records - none

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