Record Details

NHER Number:5755
Type of record:Monument
Name:Possible site of St John's Church or St Lawrence's Church, Thetford


This site has been known as the location of the churchyard of St. John's at least since the early 19th century, when it appears on maps of the area. This assumption appears to be supported by an 18th century description of standing remains of a church within this area, but the dedication of the church remains uncertain. The medieval churches of St John's and St Lawrence's have both been suggested. Excavations in the vicinity in 1957-8 and in the surrounding area in the 1950's and 1960's (see NHER 5756) were not able to confirm the existance of a church. Four Late Saxon inhumations were recorded in the west of the area in 1957, indicating the likely presence of a church nearby, but similar inhumations have been recorded within a broad area (NHER 5756). Similarly, while walls and floors of a possible Late Saxon or medieval building were observed during the 1958 excavations, insufficient evidence pertaining to the function of this structure was collected.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 8638 8293
Map Sheet:TL88SE

Full description

Possible site of St John's Church.
St. John's church has pre-Conquest origins, and is listed in the Domesday Book as one of four churches attached to Great St Mary's (S1). However, sometime before 1307 the church had begun to be used as a leper chapel. The Leper Hospital of St John the Evangelist is noted as early as the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) (S2). It was given to the Augustinian Friars by John of Gaunt around 1387 (S3) and remained in the possession of the Friars until the Dissolution (1536-1540).
Thomas Martin describes remains of a church at this location (S4), depicted on his map of Thetford (S5), and notes that a coffin had been found twenty or thirty years prior to his visit. Burrell's 1807 map (S6) marks this location as 'St John's Church Yard', while the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map (S7) labels it as the 'Site of St John's Chapel and Burial Ground.'
A. Davison's study of documentary sources for Thetford (S8) has indicated three possible locations for St. John's church. The first is at TL 8630 8305, slightly north of this site and immediately adjacent to Brandon Road, within the area excavated by B. K. Davison in 1966 (NHER 5756). A. Davison believes Thomas Martin's and Burrell's descriptions of the site (see above), which place the church on the left hand side of the road to Brandon between Canon's Barn and Red Castle, point to this location. The second possible location for the church is this site, marked on 19th century maps (see above). However, Davison notes that a 1765 map of the land of Henry Thomson labels the rectangular piece of land at this location as Barn Close (S7). The third possible location for St. John's church is to the west of the present Bury Road. This is based on a 1539 grant of Nunnery lands to Sir Richard Fulmerston by Henry VIII which describes a piece of land 4.5 acres, 'abutting the chapel called St Johns Chapel towards the west and upon Newbery Way towards the east', New Bury Way presumably lying close to the present road to Bury.
A. Davison has further suggested that the remains at this location may have been of St Lawrence's church (S8 and S15). This is another church of possible pre-Conquest foundation which was located somewhere within this quarter of Thetford. St Lawrence's Church was still in existence in 1368, but was the smallest of those valued in that year and may therefore have been lcoated in an area of the town that was in decline at that time. Other possible locations of St Lawrence's church are at Red Castle (NHER 5746) and the closer to Brandon Road described above as a possible location for St John's Church (within NHER 5756).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 July 2008.

Around 1700. Casual Find.
Thomas Martin noted in his discussion of the ruins of the chapel that a coffin had been found here approximately twenty to thirty years prior to his visit.
Information from (S4).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 July /2008.

Undated. Casual Find?
Three Late Saxon sherds from this site are in the Thetford Museum. [1]
Information from (S1).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 July 2008.

1957. Excavation.
Trial excavation by pupils of Thetford Girl's Grammar School under supervision of Miss P Wheatley.
Trench 1, located adjacent to the southwestern wall, was described as disturbed, yielding Late Saxon (Thetford, St Neot's, and Stamford), medieval, and modern pottery as well as a large quantity of bone. A flint layer was recorded at a depth of 4 ft 4in, and a trial hole excavated to a depth of 7 ft indicated that natural sand laid below this.
Four burials were recorded in Trench 2, to the east of the first trench. These were recorded in the lowest excavated layers, described as a layer containing abundant flint and some Late Saxon pottery. One burial was located on the southeastern edge of the trench. The skull from this burial is described as having been buried separately in a nest of chalk blocks but in line with the body. It appears that occupation debris including pottery, animal bone, and copper alloy strips was present to a significant depth below the inhumation, and several child's bones including a jaw may have been present. The other three were located in a northwestern extension excavated following discovery of carpal bones. Burials two and three were superimposed while burial four was represented only by a skull. The skull of burial two was wedged between blocks of chalk and flint, similar to the first burial. The inhumations appear to have been overlain by Late Saxon and medieval occupation debris including pottery and animal bone. It was noted that a hard flint layer and a chalk heap or pile on the east side of the trench containing bones were removed. The chalk heap had flints at the north end and may have been a floor.
The finds have been deposited with Thetford Museum.
Information from (S9-11).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 July 2008.

July 1958. Excavations.
Further excavations on the site of St Johns Churchyard were carried out by the Girl's Grammar school under Miss Wheatley. Three trenches were dug (Sites 3-5) to the east of the 1957 trenches.
Trench 3, located adjacent to the south wall, yielded glazed medieval sherds, Thetford and St Neots ware, daub, animal bones, and iron nails, indicating domestic occupation. A large area of weathered chalk is described at a depth of 17 in. At the time of excavation, it was considered that it may have been a floor, but it was not thought to be at a sufficient depth. This feature apparently rested on a layer containing a large quantity of Saxon pottery and animal bone and an iron staple. A small area of charcoal was noted at a depth of 21 in, and occupation debris including Saxon pottery, animal bone, and at least one iron object was recorded to a depth of 3 ft 5 in. A gravel layer with two possible post holes is described at this depth.
Trench 4, located east of site 3 and adjacent to the south wall, yielded medieval wares down to a depth of about 4 ft 3 in. Two perpendicular chalk walls were appear to have been encountered within this layer, one of which was parallel to the existing garden wall and apparently survived to some depth. The walls were also apparently associated with a silver penny of Edward I (1272-1307) or Edward III (1327-77). Towards the base of the walls, Saxon pottery and animal bone was recorded. A gravel floor with two or three post holes was encountered near or below the base of the walls. A human carpal or tarsal was recovered from the soil covering the floor. The floor was not excavated, but was recorded before backfilling the trench.
Trench 5, northeast of Trench 3, yielded a mixture of Late Saxon or medieval wares, modern wares, post medieval clay pipe, animal bone, and oyster shells in the uppermost 3 ft. At a depth of approximately 3.5 ft, a 'bed of flint' was encountered. Half of this was excavated, but only occasional pottery finds were recorded to a depth of approximately 5.5 ft.
Information from (S9), (S10) and (S12).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 July 2008.

November 1988.
This scheduled site, SAM 288 (site of St. John's Churchyard) has been subsumed within scheduled site SAM291, though the separate NHER number is retained.
See (S13) and (S14) for further details.
E. Rose (NAU), 5 December 1988.

May 2008.
Scheduled Monument Consent granted regarding the proposed erection of 15 dwellings including access road and parking.
See (S16) for further details
H. White (NLA) 9 January 2009

November 2007
Scheduled monument consent granted regarding the excavation and Geotechnical investigationl of the late Anglo- Saxon defensive ditch.
See (S17)
H. White (NLA), 22 January 2009

Monument Types

  • FLOOR? (Saxon - 410 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POST HOLE? (Saxon - 410 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BUILDING (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHURCH? (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CHURCHYARD? (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FLOOR (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION? (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHURCH? (Medieval to 14th Century - 1066 AD to 1307 AD?)
  • CHURCHYARD? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LEPER HOSPITAL? (14th Century to 16th Century - 1307 AD? to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • NAIL (Unknown date)
  • OYSTER SHELL (Unknown date)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Serial: 1957. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries. No 4. p 4.
---Serial: 1958. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries. Vol 5. p 5.
---Article in Serial: 1959. Other Archaeological Excavations 1958. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 11 (for 1958) pp 1-2. p 2.
---Designation: Corbishley, M.. 1983. AM107.
---Publication: Davison, B.. 1966. AM7.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 88 SE 51.
---Designation: DCMS. 2007. Scheduled Monument Consent.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford [3].
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Article in Serial: 1958. Other Archaeological Excavations 1957. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 10 (for 1957) pp 1-2. p 1.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Monograph: Batcock, N. 1991. The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 51. Microfiche 5:G12. Nos 231 and 232; p 54.
<S2>Publication: Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R. N. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. pp 335, 398.
<S3>Publication: Le Strange, R.. 1973. Monasteries of Norfolk. p 116.
<S4>Monograph: Martin, T.. 1779. History of Thetford.. pp 12, 13. p 68.
<S5>Map: Martin, T.. 1740. MSS map. 2.
<S6>Map: Burrell, G. B.. 1807. Map of Thetford.
<S7>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1824-1836. Ordnance Survey First Edition 1 inch..
<S8>Monograph: Dallas, C. 1993. Excavations in Thetford by B. K. Davison between 1964 and 1970. East Anglian Archaeology. No 62. Pp 194-217.
<S9>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S10>Unpublished Document: Unknown. 1958?. Site of St John's Churchyard. Trial excavation by pupils of Thetford Girls' Grammar School Under the direction of Miss P. Wheatley..
<S11>Unpublished Document: Thetford Girls' Grammar School. 1957. Excavations on Mr. Pearson's Land.
<S12>Unpublished Document: Thetford Girls' Grammar School. 1958. Thetford St. John's Churchyard. Record of Excavations (Sites 3-5).
<S13>Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF266.
<S14>Correspondence: Barraclough, P.. 1988. Letter regarding amalgamation of SAM No. 288 and SAM No. 291. 30 November 1988.
<S15>Unpublished Document: Davison, A.. 2001. ? site of a Church at Thetford. 3 July.
<S16>Designation: DCMS. 2008. Scheduled Monument Consent.

Related records

5756Related to: Prehistoric pits, Iron Age settlement, Saxon town area, and medieval industrial activity (Monument)

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