Record Details

NHER Number:8365
Type of record:Monument
Name:Waxham Hall and Great Barn


A manorial hall, now a farmhouse, enclosed within walls and with a gatehouse. The hall, now much altered, was built by the Woodhouse family in about 1570, of flint and brick with some re-used medieval stonework, The surrounding walls are of the same date. The external chimney stacks to the rear are now smothered by a large additional block of about 1800. The thatched Great Barn, just over a hundred metres to the south west, also dates to 1583/4 (tree ring date) and is gigantic; at 55 metres long, it is the biggest in the county and the village's most famous building. When it was built, it was probably intended to compete in size with Paston Barn further up the coast. Now restored, it is open to the public.

To the east of the great barn are a series of moated earthworks, forming a series of fishponds and channels. Three semi-circular banks are visible abutting the internal boundaries of the site. The date and function of these is unknown for certain, although it seems likely that they are post medieval.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 4396 2623
Map Sheet:TG42NW

Full description


1. R. R. Clarke (NCM) records; Gateway to hall of brick, flint and stone, used as cattle pound. Built by Wodehouse family; arms on spandrel of arch; see (S1). Formerly scheduled as ancient monument, now listed building instead.
2. (S2) notes a 15th century gatehouse on northeast in addition to above.
3. (S3) and other sources in Bolingbroke Collection have: foundations found towards church suggest building once larger; suggested present building is banqueting house of demolished hall. '15th century gate in field wall' noted, also 'ruins of magnificent gate in wing of hall' and 'blocked Tudor arches' on opposite side. On top floor of house an ornate plaster ceiling runs the length of building, ignoring partitions. Building widened at rear in 19th century. Once owned by Hickling priory; a piscina discovered in wall by front door. The Great Barn may have been a tithe barn; human skull found under threshold. Tradition that hall founded in 12th century when sea was fourteen miles away.
Whole complex scheduled 1990. Buildings not scheduled but land on which they stand is.
E. Rose (NAU), 1 May 1990.

4. Unit aerial photograph of 1977 gives a good idea of the whole layout, suggests that pond marked by Ordnance Survey grid reference 4399 2118 is north arm of moat.
E. Rose (NAU).

Report by Norfolk County Council in 1985 adds: present house is north wing of three sided courtyard arrangement; the east side, now a service wing, is the blocked gatehouse mentioned above, and south side demolished. Remaining gate in perimeter wall to north as stated, and at one time another outer gate towards church. Inner gatehouse has columns like those on Sir Thomas Woodhouse's tomb in the church. Much ashlar everywhere but no evidence of pre Reformation work; barn buttresses have reused ashlar from ?a church. Barn has roof and diaperwork showing it to be contemporary with the hall, second half of the 16th century and is longer and wider than Paston barn.
Report compiled by S. Heywood, to NHER by E. Rose (NAU), 20 January 1987

For full details of the buildings see the listed building description. It dates the house, gatehouse and barn (all grade I) as 1570 rather than 15th century and adds that there is a grotto attached to the house made of reused 13th/14th century stonework. It also lists the contemporary garden wall as grade II which it states has 19th century cement basreliefs of Aztec Indians gesticulating at serpents.
Barn severely damaged in gale October 1987.
See (S6) in file.
E. Rose (NAU), 22 October 1987.

12 June 1991. Watching Brief.
Fourteen post holes dug for erection of fence, monitored by NAU (see plan in file). Nothing noted except holes two and three where at a depth of 35cm a deposit of large rounded flints occurred.
H. Wallis (NAU), November 1991.

19 August 1991. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of excavation of water pipe trench to south of Great Barn.
No archaeological features observed or artefacts recovered. See watching brief form in file.
A.Crowson (NAU), 20 August 1991.

1992. During restoration of barn, medieval terracotta moulding of 'Oxborough' family found reused in wall. Information from [1] and see reference (S14).
E.Rose (NLA), 19 March 1992.

(S13) gives brief account of barn and complex in 1994, and states that roof of a wing of the barn is made from ships' timbers.
E.Rose (NLA), 5 January 1995.

March 1997. Watching Brief.
Observation of drainage ditch extension produced three items of worked stone.
See report (S15) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA), 16 September 1998.

Barn now restored, apart from the later side wings. Two of the main barn ties were ships masts, one of which was too rotten to keep.
The buttresses of stone are now believed to be complete imports from a monastery. Pattern of alternate hammerbeams and tiebeams in barn is clearly original.
E. Rose (NLA), 12 June 1998.

Architects drawings (pre 1992) as large rolled plans.
E. Rose (NLA).

19 July 1994. NLA air photography.
Photographs show Waxham 'Great Barn' during its restoration (S16).
M. Brennand (NLA), 19 April 2001.

2002. Dendrochronological Survey.
Dendrochronological dating indicates that barn was constructed in the winter of 1583/4.
See report (S17) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA), 25 October 2004.

September 2003-February 2004. Excavation and Watching Brief.
Archaeological work undertaken prior to and during the refurbishment of the Great Barn recorded details of the construction of the barn and its surviving wings.
See NHER 39603 and reports (S26) and (S27) for further details.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 14 August 2006.

April 2005. Norfolk NMP.
The medieval earthworks of a series of moated enclosures and fishponds associated with Waxham Hall are visible on aerial photographs (S18 to S22). The entire site is centred on TG 4398 2622, although the main area of medieval earthworks mapped by NMP is centred on TG 4398 2616. A further group of possibly post medieval earthworks is located to the north, centred on TG 4401 2626.

In 1989 Tony Gregory suggested that the northern arm of the moated fishponds and a narrow curving boundary/drain marked on the Ordnance Survey first edition map (6 inch, 1879 to 1886) (S23), may preserve the line of the edge of the northern and western arms of a former moat (S24:page 2). On this evidence he then suggests that a much larger rectangular moat once surrounded an earlier hall complex and the barn. No evidence for a larger moat was found during the NAU excavations (ENF15694) in this area in 1997 (S15). Examination of the earthworks visible on the aerial photographs also suggests that a larger rectangular moat did not exist. The moated fishponds appear to be well defined in their western extent and the complex seems fairly well contained. If an earlier, larger moat did exist it is not apparent, although alterations may have been made, such as the filling in and re-routing of channels.

The largest fish pond is centred on TG 4398 2619 and is oblong, measuring 40m by 20m, although the aerial photographs show that this pond has been maintained and cleared out, so it is possible that its shape has been altered over the years. This is also suggested by the fact that the pond appears slightly more rounded and wider that the depiction on the Ordnance Survey first edition map (6 inch, 1879 to 1886) (S23). The pond is flanked by a low bank to the west, up to 7m across, which curves around to the south. This earthwork may be cut by the eastern arm of the fishpond, which would suggest some phasing to the development of earthworks. Although this is not certain as the angles and lines of the two banks are not entirely in alignment. The internal bank is more or less aligned along the short axis of the central platform, centred on TG 4397 2617. A further low bank and slight ditch are aligned along the long axis of this interior area. On the majority of the aerial photographs this western channel appears quite narrow, approximately 2m across and the edges are poorly defined. However oblique aerial photographs taken during February 1996 clearly show the fishponds and channels filled with water (S21) and in these conditions the true plan of the earthworks can be viewed. The western ditch measures at least 5m across and bulges inwards towards the central platform. The western arm of the moat is much better defined than the eastern, measuring up to 7m, and again bulging in towards the centre. This gives the central area a slight hourglass shape. The eastern channel has a bank running alongside its eastern edge and it is this better-defined eastern arm that has been depicted by the Ordnance Survey (S23). It may be that the western bank was allowed to silt up or was deliberately infilled at some point in the past, whist the eastern ditch continued to be cleared.

Both of these channels feed into a wider pond to the south, measuring approximately 52m long and up to 11.5m wide. This pond is linked to a channel or drain running off to the southeast corner of the site. This channel is quite well defined by comparison with the other earthworks and appears to cut across some shallower earthworks. It seems likely that this feature is a later addition to the site, although it is pre-1879 to 1886, as it appears on the Ordnance Survey first edition map (S23). To the immediate east of this ditch is an irregular shaped cut feature or pond, centred on TG 4398 2611 and measuring approximately 25m across. It is not clear whether this feature relates to the medieval fishpond complex or whether later and probably post medieval in date. The pond is marked on the 1879 to 1886 Ordnance Survey map (S23). On the oblique aerial photographs from 1968 the pond has the appearance of two features cutting into one another. The original cut possibly being roughly rectangular in shape and then a later cutting alongside the edge of the site. It is possible that the earlier cutting may have been part of the medieval fishpond complex. There is a bank to the immediate north of this pond, also the land in between the overlapping cuttings and the post medieval channel is raised up, probably with material created by the digging of the features. A further angular cut feature is visible to the northwest at TG 4401 2612, which has a channel or drain, running off to the southeastern corner of the site. This may be a later feature. To the north of this is a slight raised platform or terrace, defined in part at the top by a low bank, which runs parallel to the long axis alignment of the fishpond complex and heads towards the wall of the chancel. To the south of this is the impression of a slight ditch. This may be marking the line of a boundary visible on the 1840 Waxham Tithe map (S25).

The slighter, shallower earthworks, that the post medieval channel appears to cut through, only show clearly on a Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs oblique aerial photograph from April 1968 (S19). The low-light shadow highlights features not visible on other photographs, in particular those located to the south of the main area of earthworks. The main feature is a slightly sinuous hollow running roughly from west to east and then possibly curving down to the southern corner of the site. Although this channel appears to be linked to the southern pond of the main fishpond complex, it is considerably more shallow and it is unlikely that it had the same water-filled function. This is more likely to represent a hollow way or trackway. A further ditch leads off to the south and turns to the west, creating a rectangular enclosed area. This earthwork is quite shallow and is not as deeply cut as the fishpond channels to the north and did not fill with water on the February 1983 aerial photographs, like the other features (S20). The two areas of earthworks are also partially separated by two embanked areas. In addition to the west, abutting the boundary is a semi-circular platform, surrounded by a ditch, which in 1946 looks like it may have bulbous ends (S18) and has a similar appearance to a slit trench, although it does not look recent enough.
There are three additional semi-circular bank and ditch earthworks, located to the north, all butting on to boundary walls, including that of the chancel and graveyard (HER 8372). Although these have a different form and appearance than the feature described above. The eastern two of the semi-circular features are still visible as slight earthworks on oblique aerial photographs from 1983 (S19). The western example has largely been built upon. The Ordnance Survey first edition map would indicates that a fourth semi-circular bank existed on the western side, opposite the entrance, although no definite traces of this earthwork can be identified (S23). These four earthworks are centred on TG 4401 2626 and are arranged at four opposing points within the enclosed yard. The southern two are each in the corner, whilst the northern two appear to be associated with the gap in between the buildings and the entrance (western bank) and the wall of the chancel and graveyard (eastern bank), with a central pond located in between. The diameters of these semi-circular banks, where complete, are all approximately 20m and the banks are between 1.5-2.5m wide, with slight ditches on either side.
The positioning of these earthworks and the aerial photograph evidence suggests that these banks post-date the walls, rather than being cut by them, as no evidence of the features can be traced on the other side. The northern surviving example appears to be on top of the former position of a gate house associated with the medieval walled Hall (S24). The angle of this structure suggests the medieval wall was aligned slightly differently. This again indicates that the semi-circular embankments are part of a much later phase of the site and are probably post medieval in date. Their purpose is unknown. It seems unlikely that they are ponds as they are constructed against walls and a central pond still exists. It is possible that they are associated with stock, either pens or feeders, although the arrangement of four opposing enclosures seems unnecessary. Another possible explanation is that they are garden features, although they do not have the usual appearance or design of such earthworks.
S. Massey (NMP), 13 April 2005.

Numerous further press cuttings in file.

June 2006.
Scheduled monument consent granted concerning the laying of land drains, laying of turf, creation of a pond or meadow, the erection of a cycle stand and exhibition board.
See (S28) for further details
H. White (NLA), 19 March 2009

Monument Types

  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BARN (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD) + Sci.Date
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GREAT HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOAT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WATER CHANNEL (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BARN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN FEATURE? (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GATE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GREAT HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POND (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • STATUE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • STOCK ENCLOSURE? (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • HUMAN REMAINS (Undated)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG4326 L-Z; TG4426 A-N,R-T.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. [Articles on the proposals to save Waxham Great Barn].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1932. [Photograph of the ancient gateway at Waxham Hall]. 6 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. [Articles on the damage Waxham Great Barn casued in 1987].
---Newspaper Article: Norfolk County Council. 1991. [Article on the purchase of the Great Barn at Waxham].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. A thatch just to cap it all. 9 September.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF5756.
---Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG4326/AR - AU.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2003. Plan to restore historic barn. 8 April.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 42 NW 4.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 708-710.
---Photograph: Photograph of wall/gatehouse of Waxham Hal, Sea Palling. black and white.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Sea Palling.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---*Rolled Plan: Large Plan Exists.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1994. Barn wins craftsmanship award. 15 March.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1993-1994. [Article and letters to the editor about the cost and the restoration work undertaken at the Great Barn at Waxham].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1989-1997. [Articles on the potential new uses and tenants of the Great Barn].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1990-1991. [Articles on the speech given by Prince Charles and the restoration work triggered at Waxham Great Barn].
---Newspaper Article: The Daily Telegraph. 1991. [Photograph of the interior of Waxham Great Barn]. 13 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. Missing guest at barn launch. 19 June.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1994-1995. [Articles on further work in restoring Waxham Great Barn].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. [Letters to the editor regarding the financial cost of restoring Waxham Great Barn].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Chance for public to speak up on Great Barn debate. 8 July.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Medieval barn does aid church. 6 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Restored barn is no white elephant. 9 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Why Charles had to step in to save one of the country's finest farm buildings. 8 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Imagining bygone days in the great barn. 6 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. Soaring cost of heritage project raises concern. 13 May.
---Article in Serial: Rossi, A. 2012. A Tale of Two Barns: Paston and Waxham. Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society. 56/33-53.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF23.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF23.
---Designation: [Various]. Application for Scheduled Monument Consent. Consent. DNF23.
<S1>Serial: Blomefield, F.. 1808. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk.. Vol IX. p 353.
<S2>Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-East Norfolk and Norwich. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. p 338.
<S3>Monograph: Bryant, T. H. 1900. Hundred of Happing. The Churches of Norfolk.
<S6>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1988-1989. [Articles and letters to the editor on the discussion as to whether demolition or restore the Great Barn at Waxham].
<S13>Article in Serial: Heywood, S. 1994. Waxham Great Barn.. The Annual. No 3, p 24.
<S14>Article in Serial: Heywood, S. and Ashley, S. 1995. Fragments from a Sixteenth-Century Terracotta Tomb Identified at Waxham Hall Barn. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt II pp 206-209.
<S15>Unpublished Contractor Report: Gaffney, K. E. 1998. Report on a Watching Brief at Waxham Barn, Waxham Hall Farm. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 330.
<S16>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1994. TG4326/AH - AM.
<S17>Monograph: Moir, A. K. 2004. Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from Waxham Great Barn, Sea Palling, Norfolk. English Heritage Centre for Archaeology Report. 67/2004.
<S18>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 5102-3 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S19>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1968. CUCAP (AUG5) 25-APR-1968 (CUCAP).
<S20>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1983. NHER TG4426F (131/ASP22) 15-APR-1983.
<S21>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. NHER TG4325AR-AU (360/HFG11) 21-02-1996.
<S22>Vertical Aerial Photograph: BKS. 1988. BKS 2052-4 29-AUG-1988 (NCC 4274-6).
<S23>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1879-86. Ordnance Survey First Edition 6" (1879-1886). Sheet XLI.4.
<S24>Unpublished Document: 1989. Waxham Great Barn. Public Enquiry into Compulsory Purchase Order..
<S25>Map: Wright, J.. 1840. Waxham Tithe Map.
<S26>Unpublished Contractor Report: Robertson, D. 2004. An Archaeological Excavation and Watching Brief at Waxham Barn. Assessment Report and Updated Project Design. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 888.
<S27>Unpublished Contractor Report: Robertson, D. 2005. A Possible Late Saxon Burial and a Medieval Manor: Excavations at Waxham Great Barn, 2003-4. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 1075.
<S28>Designation: DCMS. [?]-2016. Scheduled Monument Consent. SAM Consent. DNF23.
<S29>Illustration: Wallis, H.. 1991. Plan of Fourteen post holes dug for erection of fence, monitored by NAU.. Film. Unknown.

Related records

39603Parent of: Possible late Saxon inhumation and medieval deposits at Waxham Great Barn (Monument)
MNO2521Related to: Enclosing wall and Gatehouse to Waxham Hall SEA PALLING (Revoked)

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