Record Details

NHER Number:1738
Type of record:Monument
Name:St Mary's Friary, Burnham Norton Friary


The site of St Mary's Friary, the first Carmelite Friary to be established in Norfolk, this site was occupied by the friars in 1253. The remains of the gatehouse (NHER 65031) and part of another building (NHER 65032) remain standing, and the rest of the friary complex is visible as earthworks and foundations on the ground and on aerial photographs.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 8387 4281
Map Sheet:TF84SW

Full description

The earliest Carmelite Friary in Norfolk, founded in 1241 on another site, see NHER 32740.
Moved here in 1253 and enlarged in 1353. Dissolved in 1538.
Decorated gatehouse, west end of church and part of the perimeter wall remain.
In the late 18th century, the church was in use as a farm building.
The gatehouse was partly rebuilt and re-roofed in the 19th century, and its original window tracery was lost in the 1940s.
A modern external staircase provides access to the top floor of the gatehouse.
Holy well.
See (S1) and (S2) in file.

Excavations revealed human remains.

1995. Earthwork Survey.
See report (S9) for plan and detailed description. This site was included in (S6) and the survey is also noted in (S13).
P. Watkins (HES), 9 February 2015.

Small excavation revealed foundations and medieval sherds.
See (S10) for further details.

March 1995.
Section 17 Management Agreement signed 5 March 1995 for 5 years.
See copy in office file.
H. Paterson (A&E) 14 September 1999.

June 2001. Field under long ungrazed grass.
Regrowth of scrub and bramble has been cut.
Spoke to tenant [1] on telephone. He has sold his herd of cattle, but will continue to cut regrowth.
Letter written to [2] asking whether new tenant will be appointed, preferably with sheep grazing.
H. Paterson (A&E), 3 July 2001.

September 2002. Norfolk NMP.
(NGR amended from original TF 8385 4278).
The remains of medieval Carmelite Priory mapped as part of NMP from 1946 RAF aerial photographs (S3), CUCAP oblique aerial photographs from 1951 (S4) and NLA oblique aerial photographs from 1978 (S5). It is clear from the report that masonry exists above ground, but this distinction could not be made sufficiently from the aerial photograph evidence. It was not possible to differentiate between vegetation covered walls and those with protruding low walls, therefore the plan of the site was all mapped in the 'bank' layer.

The NMP mapping of the actual church remains provides much the same data as Brian Cushion's survey of 1995 (S6). The aerial photograph evidence does however offer new insights into the earthworks surrounding the church. The earthworks, to the east of the standing remains, suggests two platforms or terraces, with a slight causeway or hollow leading up in-between towards the church. These terraces join up with the main east to west bank, running from TF 8381 4272 to TF 8395 4273.

The aerial photograph evidence from a CUCAP oblique from 1951 (S4) suggests a possible continuation of the Friary buildings across the road where the school now stands. These consist of three angular parchmarks, which may indicate further buildings. In particular a rectangular parched area, running from TF 8380 4277 to TF 8377 4277, measuring 25m by 6m. A curvilinear earthwork bank is also visible to the north of the site, running from TF 8381 4292 to TF 8387 4288. This may have originally been linked with the earthwork that curves around the edge of the wooded area from TF 8382 4286 to TF 8390 4282. It is worth noting here that the photograph was very oblique and that the control was also very poor (S4).
S. Massey (NMP), 30 September 2002.

November 2002.
Foundations now masked in unkempt grass, with some regeneration of brambles, elder and nettles, following cessation of cattle grazing on the field. The tenant [1] will cut back the brambles and elder. It is hoped that a new agreement will be signed by the owners in spring 2003.
H. Paterson (A&E), 13 November 2002.

July 2003.
Earthworks and foundations masked in thick grass, with some regeneration of elder and bramble. This will be strimmed shortly under the terms of a Section 17 agreement.
H. Paterson (A&E), 9 July 2003.

November - December 2007. Auger survey.
The survey revealed a complex sequence of Flandrian sediments overlying a gently undulating pre-Flandrian surface of fissured chalk bedrock. The earliest deposits were peats forming in topographic depressions around an early Holocene palaeochannel with lateral channel migration resulting in these areas developing into fen/mires and clay deposits. The ridge of higher ground separating the two low-lying areas consists of sandy sediments and may represent a river levee between the two areas.
See (S7) for further details.
S. Howard (NLA), 15 December 2009.

August 2009.
Gatehouse and west end of church well maintained. Ivy is becoming established on the roadside wall and the east end of the church is very overgrown. The field is under medium-length grass.
D. Gurney (NLA), 20 August 2009.

April-October 2010. Excavation and Watching Brief.
A minor programme of archaeological work took place during alterations and extensions to Friary Cottage (NHER 43988) and an adjacent outbuilding. This work exposed the remains of what appeared to be a section of the friary precinct wall. During the post-medieval period the remains of this wall were incorporated into what appears to have been a larger precursor to the extant structure. A watching brief maintained during subsequent groundworks on the site identified the remains of two additional medieval walls in the vicinity of Friary Cottage. The alignment of these walls suggests that they were probably part of the same structure as that which is known to have been partially incorporated into the fabric of Friary Cottage. Medieval pits and a medieval or post-medieval well were also recorded in the vicinity of Friary Cottage itself. Further post-medieval structure remains were exposed during the underpinning and conversion of the outbuilding.
See NHER 61876 and assessment report (S11) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 24 October 2016.

September 2011.
New Section 17 agreement set up.
See (S8).
D. Robertson (HES), 28 September 2011.

July-September 2012. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of groundworks associated with the construction of two new buildings and a soakaway in grounds of Friary Cottage (NHER 43988). This work identified two more medieval walls and recorded deposits that may have resulted from the demolition of medieval buildings on the site.
See NHER 61876 and report (S12) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 24 October 2016.

The gatehouse and the detached gable wall to the east were individually listed in 1953 (Grade I and Grade II* respectively). These are now recorded as NHERs 65031 and 65032.
P. Watkins (HES), 24 May 2021.

August 2016-April 2017. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of groundworks associated with installation of culvert and remedial works to precinct walls.
The repairs to the precinct wall included the construction of a brick buttress to support a leaning section of the now mostly collapsed northern wall.
A keyhole sondage demonstrated that the eastern wall has only shallow footings, without any form of significant construction trench. A 2.5m wide break in this wall can now be more confidently identified as an eastern gateway, with evidence for a splayed opening for a large portal observed. The excavation of a shallow sondage in front of this opening uncovered a hard, light metalled flint surface, although this incorporated fragments of late brick and tile and so can only be taken as evidence that this served as an access to the field beyond in more recent times. A magnetometer survey of the site undertaken in 2017 did however identify an east-to-west aligned trackway within the precinct which approaches this opening. A second trackway may head towards a smaller gate to the north, the position of which is possibly indicated by a vertical break in the wall and a slight change in wall fabric.
In the north-east corner of the precinct a slightly curving, narrower wall was recorded that had possibly been created to close or repair a gap between the northern and eastern precinct walls, potentially where a former dyke or sluice/culvert had once existed. This wall incorporated a variety of medieval building rubble including limestone ashlar, chalk blocks, bricks and a reused (and weathered) door or window jamb.
The culvert was installed along the existing drainage dyke that bisects the eastern end of the precinct. The deposits removed included modern silts and a waterlogged dark clay silt that contained 19th- to 20th-century brick rubble, fragments of decayed timbers and the remains of a brick pad. This location is shown as the site of some form of crossing point across the dyke on the Ordnance Survey Second Edition 6-inch map so it is likely that this debris may represent the remains of a light foot bridge present at this time.
A small number of metal objects were found during this work, including a crude lead counter or weight made from a musket ball, a lump of copper alloy waste and several World War Two brass cartridges. A single medieval brick was also recovered from a wall footing deposit.
See report (S14) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 24 May 2021.

Monument Types

  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FRIARY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOLY WELL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRECINCT WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRUCTURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TERRACED GROUND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS? (Unknown date)
  • WASTE (Unknown date)
  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COUNTER? (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Management Statement

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished Contractor Report: Emery, G. 2019. Archaeological Monitoring and Targeted Investigation Work of the precinct wall and the installation of a culvert at St Mary’s Friary, Burham Norton, Norfolk. Norvic Archaeology. 122.
---Aerial Photograph: TF8342 A-P,AH-AK CUCAPFQ20.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF173.
---Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 84 SW 6 [8]; TF 84 SW 7 [2].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1985. Ancient monument in expert hands. 12 April.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. [Photograph of the remains of Carmelite Friary at Burnham Norton]. 29 June.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Vandalism attacks at friary. 17 September.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1997. Satanic drawings 'the work of kids'. 26 September.
---Publication: Norfolk Heritage. 1977. Water Transport in Norfolk. Burnham Norton Friary, Site Reference 9.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, B. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 231.
---Thesis: Chadwick, S.. 1997. St Mary's Carmelite Friary at Burnham Norton..
---Photograph: St Mary's Friary, Burnham Norton. Print.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Burnham Norton.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---*Rolled Plan: Large Plan Exists.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF173.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF173.
<S1>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1978. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S2>Unpublished Document: English Heritage. 1995. Schedule Report.
<S3>Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1571 3024-5 07-JUN-1946 (Norfolk SMR TF 8343B, TF 8443A).
<S4>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1951. NHER TF 8342ABK (CUCAP FQ20) 15-JUN-1951.
<S5>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A.. 1978. SMR TF 8342D-E (AAF/161/21-2) 25-MAY-1978.
<S6>Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104. p 133.
<S7>Unpublished Contractor Report: Verrill, L. and Druce, D. 2008. Burnham Overy Habitat Creation Scheme, Norfolk. Geoarchaeological investigation. Oxford Archaeology North. 811.
<S8>Unpublished Document: Norfolk County Council. 2011-2012. Norfolk Monuments Management Project Section 17 agreement.
<S9>Unpublished Report: Cushion, B. 1995. Burnham Norton SMR1738. Earthwork Survey Report.
<S10>Unpublished Report: Heywood, S. and Rogerson, A. 1995. Carmelite Friary Gatehouse, Burnham Norton. Scheduled Monument No: 21389. Excavations prior to installation of staircase..
<S11>Unpublished Contractor Report: Crawley, P. 2011. An Archaeological Excavation and Watching Brief at Friary Cottage, Burnham Norton, Norfolk. Assessment Report and Updated Project Design. NAU Archaeology. 2265a.
<S12>Unpublished Contractor Report: Hickling, S. and Crowson, A. 2015. Archaeological Watching Brief at Friary Cottage, Friar’s Lane, Burnham Norton, Norfolk. NPS Archaeology. 3011.
<S13>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1996. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1995. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt III pp 397-412. p 399.

Related records

65032Parent of: Detached gable wall at St Mary's Friary (Structure)
65031Parent of: Gatehouse at St Mary's Friary (Building)

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