Record Details

NHER Number:44222
Type of record:Monument
Name:Post-medieval floated water meadows


A series of floated water meadows were built here between 1803 and 1811 by the Holkham Hall Estate. The scheme is an approximately 10 hectare complex of channels and earthworks extending for around 1km along the valley of the River Nar. It won a gold award from the Board of Agriculture when it was completed.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 84239 17035
Map Sheet:TF81NW

Full description

This is the location of a series of floated meadows formed in 1808 to 1811. The lake surrounding the 19th century Hall, locally known as a moat, is in fact the reservoir for this and its leat crossed the Old River by an aqueduct. The features noted by (S1) as fishponds are in fact probably to do with this.
See (S2).
E. Rose (NLA) 24 May 1995.

March 1946. RAF air photograph.
Shows extensive system of floated water meadows to west of West Lexham Hall, extending to west of A1065. A short spur extends south up a side valley just east of A1065. Further extension to east of West Lexham Hall.
These areas are Context 2.

May 1995. Air photograph.
Details to east of A1065 less clear, area to west of tree-covered, although large channels still visible through canopy. Eastern extension now mostly under lake.
B. Cushion (NLA), 4 September 1998.

March 2000. Earthwork Survey.
Survey at 1:2500.
These watermeadows were constructed between 1803 and 1806 on the Holkham Estate farm of John Beck and were designed by John 'Strata' Smith. They were paid for by the estate who were awarded a gold medal from the Board of Agriculture in 1806 for this scheme. The scheme is an approximately 10 hectare complex of channels and earthworks extending for around 1km along the valley of the River Nar.
See report (S3) for plan and further details. This site is amongst those included in (S4) and the results of the survey are also summarised in (S5).
B. Cushion (NLA), April 2000.

The medieval village of West Lexham is recorded separately as NHER 4063.
M. Dennis (NLA), 4 April 2006.

October-March 2017. Watching Brief and Topographic Survey.
Monitoring of works undertaken to improve the flow and habitat of the River Nar, including the excavation of three borrow pits to the south-west of West Lexham Hall and a short length of new river channel to the east of the hall, at the far end of the West Lake.
One of the borrow pits exposed a linear feature that ran parallel to the previously identified earthworks and had therefore probably been associated with the floated water meadows. This feature was sealed beneath 0.8m of material, demonstating the extent of 20th-century landscaping in this area. The two other borrow pits exposed no archaeologically significant remains. Finds were limited to three animal bones and a sherd of Chinese porcelain.
As the new channel would pass through an area where earthworks were still visible, a topographical survey was undertaken prior to its excavation. This survey identified two parallel channels and low banks which form the eastern end of the floated water meadow complex. These remains are slight, with a difference of only 0.15m between the base of the hollows and the tops of the banks. These features were largely avoided by the new channel, although at one point it disturbed a deposit that was possibly part of a raised bank. No features were exposed and no finds were recovered.
Information from report uploaded to OASIS. HER copy awaited.
P. Watkins (HES), 28 August 2020.

Monument Types

  • AQUEDUCT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WATER MEADOW (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WATERCOURSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Undated)
  • POT (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD to 2050 AD)

Protected Status

  • Higher Level Stewardship

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF8417 A-F,M,N; TF 81/TF 8316/A; 13 95 174.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF 8316ABG; TF 8417Q.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Record Card: Ordnance Survey Records / Pastscape.
<S2>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.
<S3>Unpublished Report: Cushion, B. 2000. Lexham. West Lexham Floated Water Meadows SMR 4063. Earthwork Survey Report.
<S4>Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104.
<S5>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2001. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 2000. Norfolk Archaeology. XLIII Pt IV pp 707-728. p716.

Related records - none

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