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Suffix 21446
Date assigned 16 January 1998
Date last amended


The monument includes the moated site of a medieval bishop's palace at South Elmham Hall, together with the remains of an associated system of fishponds which are visible as earthworks in an adjoining field. The moated site, containing the standing and buried remains of medieval buildings, is prominently situated on a slight spur on the east side of a small valley and lies on the parish boundary between St Cross and St Margaret's, South Elmham. A ruined 11th century building, known as the Minster and thought to have been an episcopal chapel is located about 450m to the south of it, on the opposite slope of the valley, and is the subject of a separate scheduling. During the medieval period the moated site adjoined or was close to two deer parks, one to the west and one to the south east, and the site of Greshaw Green, enclosed in 1853 but a focus of settlement between the 13th and 16th centuries, lies 625m to the south west. The moat, which varies between about 10m and 16m in width from lip to lip and is water filled, surrounds a sub-rectangular island with maximum dimensions of approximately 145m north west-south east by 100m. Short external projections at the north east, north west and south west corners of the moat are perhaps the remains of inlet and outlet channels to control the water level. Access to the central island is currently provided by two causeways across the eastern arm of the moat and one across the southern arm, none of them are thought to be original, but there are surviving remains of two earlier entrances on the eastern and western sides. Parts of a timber bridge, including massive beams and supports displaying original joints, were found in waterlogged deposits in the eastern arm of the moat, adjacent to the southern of the two causeways on that side, during cleaning operations 1986-1989, and some of these timbers remain in position. At the site of this bridge and to either side of it, the inner edge of the moat is retained by an old brick wall which may represent the footings of a gatehouse. The ruined walls of a building of two storeys which is considered to be of 13th or 14th century date and is included in the scheduling, stand adjacent to the inner edge of the western arm of the moat opposite. This building, which is constructed of mortared flint with brick quoins and is Listed Grade II, has sometimes been described as a chapel but is more likely to have served as a gate lodge. The northern gable wall stands to its full height and displays original features which include sockets for the joists of the upper floor and, above these, two narrow, rectangular, internally splayed windows, one of them partly blocked and altered.The western wall includes a blocked rectangular recess or opening which is probably a later insertion, and the eastern wall includes a rectangular recess and, to the east of this, the remains of a door opening. The southern end of the east wall has a later internal facing of brickwork and shows evidence of alteration relating to another entrance on the south side of the building. Part of the moulded brick east jamb of the doorway survives at the end of the wall, together with the springing of a vault which may have spanned a short internal passage or porch. These alterations are probably associated with the construction of a gatehouse dated to the 16th century, the north wall of which abuts the south end of the earlier building, replacing the original south wall. The lower parts of the north and south walls of the gatehouse, and the associated revetment of the inner edge of the moat survive and are constructed of alternate courses of flint and brick. South Elmham Hall is Listed Grade I and is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included. It stands in the southern half of the island and incorporates part of a 13th century or later medieval hall built of flint masonry with freestone dressings. Two sections of another wall on a north east-south west alignment and believed to be of medieval date are incorporated in later farm buildings to the north east of the hall. These sections, which are constructed of mortared flint, with later patching containing bricks and fragments of ashlar, are included in the scheduling, as are the buried foundations of other walls which have been revealed by parch marks or noted in gardening in the area to the north and north west of the hall. Further farm buildings to the north east, one of which is a timber framed barn dated to the 16th century and Listed Grade II, are not included in the scheduling. The slight earthwork remains of two parallel ditches about 16m apart and with associated banks, bisect the northern half of the moated site on a south east-north west alignment and perhaps represent a former avenue of trees or similar garden feature. The eastern ditch, which is the better preserved, is about 3m wide and has a visible depth of up to 0.5m. The fishponds, with the remains of an associated water management system, occupy a grass field adjacent to the moated site on the south east side and separated from the moat by a farm track. The fishponds are visible as an array of large, well defined rectangular and `L' shaped depressions between about 12m and 25m wide, separated by flat-topped banks of varying width and linked to the remains of feeder and outlet channels which survive as rectilinear dry ditches up to 7m in width and 1m in depth. Some of the short connecting channels, which would have contained sluices to control the flow of water, also remain visible. This system may have been connected to the moat at its south east corner, where there is a short scarp running southwards from the outer edge. At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the manor of South Elmham was held by the Bishop of Thetford. Soon afterwards it was purchased by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich and in c.1100 was given by him to his new foundation of Norwich Priory. References in the medieval account rolls of the manor to a chapel and two cloisters within the moat are evidence that the site may have housed a small monastic cell in the early 12th century. In the 13th and 14th century it became an important residence of the Bishops of Norwich and in 1387 Bishop Henry Despenser was granted a license to crenellate his manor house here. Other buildings and offices referred to in the account rolls include inner and outer courts with a chapel, wellhouse, granary, gatehouse and steward's chamber, and the fishponds (stewponds) are also mentioned. According to the local historian Suckling, a gate tower over the entrance was still largely intact at the end of the 17th century. In 1540, following the Dissolution of the monasteries, the property was granted to Edward North (created Lord North in 1553). A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the hall and farm buildings, all outbuildings on the moated island, including the brick foundations of one in the north east quadrant which has been demolished, the farm buildings immediately adjoining the outer edge of the southern arm of the moat, post medieval garden walls, modern fences, paving around the hall with associated garden furniture, the modern surfaces of driveways, yards and farm tracks within and immediately outside the moat, and of a car park in the north east quadrant of the moated island, signs, information boards, picnic tables and benches around the car park, inspection chambers, a service pole in the south east quadrant and modern plastic drain pipes issuing into the moat; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

External Links (2)

Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. Scheduled Ancient Monument file.



Grid reference Centred TM 3075 8323 (314m by 230m)
Map sheet TM38SW

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Nov 12 2012 3:40PM

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