Egmere medieval settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018173

Date first listed: 12-Apr-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Aug-1998


Ordnance survey map of Egmere medieval settlement
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: South Creake

County: Norfolk

District: North Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Walsingham

National Grid Reference: TF 89712 37322, TF8938037339, TF8955237794

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Wash sub-Province of the South-eastern Province, an area which can be divided into two parts. The western part is the fenlands with associated marshlands, siltlands and islands, with villages, hamlets and bands of farmsteads and cottages clinging to the slight islands and dykes above land once seasonally flooded. The eastern part embraces the sands and loams of west Norfolk, studded with ancient villages and hamlets, some of them depopulated. To the south lie the Brecklands, an elevated, thinly-settled region. The Goodsands local region stretches north from the Brecklands to the coast. Its former heathland soils were improved in the 18th century. Overall settlement densities are low, with numbers of villages and hamlets, and though traces of abandoned settlements and churches do occur, they are not numerous.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities at the centre of a parish or township, sharing resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where they survived as earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, and enclosed crofts and small paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system, most villages include one or more manorial centres which may also survive as visible remains as well as buried deposits. In the Goodsands region of Norfolk, villages are a characteristic feature of the pattern of medieval settlement and their archeological remains are an important source of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

The remains of the medieval village of Egmere are among the most extensive of their kind to survive in this part of Norfolk, with a wide variety of well preserved components characteristic of this type of settlement, illustrating the social organisation and economy of the community. The earthworks and other standing and buried remains will contain much additional archaeological information concerning the village and the lives of its inhabitants, as well as the progress of its decline and eventual abandonment, to supplement the sparse historical record. The extensive system of fishponds on the north side of the settlement is representative of a type often constructed during the medieval period near manors, villages and monasteries for the purpose of breeding and storing stocks of fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food, and although it has suffered limited disturbance in places as a result of later activity, it remains a good example of its kind. Formal gardens of the type represented by the earthworks to the south of the site of the manor house were fashionable in the later 16th and 17th centuries and were constructed for the recreation and enjoyment of the wealthy, generally to complement mansions and other houses of high status. The relatively small example at Egmere, probably constructed at a time when the rest of the village had become almost completely depopulated, is of interest as a demonstration of the adoption of this fashion in a relatively obscure provincial setting, and as evidence of the status, or perhaps of the social pretensions, of the occupier of the manor house.


The monument, which is in three separate areas, includes the visible and buried remains of the medieval village of Egmere situated in and alongside a small valley at the boundary between the modern parishes of Great Walsingham and South Creake, approximately 3.5km west of Great Walsingham village. The site is crossed by the present minor east-west road from Great Walsingham to Creake.

The first and largest area, to the south of the present road, contains the ruins of the church and the site of the manor house which were at the heart of the medieval settlement, together with the remains of a formal garden associated with the manor house, and various other enclosures. The second area, 163m to the west of the first, contains earthworks which represent some of the tofts (homestead enclosures) of the medieval settlement. The third area, 175m to the north of the present road, includes extensive remains of a system of fishponds with associated water management features. These various features lie to either side of the remains of a hollow way which represents the main street of the settlement, running north west-south east across the third area and, to the south of the present road, bending to follow a curving course south westward across the first area and westward across the second. On the eastern side of the first area there are also earthwork remains of a later, crowned road with ditches along either side, which is shown on Faden's map of Norfolk, 1797. This runs southward from the field gate which opens off the present road, turning eastwards and then south again along the eastern edge of the modern field.

The churchyard and ruined church of St Edmund occupy a sub-rectangular mound immediately to the south of the hollow way, which is partly visible here as a slight linear depression. The mound is raised approximately 3m above the surrounding ground surface level, with linear banks which probably cover the foundations of a churchyard wall along the north and west edges. Bordering the western side is a well defined trackway, visible as a terrace on the slope of the mound, leading southwards off the hollow way and continuing as a slighter feature along the southern side of the churchyard.

The church tower still stands to almost its full original height of three storeys, and parts of the north and south walls of the nave also remain standing. The footings of the western parts of the north and south walls of the chancel can be traced as linear, turf covered mounds, and the rest of the area of the chancel is marked by unevenness in the ground surface. The estimated overall length of the church is 24m, the tower being approximately 6m square, excluding buttresses, and the nave of the same width and 11.8m in length. The tower is constructed of coursed flint with limestone plinth and dressings, and retains original features including the tower arch, which remains intact with triple chamfered surround, the opening of a large window in the west wall of the lower storey, with moulded jambs and arch showing evidence of alteration, and smaller windows with the remains or stubs of tracery in the four walls of the belfry. The belfry is reached by a newel (spiral) stair in the thickness of the wall in the south east angle. The north and south walls of the tower at ground floor level incorporate parts of the walls of an earlier nave. The surviving nave walls to the east of it are part of a later rebuilding, probably dating from the mid-16th century, and are also constructed largely of coursed flint, but with inclusions of reused stone, brick and tile. They include opposed doorways with round headed arches at the western end, a window opening with splayed reveals and inner jambs in the south wall, with part of the western reveal and jamb of another to the east of it, and, in the eastern end of the south wall, the lower steps of a stair which probably gave access to a gallery above the rood screen.

The site of the manor house lies about 125m SSE of the church and is occupied by two cottages which are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath, which will include evidence for earlier buildings, is included. To the south of this are the earthwork remains of a formal garden of later 16th or early 17th century date. Directly opposite the site of the house is a rectangular sunken area, bounded on the north and east sides by scarps approximately 1m and 1.5m in height, and on the west side by a flight of four terraces, probably designed as walkways. The lowest of these is known to include the buried remains of a retaining wall. To the south of the sunken area and terraces, along the southern edge of the garden area, are the remains of a long, rectangular ornamental pond or canal measuring approximately 100m east-west. Two ditches curve outward from the north eastern and north western corners of the sunken area and run northwards to either side of the site of the house, and a ditch, visible as a well defined linear hollow marks the western boundary of the garden. Between the site of the house and garden and the post-medieval road along the eastern side of the field is a rectangular ditched enclosure measuring approximately 167m in length north-south by 37m. To the north of this and of the dog-leg in the former road, in the north eastern corner of the modern field, is part of another enclosure in which slight traces of ridge and furrow cultivation can be seen, most clearly visible on aerial photographs, running beneath the remains of a later pond. Between the churchyard and the western part of the garden area there is evidence for at least two, much smaller, rectilinear embanked enclosures. An estate map of 1807 shows buildings in this area, and although nothing of these is now visible, evidence for them is likely to survive below the ground surface. The area of the field to the west of this is pitted by later quarrying.

Approximately 100m to the north of the site of the manor house and 37m east of the church is a rectangular, walled horse yard which is included in the scheduling. The walls which are largely of flint and brick, show evidence of several episodes of building and repair and appear to be largely of 18th and 19th century date, but at the base of the interior face of the south wall are three courses of brickwork of 17th century type above a flint footing.

The settlement remains in the second area lie along the bottom of the valley. A pronounced scarp up to 3m in height marks the eastern side of a trackway which branches south from the main east-west hollow way towards the site of another medieval settlement at Waterden, 1.5km distant, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. In the angle between the two trackways are two adjacent rectilinear enclosures, defined by low banks and measuring approximately 57m north-south by 37m and 25m by 35m respectively. In the northern and larger of the two are four low, rectangular platforms of varying size which supported buildings. Immediately to the north of the east-west hollow way, on the eastern side of the stream, are parts of two more embanked enclosures which are also considered to be tofts.

The remains of the fishponds and associated features in the third area lie to the west of the hollow way, which crosses the eastern side of the modern field and is here approximately 0.5m in depth with a ditch along much of its eastern side. Immediately to the west of the hollow way is a large rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 82m north west-south east by 75m, defined on the south side by a slight bank and on the west and north side by a linear hollow up to 10m wide which is considered to be the remains of a water channel forming part of a system of leats and outlets through which the flow of water to and from the fishponds was controlled. On the western side of this enclosure, alongside the hollow way and separated from it by a slight bank, are the remains of a large, subrectangular fishpond, or two contiguous fishponds, with a much smaller pond connected to the southern end by a short, wide channel. These are visible as hollows in the ground surface, up to 25m in width east-west and occupying almost the whole length of the enclosure. The northern half of the main hollow is up to 1m in depth, and the southern half, perhaps representing a separate pond, is approximately 0.5m deep. In the north western angle of the enclosure, and aligned with the channel on the north side, is a smaller, trapezoidal pond approximately 30m in length, shelving from the south to a depth of up to 2m. To the south of this and west of the larger pond are traces of one or more internal enclosures. The channel on the western side of the main enclosure is connected to a rectilinear network of other channels and related features in the south western part of the modern field, partly obscured by later, irregular ponds or quarry pits. Immediately to the west of it, and connected by a short, narrow channel which probably contained a sluice to control the flow of water, is a small sub-rectangular pond measuring approximately 13m north-south by 10m, and to the south of this pond are the remains of another channel, embanked along both sides, which runs WSW towards a feature resembling a small moat, between 4m and 8m in width and open to a depth of between 0.5m and 1m, with a causeway across the eastern arm giving access to a sub-rectangular central platform measuring 25m north-south by approximately 12m which probably supported a building. The southern arm of the moat-like feature projects westwards and connects with a narrower channel leading southwards to another rectangular pond, approximately 1.5m deep and measuring approximately 25m in length north-south by 10m, the southern end of which is connected, in turn, by a short sluice channel to another east-west channel partly visible on the southern edge of the modern field. To the north of the moat-like feature, and separated from it by a slight ridge or bank, is a further east-west channel, into which run the remains of a leat up to 10m wide and 0.5m deep which extends along the bottom of the valley from the north western corner of the field, and which presumably supplied water to the whole system. To the east in the northern part of the field there are traces of linear features which probably represent the remains of other water control features leading off, as well as various slight oval and subrectangular depressions in the ground surface. The only earthworks visible to the east of the hollow way, in the north east corner of the modern field, are an irregular quarry pit and the curvilinear scarp of a terrace which represents the south western part of a feature associated with an adjoining World War II airfield, and these are not included in the scheduling.

The existence of Egmere is recorded before the Conquest, and at the time of the Domesday survey (1086), the manor was held by the Bishop of Thetford. The later decline in the population and prosperity of the settlement can be traced in part in the records of the Lay Subsidy. In 1334 Egmere, combined with the neighbouring small settlement of Quarles, had 31 taxpayers, with a contribution assessed at 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence. By 1449 there were less than 10 households, and the assessment was reduced to 3 pounds 19 shillings and 4 pence, and in 1523 there were only 5 taxpayers, and the assessment was 1 pound 11 shillings and 4 pence. In 1423 the manor and patronage of the church had been presented to Walsingham Priory, and after the Dissolution in 1538, were granted by the King to Sir James Boleyn. In the 1550s the parson at that time complained to Chancery that a former parson and a lessee of the rectory had demolished part of the church and sent the lead from the roof and the largest of the bells for sale overseas, and it is following this episode that the nave was probably rebuilt. A report on the condition of the Diocese in 1603 records that by then there was only one household in Egmere, valued at 8 pounds, and that the church was `decaied and profaned and turned into a barn. The identity of the person who constructed the formal garden is unknown. In the Muster Roll of 1523 the most prominent men recorded in the village were Sir Roger Townshend, Steward to the Prior of Walsingham, and John Thirlock, with goods valued at 50 pounds and, although the garden may be of somewhat later date, the maker would have been of similar wealth and status.

The cottages in the first area, with their associated outbuildings, driveway, paved areas, childrens play apparatus, garden walling and fencing are excluded from the scheduling, together with all field fences and gates, cattle grids, and service poles situated within the areas of protection, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 30536

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 224
Allison, K J, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in The Lost Villages of Norfolk, , Vol. 31, (1955), 116-162
Batcock, N, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk, , Vol. 51, (1991), 134-136
Cushion, B, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in Some Deserted Village Sites in Norfolk: Egmere, , Vol. 14, (1982), 84
Cushion, B, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in Some Deserted Village Sites in Norfolk: Egmere, , Vol. 14, (1982), 86
Cushion, B, Fenner, G, Goldsmith, R, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in Some Deserted Medieval Village Sites in Norfolk: Egmere, , Vol. 14, (1982), 84-90
Fenner, G, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in Some Deserted Village Sites in Norfolk: Egmere; the Church, , Vol. 14, (1982), 87-89
Jessop, A, 'Norfolk Archaeol' in The Condition of the Archdeaconry of Norwich in 1603, , Vol. 10, (1888), 25
NAU, TF 8937/E/AEB 10, TF 9837/J/AEB 15, (1976)
NAU, TF8937/B/AEB7, TF 8937/E/AEB10, (1976)
Ordnance Survey, 74-178 408/409, (1974)

End of official listing