Waterden medieval settlement remains


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018174

Date first listed: 17-Aug-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Aug-1998


Ordnance survey map of Waterden medieval settlement remains
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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

National Grid Reference: TF 88688 36271


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 survive as earthworks their most distinguished 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 included 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 archaeological remains are an important source of understanding of life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

The medieval village of Waterden, which is one of several such sites which survive in north east Norfolk, displays many of the features characteristic of this class of monument and is a good example of a small settlement which developed along a central street with a bordering green. The earthworks and buried remains will contain 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 historical record. It is possible that the visible and buried remains of the 16th century hall, gardens and associated buildings, as recorded on the early 18th century map, overlie the remains of an earlier, medieval manor house, and they will in themselves provide additional information on the life and domestic organisation of an early post-medieval high-status household.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of part of the medieval village of Waterden, located along the lower slopes of a small valley running north east-south west. The village church of All Saints, which is not included in the scheduling, still stands, although reduced from its original size, some 225m to the south west, and the remains of the medieval village of Egmere, which are the subject of a separate scheduling, lie 1km to the north east. The farmhouse and buildings of the modern Waterden Farm are situated to the south east of the earthworks.

The visible remains of the village include various tofts (homestead enclosures) and part of the curtilage of the manor house bordering a main street which runs north east-south west along the bottom of the valley. A short farm track follows the line of the southern end of a road which led off this street north westwards towards Egmere from a point opposite the present farmhouse, and slightly to the north east of this junction are the remains of part of another track which led off it south eastwards, visible as a well defined hollow way up to 1m deep and about 15m wide. To the north east of this intersection, the line of the former main street is perpetuated in a modern trackway with a channeled stream running alongside. To the south west, the street ran through a narrow green approximately 32m wide which would have been used for common grazing. The eastern side of the green is defined by a steep, north west-facing scarp 2m or more in height, and the western side is occupied by a chain of later ponds. The area above the scarp is divided by two linear hollows approximately 6m wide, probably representing minor trackways, which run westwards and south westwards from the upper edge of the scarp towards the existing farm buildings. The area between these two features is enclosed on the northern and western sides by a bank up to 0.5m in height, and crossed towards the northern end by the remains of a slight ditch, about 2m wide which corresponds to an enclosure boundary on a map made in 1714. To the north east of these enclosures, in the angle between the south eastern side of the main street and the hollow way leading south eastwards at the north eastern end of the green, there is a hollow or bay up to 1.5m deep, on the eastern side of which is an oval raised platform measuring approximately 18m in length north-south by 9m which may have supported a building. The early 18th century map shows a building in this area, although probably to the west of the platform.

On the opposite side of the green, west of the ponds, can be seen the southern ends of three adjoining tofts, demarcated by slight banks and ditches which run north westwards to the western edge of the field. The remainder of these enclosures, which are not included in the scheduling, lay in the area of the adjoining field and have been levelled by ploughing, although prior to this the earthworks were recorded by means of aerial photography and surveyed. In the south eastern corner of the southernmost toft there is a slight mound measuring approximately 11m across and 0.5m in height, thought to be the remains of a building platform, and to the south of this there is a second mound of similar size.

To the north east of the street intersection, fronting the south eastern side of the main street, is a row of five rectangular tofts outlined by well defined low banks, scarps and ditches, and along the rear boundary of these runs a linear hollow approximately 5m wide and 0.4m deep which was probably a back lane. On the opposite, north western side of the street, north west of the intersection, are the remains of the greater part of a large enclosure, shown on the map of 1714 as containing the hall, with three smaller enclosures to the north east of it. The earthworks here are less well defined than those to the south east of the street, but the north eastern boundary of the hall enclosure is clearly marked by a broad, low bank approximately 7.5m wide and 0.5m high, with a central opening. According to the 18th century map, the hall stood in the south western part of the enclosure, on or immediately alongside the modern field boundary which runs almost parallel to the line of the street. Bricks and other building materials have been observed in the ploughsoil of the field immediately beyond this boundary, but it is possible that buried remains of the front part of the building remain undisturbed in the adjacent field. The map shows that the area between the building and the street was a courtyard, with other buildings ranged along the frontage. The area of the enclosure to the north east of the courtyard is subdivided into quarters by slight banks and was probably a garden. In the south eastern quadrant, aerial photographs taken in the 1960s show the slight hollows of the intersecting pathways of a parterre. The broad bank of the adjoining boundary has a flat or slightly hollowed top and may have supported a raised walkway bordering the garden.

Waterden is recorded as a small settlement in the Domesday survey of 1086, and in 1332 it contained 24 people contributing to the Lay Subsidy, although some of these would have lived in outlying farmsteads. It was not awarded any relief from taxation in the 1350s, indicating that there had been no catastrophic fall in population following the Black Death of 1349, and in 1380 36 inhabitants are recorded as having paid Poll Tax. The decline of the settlement is charted in records of the 15th and 16th century. In 1449 its contribution to the Lay Subsidy was reduced by over 31 per cent more than any of the neighbouring settlements, and by the early 16th century it no longer ranked as a separate village for purposes of taxation. By the beginning of the 18th century the area of the monument had been enclosed, although the main street and the two principal trackways leading off it survived and are shown in the map of 1714, which also records the outline of the green. The hall shown on the same map is thought to have been built in the 16th century. It was repaired at the beginning of the 17th century and demolished in 1781, when a new farmhouse and farm buildings were constructed.

All modern field gates and fences, the supports of water troughs and the pipes which supply them, track surfaces and service poles are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 30539

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Cushion, B et al, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in Some Deserted Village Sites in Norfolk, , Vol. 14, (1982), 68-77
CUCAP AQS 26, 27 AMU 83,84, (1967)
Title: Holkham MS Map 3/48 Source Date: 1714 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing