Remains of Bixley Hall and associated garden water features


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Norfolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TG 26059 04419

Reasons for Designation

In the period following the Dissolution of the monasteries many prominent local landowners built country houses to demonstrate their taste and their often newly acquired wealth and status. Such houses differed in form, function and architectural style from the manor houses of the medieval period, and were built to designs which drew on ideas and details in Continental pattern books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models, and incorporated elements of Classical architecture. In East Anglia, the influence of the Flemish style was particularly strong. The 16th century is also characterised by the much more widespread use of brick in high status domestic architecture. By the early 18th century the prevailing style was plainer, less eclectic and more consciously `Classical' in form, and houses of this period tend to be built on a symmetrical rectangular plan, rather than the `E' and `U' plans with cross wings typical of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

The gardens designed and laid out around 16th century houses in England followed highly regular, geometric plans which had their origins in the traditions of the medieval period, but they were also strongly influenced by ideas received from France and the Netherlands and derived ultimately from Italian Renaissance models. Characteristic features of such gardens included symmetrical water features such as canals and ornamental moats, as well as terraces, raised walkways and parterres.

The remains of Bixley Hall and its surrounding gardens display elements of both the original 16th century house and the early 17th century rebuilding or remodelling, and the earthworks of the garden water features also include evidence of later 18th century alteration which reflects the more informal style then fashionable. The monument as a whole will contain archaeological information concerning the architecture and construction of the house, its domestic organisation and the lives of its inhabitants from the second half of the 16th to the end of the 19th century, and the relationship of the hall to the remains of the medieval village of Bixley which survive to the north of it is also of great interest, since it is likely that the acquisition of the individual holdings by the owners of the estate, and their incorporation into the grounds around the hall was the ultimate cause of the depopulation of the village.


The monument includes the remains of Bixley Hall and the visible and buried remains of water features which enclosed the gardens surrounding it, situated approximately 500m to the south of the earthwork remains of the medieval settlement of Bixley which are the subject of a separate scheduling. The hall was built originally in about 1565 and rebuilt around 1714, and by the mid-18th century the grounds beyond the gardens, as shown in a map of the estate made in 1769, included the site of the medieval settlement. The hall was demolished in 1904.

The visible remains of the hall include some sections of brick wall standing to a height of up to 1.5m and extensive cellars, also of brick, with arched recesses in the walls. Most of the bricks are of a type consistent with a 16th century date, and it is possible that the later house was constructed partly on the foundations of the original hall, or reusing the original brick. Within the cellars there are large piles of brick rubble and some displaced flagstones. In plan the building is rectangular, with short projecting wings on the east side. On 18th century maps various other buildings, probably including the stables, are shown grouped around a yard approximately 30m to the east of the hall, and partly buried brick foundations remain visible in this area. A map of 1769 also shows a walled area containing smaller outbuildings immediately to the south east of the hall.

Approximately 24m to the south of the hall are the earthwork remains of an ornamental canal, now dry, which remains open to a depth of up to 1.5m and measures approximately 144m in length and 9m in width. This feature is aligned ENE-WSW, roughly parallel to the south frontage of the hall, and an arched, brick lined drain leading from the cellars of the hall issues into it on the north side. Along the southern side and around the western end of the canal there is a low, flat-topped bank approximately 8m in width and up to 0.7m in height which probably carried a raised walkway. In the bottom, some 24m in from the western end, there is a rectangular brick structure, probably of later 18th or 19th century date, which may have been the base of a fountain or statue. Opposite this feature, a ditch approximately 1m deep and 6m wide runs NNW from the canal for a distance of approximately 66m, from which point it continues as a somewhat wider channel curving NNE and eastwards around the northern side of the hall. This feature is shown on a map of 1805 but, according to the evidence of earlier maps, the curving northern section is part of an alteration carried out during the later 18th century. A plan of the estate made in 1769 shows the ditch as rectilinear, turning ENE at the northern end of the western arm and continuing parallel to the canal for a distance of approximately 35m, and it is thought that in this form it represents the remains of a rectangular ornamental moat constructed around the garden of the 16th century hall, the eastern arm of the moat and the eastern end of the northern arm having been infilled at a later date, although they will survive as buried features. The plan of 1769 also shows the hall and water features enclosed on the eastern and western sides by a wall, and the presence of brick foundations, probably of 16th or 17th century date, has been confirmed in an area immediately to the west of the monument, where the excavation of a modern pit has cut through them.

During the medieval period the manor of Bixley was split into three parts which, prior to the Dissolution of the monasteries, were held by Carrow Abbey, Langley Abbey and Mettingham College. After the Dissolution it was reunited in the hands of the Duke of Norfolk, and later passed into the hands of the Wards, a family of local gentry. The original hall on this site was built by Edward Ward. The hall remained in the hands of the Ward family for several generations and in the later 18th century passed, with the estate, to Lord Rosebery.

The pheasant shelter and rabbit-proof fencing 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, (1805), 452-455
Title: A Topographical Map of the County of Norfolk Source Date: 1797 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Edition published 1989
Title: Enclosure and Tythe Award Map, Bixley Source Date: 1805 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Norfolk RO DCN/TA 449A
Title: Plan of an estate lying in Bixley Source Date: 1769 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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