Remains of monastic grange with moated site at Grange Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020445

Date first listed: 07-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of Remains of monastic grange with moated site at Grange Farm
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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: West Dereham

National Grid Reference: TF 67195 03277


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

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Few monastic granges with surviving features of medieval date have been identified in Norfolk, and the remains of the grange at Grange Farm, which is believed to have been the home grange of West Dereham Abbey, are therefore of particular interest. The visible earthworks and buried remains will contain archaeological evidence for buildings and other features of the monastic farm which will, in conjunction with the remains of the abbey precinct 2.5km to the south west, contribute to a better understanding of the monastic economy as a whole.

The majority of medieval moated sites were occupied by high-status residences, but a few in East Anglia, characterised like the example at Grange Farm by their small size and usually by a raised central platform, are thought to have been constructed to contain dovecotes. Dovecotes are specialised structures designed for the breeding and keeping of doves as a source of food and as a symbol of high social status, and they were frequently associated with manor houses and monasteries. Most surviving examples were built in the period between the 14th and 17th centuries, although both earlier and later examples are documented. They were generally free standing structures, square or circular in plan, and normally of brick or stone, with nesting boxes built into the internal face of the walls. The central island of the moated site at Grange Farm is likely to contain the buried remains of such a structure, with associated archaeological evidence for its construction and use in the medieval period.

The buried remains of a large, high-status 17th century house, thought to have been occupied originally by members of the Dereham family, will retain information relating to the later history of the site and add to the interest of the monument.


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


The monument includes remains of a monastic grange with a small moated site and associated earthworks, located to the east of the road between King's Lynn and Wereham and about 2.5km to the north east of the site of West Dereham Abbey, to which the grange belonged. It also includes the buried remains of an early 17th century house to the north west of the moated site.

Dereham Grange, together with the site of the abbey and other lands belonging to it were granted to Thomas Dereham of Crimplesham in 1541, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the house which was later constructed on the site of the grange is said to have been built by one of his descendants. It remained in the possession of the Dereham family until 1738.

The moated site is thought to have been occupied by a medieval dovecote. The moat, which is approximately 15m wide and contains water, surrounds a rectangular central island which measures about 12m north east-south west by 10m and is raised about 0.4m above the prevailing ground level. An external bank up to 1m high and 10m wide at the top encloses the moat on the north eastern and south eastern sides, continuing around the northern and southern corners. On the north eastern side this bank is cut by the shallow remains of an overflow channel issuing from the moat into an adjoining ditch. At the end of the bank on the north western side of the moat the flint wall footings of a small building are partly visible beneath the turf. The ditch alongside the bank on the north eastern side of the moat continues as a broader feature about 6m wide along the outer edge of the bank around the northern corner and, where the bank terminates, turns at right angles, broadening to about 8m and extending north westwards for a distance of about 40m. Along the western lip of the north westward arm of the ditch can be seen the uppermost course and the remains of the coping of a brick retaining wall, thought to be a post-medieval garden feature. The remainder of the wall has been buried by the partial infilling of the ditch on that side.

About 21m to the west of the south western arm of the moat, and roughly parallel to it, is a slight scarp up to 0.5m high and diminishing towards the north east, marking the eastern edge of a low platform at least 43m in length which probably supported a building or buildings.

The site of the demolished 17th century house is marked by an area of uneven ground about 42m to the north west of the moat. As depicted on the Ordnance Survey 25 inch map published in 1906, the house was of an open E plan. The main body of the building, about 23m in length, was aligned south west-north east, with wings extending north westwards at either end and a projecting porch on the south east face. According to a partial description published in 1914, it was `a picturesque mansion ... with a high pitched roof'. The porch led into a large, oak panelled room with a great oak beam, and the rooms on the upper floor included two rooms with panelled walls and moulded plaster ceilings with geometric devices. It is likely that this house stood on or near the site of a medieval building containing the domestic accommodation for the grange.

Approximately 18m to the north east of the site of the 17th century house and 62m to the north east of the moat is a standing building with the date 1625 on the south eastern gable end. The walls, which display evidence of successive alterations, include much reused ashlar and dressed stone fragments, derived either from the demolished abbey buildings or buildings of the monastic grange, and it is possible that it stands on medieval foundations.

The 17th century standing building is excluded from the scheduling, together with all modern fences and gates, a hut in a compound which overlies part of the site of the 17th century house, a flagpole opposite the hut, flagstones adjacent to the flagpole and around the hut, inspection chambers and service poles, 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: 30589

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 324
Goldie, , 'Norfolk Archaeol' in The Last of the Norfolk Derehams, , Vol. 18, (1914), 4
Edwards, D, NAU TF6703/A/AJ48, (1977)
survey carried out for NAU, Aitken, P, Analysis of Upstanding Building .. at St Mary's Abbey, (1993)
Title: West Dereham: Tithe Map and Apportionment Source Date: 1845 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO Ref DN/TA E8

End of official listing