Appleton medieval and early post-medieval settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020768

Date first listed: 03-Nov-1965

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Mar-2003


Ordnance survey map of Appleton medieval and early post-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: Flitcham with Appleton

National Grid Reference: TF 70648 27261, TF 71025 27070


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 East Norfolk local region was characterised by numerous medieval villages and hamlets, rather than the isolated halls and scattered farmsteads that dominated other regions of Norfolk. Archaeological evidence indicates that this has been a prosperous farming area since Roman times, and its woodland may have been largely cleared long before the Norman Conquest.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or principal) nucleated settlement focus, such as a village, and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example in relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, and where they survive as earthworks, their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern province and the Northern and Western provinces of England. They are found in upland and also in some lowland areas. Where found, their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

The known archaeological remains of Appleton, and the documentation from the late 16th century onward, indicate that this was a dispersed settlement, although it is possible that before the population declined in the medieval period there was a nucleus of homesteads clustered around the church and adjacent manor house.

The remains of the church, moated manor and substantial farmstead which are included in the scheduling illustrate the social organisation and hierarchy of the medieval and early post-medieval community and something of the economy which sustained it. The church, which is mentioned in Domesday, is of particular interest. The fabric of the standing walls contains evidence for a sequence of building and alteration from the 11th century onward and, since the church went out of use in the early 18th century, the buried remains will not have been disturbed by 19th century restoration or later works and will retain further archaeological evidence for its history and use. Information relating to the medieval and early post-medieval population of Appleton will also be preserved in the surrounding churchyard.

The holy well within the churchyard is also of significance. Holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations, although it is clear that some of them originated as pre-Christian sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued through the medieval period and, although it was condemned at the time of the Reformation (c.1540), local reverence for existing sites often continued, together with associated folklore customs. Holy wells sometimes functioned as sites for baptism, but they were also revered for less tangible reasons, such as a belief in the healing powers of the water and its capacity to effect a desired outcome for future events. Associated rituals often evolved, usually requiring the donation of an object or coin to retain the `sympathy' of the well for the person seeking its benefits. Although apparently restored in the 19th century, the well associated with St Mary's Church is likely to retain archaeological evidence for its earlier form and for activities and customs relating to it.

The moated manor house adjacent to the church was, like the church, a focal element of the settlement and was its administrative centre. Although the double moat has been infilled, its extent can be traced from surviving surface traces and by reference to early mapped depictions. The greater part of the area which it enclosed has remained largely undisturbed by building and other activities since the end of the 16th century. Archaeological evidence for the construction of the moats, for the associated buildings, and for the domestic life of the people who inhabited them will therefore be preserved on the raised central island and in the outer enclosure. The infilled moats are likely to contain waterlogged deposits in which organic materials, including artefacts and evidence relating to the local environment in the past, will also be preserved.

The earthworks to the south east of the church and moated manor provide evidence for the organisation and occupation of a farmstead over a long period of time, and can be interpreted in part by reference to maps spanning a period of over 200 years from the end of the 16th century. Buried remains of the various buildings shown on the maps and evidence relating to their use will be preserved on the site, which is also likely to retain important archaeological information relating to the earlier occupation of the farmstead in the medieval period.


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


The monument, which is in two separate areas of protection, includes the remains of a medieval and early post-medieval settlement. The first area, which is largely to the south of a track leading to Appleton Farm, contains the standing and buried remains of St Mary's parish church and the greater part of the surrounding churchyard in which there is a holy well, together with the site of a moated manor house adjoining the churchyard. The second area, approximately 450m to the south east of the first, contains earthworks which mark the remains of a farmstead and associated enclosures.

The Domesday survey of 1086 records that the greater part of Appleton at that time was held as a manor with twenty smallholders and two slaves, and that another part was held as an outlier of Dersingham, with five smallholders and one slave. It also mentions the church, which was endowed with 12 acres (4.8ha) of land. The population evidently fell during the medieval period, since only 10 householders were recorded in 1428, and the decline continued during the following centuries. A map drawn in 1617 but based on a survey of 1595 shows just four widely dispersed dwellings, including the moated hall and the farmstead to the south east of it, with an unoccupied moat to the south west marking the site of an abandoned homestead. The church was reported in 1602 to be in a state of decay, and by the mid-18th century it was a ruin. In 1571 the manor of Appleton was in the possession of Clement Paston, fourth son of Sir William Paston of Paston. Clement left it to his nephew, Sir Edward Paston who, around 1598, built a mansion thought to have been situated to the north of the medieval manor house on or near the site now occupied by Appleton Farm. The mansion was eventually destroyed by fire in 1707.

The church is prominently sited on rising ground, with pronounced scarps to south and west. The standing ruins comprise the walls of the nave with an arcade of three bays on the south side, a round west tower and a south porch. The fabric and architectural details provide evidence both of the original construction in the 11th century and of later additions and alterations. The south arcade is evidence for an aisle which was probably demolished in the early post-medieval period, when the arches of the arcade were infilled with masonry and the porch constructed within what had been the western bay. The chancel was also demolished, probably in the 17th century, since it is shown on the map of 1617, and the chancel arch blocked to form a new east wall at the end of the nave. This east wall and the blocking of the south arcade are now gone but they are depicted in a lithograph of 1835 which shows windows of two lights, probably taken from the south wall of the aisle, inserted in the middle and eastern arches of the arcade. Nothing of the aisle is visible above ground, and only the stubs of the chancel walls adjoining the east end of the nave survive, but evidence for both will survive below the ground surface.

The nave is approximately 10.5m in length and 5.5m wide overall and the walls are built of roughly coursed blocks of Sandringham stone, flints and occasional pieces of conglomerate, with two buttresses constructed of limestone and early post-medieval brick on the north side. Towards the west end of the north wall is a small doorway with pointed, hollow chamfered arch of limestone and an inner segmental arch, and further to the east are the jambs and sill of a large window. The arcade on the south side is dated to the 14th century and is of finely carved limestone, with arches of two orders springing from octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases. The octagonal responds of the chancel arch survive in a weathered state against the east end of the nave walls, but the head of the arch has gone. In the floor of the nave a memorial slab to Agnes Paston, dated 1671, is exposed and beside it is a carved medieval grave slab, possibly not in its original position, since it is not mentioned in Blomefield's History of Norfolk which describes other memorials in the church.

The round west tower still stands intact almost to its full original height and is of three stages. It is built predominantly of random pieces of Sandringham stone in the ground floor stage and, above that, of coursed carstone and conglomerate. This change in the masonry in relation to that of the adjoining west wall of the nave suggest that the upper two stages, at least, were constructed after the completion of the nave. Also included in the masonry of the tower are occasional pieces of Roman tile, probably quarried from the site of a Roman villa which lies some 900m to the north east. The ground floor stage is pierced on the west side by a small lancet window and above this, at second storey level, another small opening with jambs of conglomerate blocks and a round head carved from a single block of stone. At the belfry stage there are four large bell openings, each with a central, recessed cylindrical column constructed of carstone. The tower arch which opens onto the nave has a plain round head with limestone blocks set asymmetrically, and jambs of roughly dressed limestone blocks and Roman tile. The side walls of the south porch are roughly built of clunch, Sandringham stone, carstone, flint and some brick. The entrance is of two orders of brick with a pointed arch in a gabled south wall built of coursed carstone. A small limestone stoup for holy water is set into the inner face of the east wall.

The monument is believed also to include buried remains of an early 14th century chantry chapel of St Katherine, apparently separate from the main body of the church, which is recorded as having been built by Matilda de Tony in the churchyard here so that Masses might be celebrated for the souls of herself and her husband.

The boundaries of the churchyard are no longer marked but are shown on the early 17th century map which provides sufficient detail for them to be plotted. The area indicated is roughly square, measuring about 80m on each side, with the church situated slightly to north of centre and the boundaries aligned according to the long axis of the church. The northern boundary followed the line of a former road which, as shown on the early 17th century map, ran between 12m and 15m to the north of the modern track which runs past the church. The part of the churchyard beneath and to the north of the modern track is included in the scheduling.

The holy well lies in the south eastern corner of the churchyard area, about 50m south east of the church, and is visible as a roughly circular basin with a well head structure, probably of 19th century date, on the east side. The basin is lined with stone blocks, and the well head structure consists of a round headed wall with a central niche constructed of stone blocks and reused architectural fragments which include a piece of relief carving set above the niche. The well is mentioned in Blomefield's History, in which it is described as `a curious spring, called Holy-Well' with a little stream issuing from it, and it is marked on the early 17th century map by the name `Ladyeswell'.

The moated manor house lay immediately to the south and east of the churchyard. The early 17th century map depicts a substantial house on an island enclosed by two concentric moats within a larger enclosure named as `Halle Close'. The central island occupied by the house was roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 75m south west-north east by about 55m across its widest point at the eastern end, and access was provided by a narrow causeway across the northern arm of the moat. The outer moat enclosed the western, southern and eastern sides of the inner moat at a distance of between 30m and 58m, running south eastwards from the southern boundary of the churchyard, then east and northwards to a road or track along the northern boundary of the manorial enclosure. The southern arm of the outer moat was linked to the south western corner of the inner moat by a channel, possibly with a sluice to control the water levels. The inner moat has been infilled except for the western end of the northern arm, which has been enlarged to form an irregular pond, but a part of the moat to the east of the pond is visible as a shallow depression, and the inner edge of the southern and eastern arms is visible as a scarp up to 1m in height, indicating that the surface of the central island was artificially raised. The outer moat has also been infilled, although most of the southern arm remained open into the 20th century and is recorded on second edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey maps. There is still a small pond towards the western end, and the line of the moat to the east of the pond is traceable in part as a slight depression in the ground surface. Both of the infilled moats will survive as buried features.

Although the early 17th century map was drawn after Sir Edward Paston had constructed his mansion, it appears to show only the buildings which existed in 1595, at the time of the original survey on which it is based. It includes not only the manor house but a large building, possibly a barn, in the angle between the northern arm of the inner moat and the eastern boundary of the churchyard, and a small building with a conical roof, probably a dove house, just beyond the north eastern corner of the inner moat. The central island is now occupied by a 19th century cottage.

The farmstead which lay within the second area of protection is shown on the map of 1617, on an estate map dating from the first half of the 18th century, and on the tithe map of 1839. These record a succession of buildings and field boundaries to the south of a stream known at various times as Denton Beck or Denbeck. Fragments of Late Saxon and medieval pottery found on the site, together with pieces of medieval roof tile, are evidence for occupation at an earlier date.

The earthworks on the site extend over an area of about 7.5ha and many of them correspond to features shown on the maps. On the 17th century map the farmstead is shown standing to the west of a road which was the continuation southward of the road running past the parish church and manor house. The line of this road is followed by a modern track as far as the northern end of the site, and its continuation southward, which also defines the eastern boundary of the farmstead, can be seen as a broad linear hollow with remains of a bank along the western side. Immediately west of this hollow way is a large rectangular platform, defined on the west and south sides by scarps up to 1m high and measuring about 90m north west-south east by 57m. At the foot of the scarp on the south side there are traces of a ditch and bank corresponding to the southern boundary of two rectangular yards shown on the 19th century tithe map. The boundary between the two yards is visible in part as a very slight bank on a line running north west-south east. On the eastern side of the platform, fronting the hollow way, are two low, roughly rectangular raised platforms which probably mark the sites of buildings, although their position does not correspond exactly to that of buildings shown on any of the three maps and they may relate to an earlier period. On the 17th century map the buildings, drawn in perspective as was the convention at that time, are ranged around the four sides of a rectangular courtyard. A large building with three chimneys and two entrances facing onto the yard is shown on the west side, possibly representing the farmhouse with an adjoining barn or cow house. A smaller building with a chimney stood on the south side, with two outbuildings ranged on the north and east sides. These buildings are depicted in the area of the large rectangular platform, close to the road. Two adjacent, shallow rectangular depressions near the south west corner of the platform correspond approximately to the position of the large building as shown on the map and perhaps indicate the position of cellars. The 18th century map, on which the buildings are drawn in plan, shows six buildings, similarly grouped around a courtyard and with the largest building, probably a barn, to the west. This courtyard was clearly situated further west than the position indicated on the earlier map and, of the buildings shown, only two on the east side appear to have stood on the large platform.

The farmstead was evidently demolished and rebuilt in the later 18th or early 19th century since, with the possible exception of the farmhouse, none of the buildings shown on the tithe map correspond to those on the 18th century map. The tithe map shows the farmhouse as an L-shaped building close to the western edge of the large platform, with a narrow building, possibly a cart shed, on the same alignment to the south of it. The principal farm buildings stood about 45m to the west of the farmhouse and were ranged along the north and west sides of a yard, in the south eastern angle of which was a smaller yard with a building along the north side. The site of the northern and southern ranges is marked by slight earthworks and irregularities in the ground surface. Low scarps define the inner edge of the northern range and the angle at its western end, and at a position corresponding to the southern end of the west range there is a sub-rectangular mound up to 0.6m in height. The western range evidently contained a barn, with a cart entrance projecting from the western side. Immediately opposite the site of this projection are the visible remains of what was probably a ramp up to the cart entrance, a slight rectangular mound with parallel depressions along the northern and southern sides. All but the smaller yard had been demolished before the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map was compiled in the early 20th century, and this was finally demolished in the late 20th century.

The remains of intersecting ditches and banks to south and west of the farm buildings define the boundaries of enclosures of various dates. One of these, running westwards from the hollow way at a distance of about 78m south of the large rectangular platform, corresponds to a boundary which is shown, with little variation, on all three maps, and another which runs north westwards from this, about 186m west of the hollow way, and which is visible as a slight linear depression with the intermittent remains of a broad bank along the west side, corresponds to a boundary shown on the 18th and 19th century maps. A broad ditch which extends westwards from this marks the northern boundary of an enclosure shown on the early 17th century map, and south of it a series of low, parallel ridges and furrows on a north west-south east alignment provide evidence for medieval or early post-medieval cultivation. On the 18th century map and the tithe map, a large rectangular pond is shown north west of the site of the farmstead, alongside the stream. The site of this feature, which was perhaps a fishpond with earlier origins, is now marked by a slight depression in the ground surface.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the cottage on the site of the moated manor, a stable to the north east of the cottage, a garage, the concrete base of a dismantled greenhouse, clothes line poles, outbuildings and a transformer adjacent to the pump house situated on the east side of the site of the manor, a pump in the field to the east of the site of the inner moat and south of the pump house, an oil tank, inspection chambers, the surfaces of tracks and driveways, the surfaces of yards and paths, service poles, all fences and gates, drinking troughs and stand pipes. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included. The pump house is totally excluded from the scheduling.

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: 30612

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-21443
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30448
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk , (1808), 331
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk , (1808), 331
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk , (1808), 330
Batcock, N, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk, , Vol. 51, (1991), M35
Blake, W J, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in Fuller's List of Norfolk Gentry, , Vol. 32, (1961), 282
Cozens-Hardy, B, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in Some Norfolk Halls, , Vol. 32, (1961), 165
Cushion, B, Flitcham SMR3501 Little Appleton, (1995)
NF 1042 Appleton deserted village and church ruins,
Title: Descriptio Manerii de Apleton (redrawn in 1617) Source Date: 1595 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO ref. BRA 2524/6
Title: Descriptio Manerii de Apleton (redrawn in 1617) Source Date: 1595 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO ref. BRA 2524/6
Title: Map of the Manner of Flitcham..with the Farm of Little Appleton Source Date: 1728 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO ref. MS 4295
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Map Source Date: 1928 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Tithe Map of Appleton Source Date: 1839 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO ref. DN/TA 165

End of official listing