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Norfolk Coast and Broads National Mapping Programme

The Norfolk Coast and Broads National Mapping Programme (NMP) project was undertaken by Norfolk Landscape Archaeology (NLA), now the Historic Environment Service, Norfolk County Council. The survey was funded by English Heritage under the Archaeology Commissions Programme.

Poor quality black and white aerial photograph showing a large, incomplete, circular banked feature in pasture fields
Warham Camp, an Iron Age/Roman site in North Norfolk on 12 February 1974. This is the best preserved of a number of such sites in Norfolk (NHER TG9440H: NLA AAT7). © Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. Photograph by D A Edwards.

Exploring coast and hinterland from the air

The coastline is one of the principal features of the county of Norfolk, making up around 40% of its boundary. The coast was prioritised as part of an English Heritage national initiative: the Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (RCZAS).

These are designed to assess the archaeological potential of the coastlines of England. The NMP results fed into the Norfolk RCZAS, which included archival research and a ground-based survey of the inter-tidal and coastal zones.

Highlights from the project range from prehistoric sites, such as Bronze Age barrows, to Second World War military remains.

Many of the sites were directly associated with coastal activities. The remains of more than 200 saltern mounds indicate the former presence of a major salt processing complex near King's Lynn. Most of this salt working dated to the early and later medieval periods, although areas of Romano-British production were also evident.

A low level oblique B&W phohotgraph showing concrete platforms on a cliff edge with houses in background
A WW2 coastal battery at Mundesley on 31 July 1984. It comprised guns mounted on concrete platforms, linked at the back by a range of underground stores (NHER TG 3136D: NLA 157/AXX4). © Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. Photograph by D A Edwards.

Other sites may have benefited from a coastal location but cannot be described as specifically coastal in nature. Numerous Bronze Age barrows were identified on Salthouse Heath, while extensive Iron Age to Romano-British rural settlements and field systems were mapped at Snettisham and Heacham.

The NMP coastal zone also included some of the best known and best preserved archaeological sites in Norfolk, such as Burgh Castle and Warham Camp.

Prehistoric highlights also include the mapping of numerous ceremonial and funerary sites, including Neolithic mortuary enclosures, Bronze Age barrow cemeteries, and possible Iron Age square barrows.

For the Iron Age and Roman periods numerous and extensive field systems, trackways and enclosures were mapped across the uplands on four of the Broadland peninsulas. The discovery of several possible Roman villas or large farmsteads makes a significant addition to the known countywide distribution.

For later periods, a considerable amount of new evidence for medieval and post medieval peat extraction was identified. Significant numbers of First and Second World War military sites were also recorded. The extensive Second World War coastal defences were well illustrated on wartime and immediately post-war photographs.

Transforming our knowledge of the Norfolk Broads

The Broads zone was seen as a priority area for survey because the man-made landscape is under threat from a number of pressures, not least climate change and rising sea levels.

The results of the NMP project have significantly transformed our knowledge of the historic environment of the Broads, the lowland areas of which have a designated status equivalent to a National Park.

The project has identified and enhanced our knowledge of a wide variety of sites ranging in date from the Neolithic to the Second World War.

Colour image showing features in green against a grey map background
The illustration shows a coaxial field system of probable Iron Age and/or Roman date visible as cropmarks between Beighton and Cantley on the southern part of the interfluve between the rivers Yare and Bure. © Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

The Archaeology of Norfolk’s Broads Zone

The Archaeology of Norfolk’s Broads Zone

Published 1 October 2007

Report from the Norfolk Broads NMP mapping project.

The Archaeology of Norfolk’s Coastal Zone

The Archaeology of Norfolk’s Coastal Zone

Published 1 October 2007

Report from the Norfolk Coast NMP mapping project.

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