A spectacular new Norfolk treasure has been unveiled - after years of being used as a doorstop.
The 3,500-year-old Rudham Dirk, a ceremonial Middle Bronze Age dagger, was first ploughed up near East Rudham more than a decade ago. But the landowner didn’t realise what it was and was using it to prop open his office door... continues...
A team of archaeologists from the University of Nottingham are to commence a dig at the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund, just outside Norwich, looking for evidence of occupation in the Iron Age... continues...
The museum at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, near Dereham, currently has an exhibition called 'Norfolk's First Farmers'. Items on display include a famous 11,500-year-old antler harpoon used for hunting, and which was dredged up from the sea floor north of Cromer in 1931, and a bronze-age cauldron... continues...
A gold torc made from 25 metres of twisted wire was found in Sedgeford, Norfolk in the 1960s - but it had a bit missing. It went on display in the British Museum (who don't care if things are a bit battered). Now Steve Hammond, a local amateur archaeologist, has found the missing section, about 400 yards away from the original find spot... continues...
It will soon be a shrine to the modern age of commercialism, where shoppers park their cars as they head into the city. But excavation work on the new park-and-ride site at Harford, south of Norwich, has revealed an insight into a rich and intriguing period of the area's ancient history... continues...
A holiday-maker has stumbled upon elaborate carvings believed to date back to the Bronze Age on a large granite stone at Gorleston beach.
The man spotted the markings, which were gouged deep into a rock used as part of the sea defence to protect the promenade and sea wall, and reported his findings to the Norfolk Archaeological Unit... continues...
A cluster of rare flint tools unearthed at Norwich City's football ground could date back 12,000.
Archaeologists have found flint artefacts on the site of a new stand at the club's Carrow Road ground... continues...
I was hoping that I might be able to help Mr. Cope with his next book by suggesting a few places he could visit in Norfolk, perhaps when he plays at UEA here in May. Then the spectre of Foot and Mouth loomed, however two of these three could probably still be visited, as they aren't actually on farmland.
There is very little to actually find in Norfolk, since there is a fairly large amount of reclaimed land here and much of the rest has been heavily ploughed over the years. As such it's likely that many possible sites have now been permanently lost, only the occasional aerial photo giving us a glimpse of what might have been!
So here are a few slightly obscure sites that I have managed to locate...
(1) Arminghall Henge (Map ref. 134 - 239060)
- Just to the south of Norwich, this is likely to be closed off due to foot and mouth as it lies in an area used for pasture, but usually it can be reached via the footpath that cuts though the field - the henge is actually marked on the OS map. Its remarkable that it hasn't been totally destroyed, as it is close to the railway and an electrical sub station (a pylon actually stands on its outer edge). However it has been very nearly ploughed out... you can just make out bank and ditches from ground level. The henge is mentioned in many books (there's a nice bit about it in Mike Pitts' "Hengeworld") and was discovered from the air in 1929 by Wing Commander Insall, who also discovered Woodhenge in the same way. Carbon dating shows it to be contemporary with many dates for Avebury and Durrington Walls. There is an excellent photograph of it (and some of the other places I have mentioned) in the Norfolk Museum Services book "Norfolk from the Air Vol.1"
(2) Ditchingham Longbarrow (Map ref. 134 - 344912)
- Amazingly, this place isn't marked on the OS Map (it's just to the West of the point on the map where the footpath and bridleway cross), yet Broome Heath in Ditchingham must have been a veritable prehistoric metropolis in it's time. Not only is there this huge longbarrow, but there are a number of Bronze Age round barrows close by, and just to the south west of the barrow is a curved enclosure, which can be perceived from the ground. The barrow itself hasn't been officially excavated but the enclosure has and looks to be neolithic. There were certainly a number of flint flakes around with the tell-tale percussion marks on them.
(3) The Stockton Stone (Map ref. 134 - 386946)
- This is marked on the OS Map (it's on the bank between the road and the layby that runs around it) - Norfolk's only standing stone, and at a huge three and a half feet, quite impressive!! A curiosity...the stone itself looks remarkably similar in nature to many of the stones used in Wessex monuments...but is it genuine or not? Even so, why is it there...I haven't really been able to find this one out. Still, a standing stone in Norfolk, no matter how small, is very special.
Once the foot and mouth restrictions are lifted I am hoping to continue to locate what I can of Norfolk's few ancient sites (including an area of barrows at West Rudham - Map ref. 132 - 810253). Also of interest to others might be Warham Camp (Map ref. 132 - 945408) and Holkham Camp (Map ref. 132 - 874447), both Iron Age Hillforts which I think are on farmland - it's been a while since I went last - and the constantly surprising Holme next the Sea - former site of 'Seahenge', the replica of which is on the edge of an orchard, just north of a kink in the road at map. ref 132 - 719433, and clearly visible from the road.
Eastern side of Thetford - can't miss it!
The Norman motte is huge (apparently the largest medieval earthworks in Britain). The banks and ditches surrounding the motte are also very impressive.
This is the part which includes the earlier Iron Age defences.
The site is in a public park so access is not an issue. An added bonus is the fact there is a play ground to keep the little ones happy while you go exploring!
** Thetford was where they filmed Dads Army. Check out the superb statue of Captain Mainwaring! There is also a museum dedicated to the show which, unfortunately, was closed when I visited.
We parked up on the grass field (which doubles for a car park) and made our way to the information centre/museum/shop. Sophie was too young to be allowed down the mine (minimum age 5) although I know she wouldn't have any difficulty getting down. She had to satisfy herself with an ice cream and a DVD of Peppa Pig sat in the car with Karen as myself and Dafydd headed for the entrance to the mine.
I was surprised to find a sort of Potacabin above the entrance as when I have seen the site on TV they always enter via a shaft which requires a hand winched hatch to be opened. (I later discovered that that particular shaft is not open to the public and is on the far side of the field - unless you happen to be Neil Oliver of course!)
We donned our hard hats and climbed down the ladder. There were only two other people there so we didn't need to wait. If you do have to wait there were replica hand axes/arrow heads/scrapers you could examine in the 'Portacabin'. Once at the bottom of the ladder our eyes soon adjusted to the gloom and we took it in turns to duck down and peer through the railings and into the tunnels.
In the main shaft many of the prized blac flints could be easily seen against the backdrop of the white chalk. I was surprised to see ferns growing on the sides of the top of the shaft. I was glad I had my hard hat on as several times I bashed my head on the stones! We were able to spend as long as we wanted at the bottom of the shaft before returning to the surface.
We then headed across the pock-scarred field to explore the 'lumps and bumps'. This is often referred to as being a 'lunar landscape' but to me it just seemed exactly what it was - a post-industrial landscape. Being from South Wales I am used to seeing the scars of industry making their mark on the landscape. This seemed no different.
As we walked back to the car two army helicopters landed soldiers in the field opposite and they then practiced their landing/taking off. Most of the land surrounding Grimes Graves is owned by the MOD.
I am glad I visited Grimes Graves - it is amazing that these ancient places are still with us - and I would certainly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the area. As an added bonus it's another English Heritage site knocked off the list!
South-West of South Creake along a minor road.
I wasn't expecting much from this site but I was pleasantly surprised. A decent car park, litter bin, benches/table and information boards. Access from the car park to the fort is via a wooden kissing gate.
Despite being the end of October it felt more like summer. Clear blue sky, warm sunshine and feeling comfortable in shorts and t-shirt.
Although most of the site has been ploughed away (one section survives to a height of about 1.5m) the information boards give a good idea of how it would have looked in its prime.
An RAF jet roared overhead, twisting and turning as the pilot practiced their manouvers. I am sure the inhabitants of the hillfort would have appreciated having one of those when facing the mighty Roman Army!
This is a great example of how a site can be both protected and made accessible for the public to visit Well done to Norfolk Archaeology Trust for their good work. Let's hope other parts of the country follow suite.
Lynn Museum, Market Street, Kings Lynn
(entrance at the bus station)
Being a big Time Team fan I have wanted to see these timbers ever since the (in)famous 'special'. It's a long way from Cardiff to Kings Lynn but at last I got the chance. I had planned this holiday and booked the hotels months ago but last week my dad passed away at the 'ripe old age' of 93. I know this is a 'good innings' as they say but the sense of grief remains the same. The holiday was therefore nearly cancelled but as there was nothing I could do at home it seemed pointless moping about at home.
From October to March the museum is free to enter which is an added bonus. I was able to buy a leaflet on Seahenge for 50p but was surprised there wasn't something more 'substantial' available to buy. Although they did have several Francis Pryor books on display.
Myself and Dafydd eagerly went through the door marked Seahenge exhibition (unfortunately no audio phones available) and we made our way past the model of one of the Seahenge builders and the reconstructed outside of the timber circle. Although made of fiber glass it does look like real wood to be fair.
We the turned around the corner to see the real thing (well, half of the circle anyway) encased behind glass. The information boards are very good although I was expecting the timbers to be rather larger.
Enclosed in a separate glass case is the mighty upside down tree trunk, complete with hole in order to drag it across the land. The tree trunk is very big, much larger than I was expecting.
There are also several display cabinets showing prehistoric finds from the locality. There are also very good. The rest of the museum covers the Roman period right through to recent times.
The start attraction of the museum of course is Seahenge. It really is very special and well worth the effort involved in getting to see it. Lynn Museum isn't very big and I can see that they have done their best to display the timbers. However, it is a pity that the circle couldn't be displayed in its entirety with the tree trunk in the middle. Perhaps one day this may be possible? I assume the other timbers are safely stored away somewhere?
Do try to visit the museum if you happen to be in the area. It is well worth it.
It seems likely that the upturned tree trunk served as a place for a body to be exposed to the elements in order to be 'prepared' for burial. Last week my father passed away and yesterday I had a 'phone call from my sister to say that he is now at the funeral home being 'prepared' for his funeral next week. It may me think of the emotions the people who built Seahenge must have also been going through.
These notes are dedicated to my dad who I thank for taking me on holiday around this wonderful country of ours whilst I was growing up and hence installing my 'curiosity' to visit places of my own.
The henge was supposedly aligned on nearby Chapel Hill (much more detail in this excellent study: http://www.uea.ac.uk/~jwmp/CAA2003.pdf ). This hill, now obliterated by the Norwich to London railway line, was once surmounted by the parish church of the deserted medieval village of Markshall. The nearby village of Caistor also had its church away from the village, in this case in a corner of the ruined town of Venta Icenorum (perhaps on the site of one of the town’s temples?). Incidentally, both of these churches were dedicated to St Edmund.
The naming of White Horse Lane adjacent to the site is intriguing. Now, I may have been staring at this for too long or spent a little too long in the sun, but I think there could be a hint of the outline of a horse figure in this photo: http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/map-record?UID=MNF6100&BBOX=623931,305974,624012,306055&CRS=EPSG:27700&count=1&ck_MON1=true&ck_MON=false
Just outside of the northern curve of the henge, I’m seeing a head due north of the western electricity pylon, and two hind legs just to the left of the eastern set of cables. Just me?!
The site can be easily missed- I first visited the field about a decade ago, unaware of the henge, and failed to spot it (although in my defence I was downhill from it, near the river). Much easier to find second time around, entering over a stile from White Horse Lane, the local electricity board has helpfully marked the spot by placing a pylon either side (they also stuck the adjoining substation over a related round barrow). On a hot, parched summers day like the one of my visit, the earthworks are quite clear, and the vegetation still conforms to the henge contours. Lots of flints lying about, and the ground is turned over by moles- a few finds have been spotted fairly recently. I’m sure someone with a better eye for flint tools than myself could spend a productive half hour here.