Denton and Alburgh

The claylands of south Norfolk are always an interesting place to visit on a sunny spring afternoon, and the parishes of Denton and Alburgh next to the River Waveney are full of things for landscape historians to explore.

We explored Denton Castle, a small motte and bailey raised by the d’Albini family in the late 11th century. The site of the castle was later covered by Darrow Wood, and rediscovered when the wood was felled in the 1860s. Today, the castle is owned by the National Trust, and can be accessed via a short footpath from the road.

The motte itself is covered in nettles, but the earthworks of the motte and bailey are easy to trace. Less easy to spot on the ground are the slight earthworks of a rectangular enclosure. The origins and purpose of this are not entirely clear, although it has been interpreted as a possible deer enclosure.

There is an earthwork plan of the site in ‘Earthworks of Norfolk’ by Brian Cushion and Alan Davison (2003), part of the East Anglian Archaeology series.

We also visited St Mary’s Church in Denton, which has an interesting red brick tower that was built in the 18th century when the original round tower collapsed.

Near All Saints Church in Alburgh are the earthworks of post medieval boundaries along the edge of the former common. Some of the earthworks correspond to boundaries shown on the Tithe map (c1840).

The Tithe map, the Ordnance Survey 6 inch map and aerial photographs of the site (as well as everywhere else in Norfolk) are accessible through E-Map Explorer –


A History of the World – Farming in Norfolk

The BBC has been covering the History of the World by looking at objects and artefacts. Next week a History of the World comes to Norfolk, when ‘Plough, Cows and Clover’ examines the impact of the Agricultural Revolution on the landscape of Norfolk.

Dr Susanna Wade-Martins looks at the Coke Monument at Holkham and discusses how Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, implemented improved methods of farming on the Holkham estate in the late eighteenth century.

Professor Tom Williamson examines the journal of Randall Burroughes, a farmer from Burfield Hall near Wymondham, who kept a detailed diary of his farming methods in the 1790s.

There is a sneak preview of the programme on the BBC website, and ‘Ploughs, Cows and Clover’ will be broadcast on BBC One on Monday 17th May at 7:30pm.

Spring Field Trips

As soon as the weather gets warmer, we take our undergraduate students out into the field to teach. This year we’ve had a run of field trips all bathed in glorious sunshine (unheard of!)

The second year undergraduates enjoyed a warm and sunny day out in Wayland Wood, an ancient wood near Watton which is reputed to be the site of the Babes in the Wood legend. We spent time looking at how the wood is managed as a coppice, as well as the earthworks of the medieval boundary banks.

The area around Wayland Wood is also the focus of a local project, Capturing Wayland’s Heritage, which aims to record and celebrate the history of the local area. The project has an interesting blog and a Flickr group with nearly 700 photos of the area.

We also visited Castle Acre on the same day. The students looked at the parish church of St James, the earthworks of the Norman settlement, and the impressive ruins of the castle itself.

Our third year undergraduates have been studying post-medieval designed landscapes this term, so we visited two very different landscapes which were created nearly a century apart.

We visited Houghton Hall, created for Robert Walpole in the 1720s and 1730s, and with a number of surviving formal avenues, vistas and garden features. We spent some time examining the remains of the pre-parkland landscape, including the earthwork remains of Houghton village.

We also visited Sheringham Park, designed by Humphry Repton in 1812. Repton thought of Sheringham as his favourite commission, and we walked along his original entrance drive which is now lined with rhododendrons. There are wonderful views over the whole landscape from the top of the gazebo.

This week we’re looking forward to another Landscape History field trip this week – we’re off on a tour of Breckland. Fingers crossed for some more sunshine!