Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

EN2414: Thetford Castle  

Sources: Esri, DigitalGlobe, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, GeoEye, USDA FSA, USGS, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, and the GIS User Community

HER:  Norfolk 5747

NMR:  TL 8 8 SE 123 (1010222)

SM:  1017670

NGR:  TL 8745 8275

X:  587380  Y:  282810  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Within Thetford on Castle Hill overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Thet and Little Ouse and the crossing of the Icknield Way. A Norman Motte and Bailey castle re-uses the bi-vallate Iron Age ramparts to the N and NE, it has been shown by excavation in 1962 and 1985-6 (Davies and Gregory 1991; Cushion and Davison 2003) that this was an inland promontory fort utilising a loop in the River Thet around its S side where there were no ramparts, possibly enclosing 7.5ha. Break through the ramparts in the middle to the N as followed by the present path may be an original entrance. On 1st Ed OS map (1885-1900). Sporadic Iron Age finds since the 18th century. The 1962 excavations across the ramparts to the NE showed a complex sequence with extensive medieval re-modelling of the Iron Age ramparts and ditches. The original outer ditch appears to have been about 13m wide at the top, 4m deep with a flat bottom, the inner ditch smaller and round-bottomed, the two ramparts consisted of layers of chalk rubble and loam. Excavation in the interior, small amounts in 1962 with larger areas to the S in 1985-6 (with geophysics), show pits, postholes, gullies with Iron Age pottery, other artefacts, human bone and a cremation. Dating is difficult but suggested to be middle Iron Age and perhaps a short duration of occupation.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✓  Jon Finney

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  83890  Y:  6874812  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  0.753594  Latitude:  52.411155  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  England

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Norfolk

Historic County:   Norfolk

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Thetford

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Promontory fort on a hilltop overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Thet and Little Ouse, uses a loop in the R. Thet for its S limit.

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  on a hilltop overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Thet and Little Ouse.

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  15.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Iron Age pottery from excavation suggests middle Iron Age but dating in Norfolk is difficult. Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts. Extensive medieval occupation, Motte and Bailey Castle.

Reliability:  B - Medium

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✓  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

On 1st Ed OS map. Excavations in 1962 (Rainbird Clark) and 1985-5 (all in Davies and Gregory 1991), geophysical survey 1984. Various watching briefs and metal detecting finds since 1984 (HER).

1st Identified Map Depiction (1885-1900):  
Excavation (1962):  
Geophysical Survey (1984):  
Excavation (1985-1986):  

Interior Features

Excavation in the interior, small amounts in 1962 with larger areas to the S in 1985-6 (with geophysics), show pits, postholes, gullies with Iron Age pottery, other artefacts, human bone and a cremation.

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

NO APPARENT FEATURES

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

Break through the ramparts in the middle to the N as followed by the present path may be an original entrance although the ramparts are badly damaged and altered.

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  None 

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (North):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

A complex sequence with extensive medieval re-modelling of the two Iron Age ramparts and ditches. The original outer ditch appears to have been about 13m wide at the top, 4m deep with a flat bottom, the inner ditch smaller and round-bottomed, the two ramparts consisted of layers of chalk rubble and loam.

Enclosed Area 1:  7.5ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  7.5ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  2

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  2

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. E Anglian Archaeol Rep. No. 104, 180-2.

Davies, J. and Gregory, T. 1992. Excavations at Thetford Castle, 1962 and 1985-6, in The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk. E Anglian Archaeol Rep. No. 54, 1-30.

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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