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Thetford Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Thedford'; Theford

In the civil parish of Thetford.
In the historic county of Norfolk.
Modern Authority of Norfolk.
1974 county of Norfolk.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL87468281
Latitude 52.41126° Longitude 0.75379°

Thetford Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A medieval motte and bailey castle constructed within an Iron Age enclosure. The castle is believed to have been constructed shortly after the Norman Conquest, either by Ralph Guader, Earl of East Anglia until his rebellion in 1076, or Roger Bigod, his successor as Earl. It was sited in a position to control important crossings of the rivers Thet and Ouse, as well as to dominate the town of Thetford which, at the time of the Domesday survey in the late 11th century, was among the six largest and most populous towns in the country. The motte is a large, circular mound of chalk, approximately 25 metres in height and 90 metres in diameter surrounded by a bank of chalk rubble 2 metres in height. The platform would have supported a timber tower, evidence for which will survive below the ground surface, and it is likely that the bank represents the footing of a wall or timber palisade. The base of the motte is encircled by a ditch about 18-20 metres wide which remains open to a depth of between 5 metres and 6 metres, and enclosing this on the north side is a very large double bank and ditch. Immediately to the east of the motte and its encircling ditch is an area of level, open ground bounded on the north side by a double bank and ditch which are contiguous with the earthworks to the north of the motte. A sketch plan of the earthworks drawn in the first half of the 18th century shows the inner bank extending east of Castle Lane and turning southwards to enclose a sub-rectangular bailey with estimated dimensions of about 105 metres WNW-ESE by up to 90 metres. This eastern part of the bank is no longer visible, having been levelled in 1772. The surviving inner bank on the north side of the bailey stands to a height of about 6 metres above the prevailing ground surface and the inner ditch remains open to a depth of 10 metres from the top of the bank. (PastScape)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Cushion, B. and Davison, A., 2003, Earthworks of Norfolk (Dereham: East Anglian Archaeology 104) p. 180-2 (plan)
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 70
      Everson, P. and Jecock, M., 1999, 'Castle Hill and the early medieval development of Thetford in Norfolk' in Pattison, P., Field, D. and Ainsworth, S. (eds), Patterns of the past: essays in landscape archaeology for Christopher Taylor (Oxford: Oxbow) p. 97-106
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 163
      Rogerson, Andrew, 1994, 'Castles' in Wade-Martins, P, (ed), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (2edn Norwich; Norfolk Museums) p. 68-9
      Margeson, S., Seiller, F. and Rogerson, A., 1994, The Normans in Norfolk (Norfolk Museums Service) p. 28-9
      Davies, J.A. and Gregory, T., 1992, 'Excavations at Thetford Castle, Norfolk, 1962 and 1985-6' in Davies et al, The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk (Dereham: East Anglian Archaeology 54) p. 1-28
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 213-4
      Wade-Martins, P. (ed), 1987, Norfolk From The Air Vol. 1 (Norfolk Museums Service) p. 15
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 309
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 305
      Wilton, J.W., 1979, Earthworks and Fortifications of Norfolk (Weathercock Press) p. 9, 22
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 321
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Clarke, 1908, in Astley, Memorials of Old Norfolk (London) p. 174-6
      Killick, n.d. (1908), The Origin and History of Thetford Hill (Norwich)
      Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 292 online copy
      Blomefield, Francis, 1805, 'Thetford, chapter 5: Of Thetford-Hill the situation of the city at that time, and of its first destruction by the Danes' An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk Vol. 2 p. 26-27 online transcription (of antiquarian interest only)
      Marin, T., 1779, The History of the Town of Thetford in the Counties of of Norfolk and Suffolk from the earliest accounts to the present time (John Nichols) p. 10-11 plate ii online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • 'Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 316
      Rigold, S., 1980, 'Thetford Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 137 p. 355
      King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
      1967, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 11 p. 190 download copy
      (Clarke and Green), 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 257 (suggests outer bailey is Iron Age fort) download copy
      1961-2, Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin Vol. 14 p. 7
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Baille Reynolds, P.K., 1949, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 106 p. 111 online copy
      Clarke, W.G., 1907, 'Thetford Castle Hill' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 16 p. 39-45 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 209 online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1896, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twentieth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1173-1174 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 21) p. 37 online copy
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
      Parfitt, C. and Whimster, R. (eds), 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 52 online copy
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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