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Site of the Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War

A Scheduled Monument in Yaxley, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.5063 / 52°30'22"N

Longitude: -0.2895 / 0°17'22"W

OS Eastings: 516191.190137

OS Northings: 291197.865891

OS Grid: TL161911

Mapcode National: GBR GZ2.ZK6

Mapcode Global: VHGL1.X8TH

Entry Name: Site of the Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War

Scheduled Date: 30 March 1984

Last Amended: 7 February 2017

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006782

English Heritage Legacy ID: CB 268

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Yaxley

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Yaxley St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The earthwork and buried remains of the Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War. It was built in 1796-97 and closed in 1814. In 1816 the buildings were demolished and the site sold. The site is now under pasture.

Source: Historic England


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the earthwork and buried remains of Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War. It opened in 1797 and closed in 1814, with the site sold and buildings demolished in 1816. The 15ha site, which is situated 7.4km to the south of Peterborough and 2.5km to the south-west of Yaxley, lies in pasture fields upon a slight west facing slope on top of a north-east to south-west ridge. It is bounded by the grounds of a hotel to the south-west, the A15 to the south-east and arable fields to the north-west and north-east.

DESCRIPTION: the remains of the camp are visible on aerial photographs, with the ditched boundary to the internee's prison, along with its four recessed entrances, roadways and enclosure ditches still surviving as well-preserved earthworks. The site's most prominent feature is the boundary ditch which was dug in 1809 to accommodate the 'silent sentry walk'. Enclosing the area occupied by the internees' prison itself, which measures 277m north-west to south-east by 252m transversely, the ditch itself measures 6m to 8m in width and, in depth, up to 1m externally and 0.5m internally to a berm. From the four corners, the sides of the ditch extend outwards 15m towards centrally positioned entrances, each measuring 40m wide and 15m deep. The north-east arm, south of the entrance, has been filled in leaving a low scarp along the external side, and much of the south-east arm east of the entrance has been filled in and overlain by the garden of a modern bungalow. A modern causeway diagonally crosses the west arm to give vehicular access to the interior. No trace of the 1805 brick wall that mainly stood upon the outer bank of the ditch exists except for a 27m long section incorporated into a modern garden wall at the rear of Norman House (listed Grade II), originally the agent’s/superintendent’s house. The berm which separated the ditch from the camp boundary bank increases in width from 5m at the outer corners of the ditch to 18m either side of each entrance. The bank upon which the original palisade fence was erected to enclose the prison camp has been reduced and spread by ploughing and is, where best preserved on the south-east and south-west, 8m to 11m in width and up to 0.7m high. It is barely visible on the north-west side, east of the entrance, but can be discerned as a faint raised strip on the north-east side, north of the entrance. An evaluation trench dug across its south-west arm, south of the west entrance, in 2009, uncovered a single palisade posthole and, although truncated by later activity, it measured 1.2m deep, indicating a significant line of defence.

The camp roads, which divided the open area into four equal quadrants, are visible as faint raised strips of 7.5m average width and up to 0.15m high. They fade out short of the four entrances and there are no traces for some 25m from the central intersection in all four directions. Two straight ditches, 1m in width and, where best preserved, 0.15m deep, mark the north-west and south-east sides of the open enclosures, namely the boundary between the palisaded barrack enclosure and the airing court. They extend for 155m, broken midway for 13m and 17m respectively, where the north-west to south-east aligned camp road passes through. There is no evidence of the south-west side boundary, but on the line of the north-east boundary a faint mark can be traced on the ground surface. Geophysical survey in the south-west quadrant in 2009, followed by subsequent trial trenching, located the buried building platform of one of the prisoners' barrack blocks, measuring 32m north-east to south-west by 11m transversely, along with its associated latrine. Also found in this quadrant was the buried building platform of the punishment block, the baking house and a turnkeys' lodge although these were not excavated. Located in the north-east quadrant was the site of either the hospital or surgeon's house, while a guard tower was found along the northern defences and the octagonal blockhouse at the centre of the camp.

The former prisoners' cemetery was revealed by two trenches cut immediately to the north and east of the internee's prison boundary. Single and multi-occupant graves were found immediately to the north of the camp, east of the route in through the north gate, with graves also found further to the east. The graves are widely spaced in rows 4-5m apart. A range of finds contemporary with the camp was also recovered by the archaeological evaluation. These include structural material (ceramic and stone building material, iron nails, window glass), domestic refuse (pottery, glass sherds, animal bone, marine shell), personal possessions (clay pipes, buttons, coins) and evidence for the prisoners' craft activities (bone objects and bone-working debris).

Outside the internees’ prison, the earthworks of the garrison quarter are visible on the west side of the camp, but those on the east side have been levelled by ploughing but are likely to survive as buried features.

The site of a soldiers' cemetery, which lies to the south-east of the former Barrack Master's House (now two private dwellings known as the Old Governor's House and the Barrack Master's Lodge), centred at NGR TL1650391188, contains the eroded grave stones of at least three burial plots. Although likely to retain nationally important archaeological deposits the ground is still consecrated and is not therefore included in the scheduling.

EXCLUSIONS: a number of features are excluded from the scheduling including all post and wire fences, all garden walls (excluding the surviving section of camp boundary wall to the rear of Norman House) and a tennis court. However, the ground beneath all these features is included.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the area of protection encompasses a 15ha site containing the earthworks and buried remains of a Napoleonic prisoner of war camp. Lying in pasture fields, this is mainly defined by modern post and wire fences which mark its boundary with the grounds of a hotel and a private dwelling to the south-west, the A15 to the south-east and arable fields to the north-west and north-east.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The earthworks and buried remains of the Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War, which opened in 1796 and closed in 1814, with demolition taking place in 1816, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Archaeological interest: as the world’s first specially-constructed prisoner of war camp, it being the prototype for the future development of military prisons;

* Period: although one of a considerable number of monuments characteristic of the late-C18, it was the first and only prison specially constructed for the custody of prisoners taken captive in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1793-1815;

* Survival: it survives as a well-preserved group of earthworks and buried remains, which have been little disturbed since the camp closed in 1816;

* Potential: limited excavation has revealed that the site has significant potential to reveal evidence of structures and occupation along with valuable environmental information;

* Documentation: the existence of archaeological documentation and documentary sources further contributes to our understanding of the camp and its significance;

* Finds: the camp has yielded the largest and finest collection of prisoner of war craftwork in the world, with a large collection of carved bone and ivory objects, including model ships, guillotines, needlework boxes and playing cards, along with pieces of straw marquetry. Over 800 items are held at Peterborough Museum;

* Group value: with the former houses of the barrack master (now two private dwellings known as the Old Governors House and the Barrack Masters Lodge) and that of the agent/superintendent (now a private dwelling known as Norman House), both listed at Grade II, and the Norman Cross Memorial (listed Grade II).

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Walker, TJ, The Depot for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, Huntingdonshire, 1796 to 19816, (1913)
Mytum, HHall, N, 'Norman Cross: Designing and Operating and Eighteenth-Century Prisoner of War Camp' in Mytum, H, Carr, G, Prisoners of War: Archaeology, Memory and Heritage of 19th and 20th Century Mass Internment, (2013), 75-91
Information on the Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War from the Friends of Norman Cross , accessed 8 June 2016 from
Information on the Peterborough Museum collection of artefacts created by French prisoners of war interred at Norman Cross Depot for Prisoners of War, accessed 8 June 2016 from

Source: Historic England

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