Ancient Monuments

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Ringwork in Burnthall Plantation

A Scheduled Monument in Fakenham Magna, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.3494 / 52°20'57"N

Longitude: 0.8059 / 0°48'21"E

OS Eastings: 591207.830127

OS Northings: 276075.856158

OS Grid: TL912760

Mapcode National: GBR RF3.LL3

Mapcode Global: VHKCS.X6FS

Entry Name: Ringwork in Burnthall Plantation

Scheduled Date: 20 December 1979

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017789

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31086

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Fakenham Magna

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Fakenham Magna St Peter

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The monument includes a medieval ringwork, prominently sited at the end of a
low spur projecting into the flood plain on the east bank of The Black Bourn
river, to the south of the village of Little Fakenham. It lies about 15m from
a ford across the river.
The ringwork, which has an overall diameter of approximately 110m, is visible
as a pennanular earthwork enclosure incorporating an inner bank, a ditch and a
slight counterscarp bank. On the north west side a causeway, 5m wide, which
crosses the ditch, marks the original entrance. The inner bank, ditch and
counterscarp bank are most clearly defined on the southern side of the
enclosure. Here the bank stands to a height of approximately 1.4m above the
level of the ground surface in the interior and measures about 9m wide at the
base. A section of the bank, approximately 30m in length, has been flattened
on the western side of the earthwork, immediately to the south west of the
entrance. The ditch measures about 13m wide and up to 2m below the
counterscarp bank. The counterscarp bank measures approximately 0.4m in height
and 1.4m wide. The surface of the interior of the enclosure is lower than the
level of the ground outside the earthwork.
No excavations of the ringwork are known to have taken place, however, its
similarity to Red Castle in Thetford suggests a Norman date. Fakenham was
centre of the Suffolk estates of the de Valognes family, who were descended
from Peter de Valognes, sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1086. The
ringwork may have been built by the de Valognes family to defend their estate
either in the years following the Norman Conquest or in the Anarchy, 1134-
The fence surrounding the ringwork is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.

The ringwork in Burnthall Plantation is one of only a small number of examples
identified in Suffolk, and the site is typical of this type of fortification,
although its position, close to a floodplain, is unusual. Ringworks tend to
have been sited on higher ground, in a more commanding position. The earthwork
survives well and the ditch and bank are likely to contain evidence for the
construction and use of the site. Remains of features such as buildings are
also likely to be preserved in the interior of the enclosure, and evidence for
earlier land use and activities preceding the construction of the earthworks
will survive in soils buried beneath the inner bank and counterscarp.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clarke, W G, In Brecklands Wilds, (1925), 156
Sussams, K, The Breckland Archaeological Survey 1994- 1996, (1996), 94
Field Monument Warden Report, Paterson, H, (1981)
Title: Fakenham Magna Enclosure Map
Source Date: 1767
Suffolk Record Office T42/1,2
Title: Fakenham Magna Tithe Map
Source Date: 1837

Source: Historic England

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