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Medieval settlement remains 500m west of Well Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Gayton, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7521 / 52°45'7"N

Longitude: 0.5473 / 0°32'50"E

OS Eastings: 572012.669917

OS Northings: 320204.362922

OS Grid: TF720202

Mapcode National: GBR P58.F5V

Mapcode Global: WHKQF.C3V0

Entry Name: Medieval settlement remains 500m west of Well Hall

Scheduled Date: 9 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019331

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30583

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Gayton

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk


The monument includes earthworks and buried remains located within a field to
the north of the minor road from Well Hall and south west of Gaywood River and
representing part of an abandoned settlement dated to the medieval period, now
represented only by Well Hall. The remains lie within the Domesday vill
(settlement unit) of Well, which in the 11th century was separate from Gayton
and in around 1081 was given by William of Ecouis to the Norman abbey of
St Stephen, Caen.

The earthworks include the remains of interconnecting ditches which define a
series of rectilinear enclosures of varying size, together with platforms and
irregularities believed to mark the sites of buildings. In the south eastern
part of the site the most prominent feature is a north facing, east-west scarp
up to 0.6m in height which forms the rear edge of a platform fronting the road
to the south. The surface of the platform shows evidence of disturbance such
as could have resulted from the demolition of buildings standing on it. To the
west of this area is a group of up to six small enclosures, ranging in length
north-south from approximately 20m to 60m and in width from about 12m to 43m.
These are defined wholly or in part by intersecting north-south and east-west
ditches between 2m and 6m wide and are bound on the north side by a wider
linear depression approximately 7.5m wide and up to 0.5m deep which has the
appearance of a hollow way or sunken track, extending westwards for a distance
of about 65m then continuing northward as a shallower feature. From near its
eastern end a short extension of the hollow way runs southwards towards the
smallest of the enclosures, which adjoins the road and contains a low platform
about 12m across which probably supported a building.

A second possible building platform of similar size can be seen to the north
of the eastern end of the hollow way, against the western boundary of a large
rectangular ditched enclosure which extends northwards from this point. This
enclosure is subdivided by an east-west ditch, the smaller subdivision, to the
south, measuring approximately 36m by 37m, with an entrance at the south
eastern corner. The approach to the entrance is flanked by ditches, and to the
north of the approach is a further small enclosure measuring approximately 15m
north-south, although the eastern end of this is not defined. The larger
subdivision measures approximately 98m north-south by 37m east-west, and
adjoining it on the north side are the truncated remains of another enclosure,
the interior of which is uneven and at a lower level than the ground surface
to the south and east of it. Fragments of pottery found in ploughsoil in the
adjoining field to the north provide evidence of occupation during the
medieval period. To the west of these enclosures is a low but well defined
bank which runs NNW from the eastern end of the hollow way and may be of
different date.

It is possible that the settlement remains have a direct association with a
small priory which was founded here as a cell of St Stephen's Abbey, Caen, and
is thought to have stood on the site now occupied by Well Hall. There is
documentary evidence, also, for a water mill on the river between Well Hall
and the settlement, and it is probable that this mill is one recorded in a
valuation of the priory manor dating from 1325, and again in 1650, when it is
listed as part of the property of Jeremy Beke, sequestered after the Civil
War. The field which lies between the monument and Well Hall is named on an
early 18th century map of Well Hall Farm as Mill Dam Close. A 19th century
incumbent of the parish, writing in 1889, noted that part of a broken mill
stone could still be seen in the river near Well Hall, and that another had
been built into a wall on the farm. The site of the mill cannot be located
with certainty, however, and is therefore not included in the scheduling.

Like many `alien' establishments dependent on monasteries overseas, Well
priory probably consisted of little more than a manor house with a farmstead
and other appurtenances attached, occupied by a few monks who supervised the
administration of the manor. Towards the end of the 13th century it was united
with Panfield priory in Essex, also a cell of St Stephen's Abbey and, as an
alien house, it was appropriated by the Crown in the 14th century, during
Edward III's wars with France. In 1373 the king granted custody of Well and
Panfield manors to a layman, Sir Hugh Fastolf, in return for a payment of 40
pounds per annum and ten pounds to a resident monk. They were subsequently
granted to Sir John Devereaux and his wife in 1381, and to John Wodehouse in
1415, and in 1469 they were given by Edward IV to the college or chapel of St
Stephen in Westminster, which retained it until the Dissolution.

A water trough and supply pipe in the south western part of the site are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Wash sub-Province of the South-eastern Province, an
area which can be divided into two parts. The western part is the fenlands
with associated marshlands, siltlands and islands, with villages, hamlets and
bands of farmsteads and cottages clinging to the slight islands and dykes
above land once seasonally flooded. The eastern part embraces the sands and
loams of west Norfolk, studded with ancient villages and hamlets, some of them
depopulated. To the south lie the Brecklands, an elevated, thinly-settled
The East Norfolk local region was characterised by numerous medieval villages
and hamlets, rather than the isolated halls and scattered farmsteads that
dominated other regions of Norfolk. Archaeological evidence indicates that
this has been a prosperous farming area since Roman times, and its woodland
may have been largely cleared long before the Norman Conquest.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nuculeated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in
an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or
principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence
instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across
the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection
with their close neighbours, for example in relation to shared common land or
road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region,
but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include
roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other
buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas
where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may
still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlements frequently include
features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval
settlement are found in both the South Eastern and the Northern and Western
provinces of England. They are found in upland and also some lowland areas.
Where found, their archaeological remains are one of the most important
sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries
following the Norman Conquest.

The medieval settlement remains 500m west of Well Hall, possibly representing
a single farmstead outlying the village of Gayton, are a good example of
dispersed settlement, and are of particular interest in that they are
associated with a manor administered by an alien priory and lie close to the
site of the priory itself. The earthworks and buried remains will contain
archaeological information concerning the occupation and use of the site and
will, in addition, contribute to an understanding of the way in which estates
belonging to monastic houses overseas were managed during the medieval period.
The monument has additional interest as one of three relating to medieval
settlement in Gayton parish. The other two, a moated site and the remains of a
high status house and garden, are the subject of separate schedulings.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk , (1808), 427-429
Cox, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Norfolk, (1906), 465
Cutting, W A, Gleanings about Gayton in the Olden Time, (1898)
NRO Re. MS 4528, Part of Well Hall Farm.... in the use of Mr Page, (1720)

Source: Historic England

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