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Remains of St James' Church and surrounding Saxon and medieval settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Bawsey, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7596 / 52°45'34"N

Longitude: 0.4617 / 0°27'42"E

OS Eastings: 566208.19693

OS Northings: 320836.648904

OS Grid: TF662208

Mapcode National: GBR P4Y.X51

Mapcode Global: WHKQ6.2W3T

Entry Name: Remains of St James' Church and surrounding Saxon and medieval settlement

Scheduled Date: 2 May 1946

Last Amended: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019667

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30591

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Bawsey

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk


The monument includes the standing and buried remains of St James's Church and
the buried remains of a Saxon settlement around it. The church occupies the
highest point of a hill which would in the past have been effectively an
island, surrounded by water or marsh. The settlement was centred on a large
oval enclosure bounded by a ditch which survives as a buried feature around
the lower slope of the hill and has produced crop marks (lines of differential
crop growth) recorded on aerial photographs. Other buried features within the
enclosure and adjoining it on the north and east sides have also been revealed
by crop marks and by a geophysical survey.

Parts of the church were in poor repair by 1679 and, although it remained in
use until 1773, when the last burial was recorded, it was roofless and in
ruins by the early 19th century.

The ruined church, which is a Listed Building Grade I, has an overall length
of approximately 26m and is built chiefly of roughly coursed carstone and
ferruginous conglomerate rubble with some flint and with limestone dressings.
In plan it consists of an aisleless nave, a central, axial tower and
rectangular chancel, the tower and chancel being narrower in width than the
nave. The north west and south west corners of the nave are reinforced with
angle buttresses added at a later date, and there are two more buttresses at
the junctions between the walls of the nave and the tower. The walls of the
nave stand to varying heights up to about 3.5m and towards the western end of
the south wall is a door opening, with remains of the limestone jamb and the
cushion capital of a now vanished column surviving on the east side. A
corresponding gap opposite this in the north wall probably contained another
doorway. The eastern end of the south wall has fallen, but is recorded in a
lithograph of 1831, which shows the Romanesque arch and jambs of the doorway
at the west end intact, a smaller door opening at the east end, and an
inserted window opening of later date between the two.

The walls of the tower to the east of the nave still stand to almost their
full original height on the north and east sides, and although the south west
corner has now gone it is, like the south wall of the nave, recorded in the
19th century lithograph. In the lithograph a high, arched opening is shown in
the south wall at ground level, and this, if accurately depicted, suggests
that there may originally have been a porticus (lateral chapel) on that side,
although nothing of this survives above ground. The Romanesque arch between
the tower and the nave to the west is of two orders on the west face,
supported on attached columns with scalloped capitals, of which one column and
three capitals remain. The inner order of the arch is decorated with chevron
ornament and the outer with roll moulding. The eastern face of the arch is
simpler, of a single order with roll moulding, also supported on attached
columns with scalloped capitals. The western face of the chancel arch
resembles the face of the nave arch opposite, but with cushion capitals on the
columns, and the eastern face is plain. On the east face of the tower above
the chancel arch is a scar left by the removal of a barrel vault, and above
that the scar of a pitched roof. Between the two are remains of a triangular
headed doorway which opened into the roof space above the chancel, and the
19th century lithograph shows a corresponding pair of round headed door
openings in the west face, overlooking the nave. In the lower parts of the
north wall of the tower the jambs and splayed reveals of two narrow window
openings are partially preserved, one above the other. Above this level is the
bell stage, divided from the lower part of the tower by a string course and
retaining parts of a bell opening in each of the four walls. The opening in
the north wall is the best preserved, with nook shafts (attached columns in
the angles of the jambs) and remains of a hood mould over the arch.
Photographs taken at the beginning of the 20th century, when it was more
complete, show that below the arch there were two openings separated by a
central column. The other three bell openings appear to have been identical.

All that remains visible of the chancel is a section of the south wall,
containing part of the jamb and sill of a window of late medieval date, the
stub of the adjoining east wall and an angle buttress. The 19th century
lithograph shows a priests door to the west of the window. Limited excavations
carried out in 1930 established that the chancel was originally apsidal, and
evidence that it had a barrel vault is provided by the scar on the east face
of the tower. The roof was subsequently raised, probably when the chancel was
extended and altered in the late medieval period, and the weathering course of
this later roof can also be seen on the east face of the tower, cutting across
the bell opening.

Evidence that there was an earlier, pre-Conquest church on or near the same
site is provided by fragments of Anglo-Saxon grave slabs with interlace
decoration which were found reused in the fabric of the church, and by a
burial dated to the 8th or 9th century which was excavated near to the
standing remains.

The boundary of the churchyard is no longer marked above ground but is
recorded on the tithe map of 1839, and the lines of buried ditches roughly
corresponding to this recorded boundary have been traced in crop marks and as
a result of the geophysical survey. The area defined by these ditches is sub-
rectangular and measures approximately 90m north-south by 58m, the church
being located slightly to the north of centre.

The settlement enclosure surrounding the church, as revealed by crop marks and
by the results of geophysical survey, is roughly oval in plan, measuring
approximately 345m WNW-ESE by 187m. Abutting this on the north side, towards
the eastern end, is a much smaller, D-shaped or sub-circular enclosure, and
other adjoining enclosures are partially defined by ditches to the north and
south. Limited excavations carried out in 1998 confirmed the survival of
buried features within and immediately around the main enclosure and produced
evidence of industrial activity in the area to the east of the church and
churchyard. According to the evidence of finds from the excavation and from
the overlying surface the settlement was of Middle and Late Saxon date, and
the character of the finds suggests that it was a settlement of high status,
probably associated with a minster.

Finds of later medieval date have also been recorded from the site, although
none of the features identified has been dated to this period. A settlement
is, however, recorded at Bawsey in the Domesday survey of 1086, and is
documented up to the mid-15th century. It is thought to have been evacuated in
the early 16th century to make way for sheep pasture.

Wooden steps up the western side of the mound on which the church stands are
excluded from the scheduling, together with an information board, although the
ground beneath these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

St James' Church is not known to have undergone any significant post-medieval
alteration and the standing remains retain many architectural features
characteristic of the early to mid-12th century as well as evidence for the
extension of the chancel in the later medieval period. The central tower with
its elaborate architectural detail, though a typical feature of monastic
churches, is unusual in a parish church, where the tower is normally situated
to the west of the nave, and suggests that the church may have been regarded
originally as having some kind of special status. The limited excavations
carried out on the church have revealed evidence of the original form of the
chancel and confirmed the survival of a buried floor, and these and other
buried remains will retain archaeological information concerning the
construction of the post-Conquest church and its use throughout the medieval
period. The evidence for an earlier, Saxon church on or near the site of the
standing remains is of particular interest. Further remains of this are
also likely to be preserved below ground. Information relating to the
Saxon and medieval population of the associated settlements will also be
preserved in the surrounding churchyard.

The Saxon settlement associated with the earlier church is also of great
interest, not only for the information which it contains relating to
domestic and industrial activity but also because of the evidence which it
provides that the church was a minster. Saxon minsters were often royal or
episcopal foundations of early date, endowed or associated with substantial
estates. They were served by a community of secular priests or monks and
ministered to large areas, overseeing subsiduary churches founded at a later
date and forming the basis of local ecclesiastical administration in the
period before the parochial system was fully developed. The finds from the
site are consistent with high status and include an unusual number of writing
implements, indicative of a literate community which at this date is likely to
have consisted of priests or monks. Examples of minsters with known surviving
remains are rare, and the monument is therefore of particular importance for
the study of ecclesiastical organisation during the period before the

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Allison, K J, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in The Lost Villages of Norfolk, , Vol. 31, (1955), 143
Batcock, N, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk, , Vol. 51, (1991), 114-116
Fairweather, F H, 'Antiq J' in Antiq J, , Vol. 11, (1931), 169
Edwards, D, NAU TF 6620 A-F, H-AL ..., (1984)
Typescript, Haywood, S, The Ruined Church of St Mary, Bawsey St James, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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