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Medieval settlement of Babingley

A Scheduled Monument in Sandringham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.8068 / 52°48'24"N

Longitude: 0.4767 / 0°28'36"E

OS Eastings: 567041.436774

OS Northings: 326119.20066

OS Grid: TF670261

Mapcode National: GBR P4L.1C3

Mapcode Global: WHKQ0.9Q74

Entry Name: Medieval settlement of Babingley

Scheduled Date: 3 November 1965

Last Amended: 12 March 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020766

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30610

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Sandringham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Wolferton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument, which is in two separate areas of protection, includes two
moated sites with associated earthworks which mark the remains of trackways,
enclosures and adjoining parts of an arable field system within the medieval
settlement of Babingley. The remains of the parish church and churchyard,
which are located approximately 175m to the west of the monument, are the
subject of a separate scheduling.

The site of the medieval settlement lies immediately to the north of an area
of reclaimed marshland which was at one time a navigable estuary, about 3.5km
inland from the Wash and 7km north east of Lynn. After the Conquest Babingley
was held by two individuals under the tenants in chief, Eudo son of Spirwic
and Peter de Valognes. The Domesday survey of 1086 records a total of 8
villeins, 40 smallholders, 6 slaves and 14 freemen, indicating a relatively
sizeable population, and the tax returns of 1332 list 91 taxpayers. By the
end of the 16th century, however, the population was much reduced. A survey of
1611 records that the inhabitants were `verie few', and the land mostly in the
occupation of the lord of the manor, William Cobb.

The first area of protection contains a part of the moated site of a medieval
manor house, now Hall Farm, and extensive earthworks to the south of this,
including a series of enclosures which probably formed part of the manorial
complex. The moat, which is water-filled, defines the northern, southern and
south western sides of a central platform with maximum dimensions of
approximately 107m north east-south west by 117m. The south western arm ranges
in width from around 7m to 14m and is aligned north west-south east, curving
around the southern corner of the platform at the south eastern end and
returning eastwards to form an acute angle at the other. The northern arm, as
shown on the tithe map of 1838, was originally around 7m in width and
described a fairly regular, convex curve, although the eastern end has
subsequently been extended south eastwards and the western end infilled. On
the north western and south eastern sides of the central platform the ends of
the moat is interrupted by gaps of about 37m and 60m respectively. The gap on
the north western side is known to have been widened and it is likely that at
one time the moat also extended further along the south eastern side, with
perhaps only a narrow causeway or bridge giving access to the interior. If so,
the infilled sections will survive here as buried features. The south western
part of the moat, together with the southern half of the central platform
which it largely encloses, is included in the scheduling. The northern part of
the platform is occupied by post-medieval and modern farm buildings and yards,
and this area, together with the altered northern arm of the moat is not
included. The farmhouse, which is dated in part to the 17th century, with 19th
century alterations and additions, stands immediately to the south of the farm
buildings, at approximately the centre of the platform.

To the south of the moated site, the line of a road running south westwards
towards the church can be traced in part as a causeway approximately 0.4m high
flanked by ditches, and in part as a broad, linear hollow. At the eastern end
of this earthwork, a well-defined linear depression, thought to be a hollow
way, branches south eastwards along the northern boundary of a roughly
triangular enclosure measuring up to 77m north-south at the western end and
about 172m in length. The narrower eastern end of the enclosure is subdivided
by two north-south ditches, visible as slight linear depressions, and
fragments of medieval roof tiles have been found on the surface here,
indicating that one or both of these subdivisions contained buildings. The
western side of the enclosure is defined by a ditch, beyond which is a
sub-rectangular platform running back from the road leading to the church
and measuring approximately 85m north-south by up to 35m. This platform is
defined on the south and west sides by a scarp about 0.5m high and is, in
turn, around 0.4m lower than the level of the enclosure to the east. The
changes in level suggest some degree of deliberate terracing. On the south
side the triangular enclosure is bounded by a broad ditch or linear pond up to
16m wide and around 1.2m deep, on the south side of which are two rectilinear
enclosures raised about 0.5m above the level of the ground to the west. A
south facing scarp up to 1.5m high along their southern side is thought to
mark the edge of the former estuary or a channel leading off it. The western
of the two enclosures is rectangular, measuring about 94m north-south by 82m,
with a low internal bank along the north, south and west sides. The slight
remains of a bank and ditch divide this from the enclosure to the east, which
is an inverted L-shape, with maximum dimensions of around 106m north-south
by 96m. The drain which forms the modern field boundary on the east side is
at least partly of recent origin, and the line of an earlier field boundary,
shown on the tithe map, is marked by a ditch about 6m wide and 0.5m deep which
runs some 38m westward from the modern drain and then south. Approximately 8m
to the west of this feature is a narrow rectangular cutting, measuring about
8m in width, 50m in length and 1.2m in depth, which extends northward from the
southern scarp of the enclosure and is interpreted as the remains of a small
inlet or dock.

To the west of the enclosures and south of the road to the church a series of
slight, parallel ridges and furrows marks an area of former cultivation. This
is divided into what appear to be four separate furlongs (subdivisions of a
larger medieval field), distinguished by the varying alignment of the ridge
and furrow and separated by headlands. Two of the furlongs on the east side
are truncated by a modern field boundary.

About 400m to the east of the moated site of Hall Farm, in the second area of
protection, is a second and much smaller moated site. The moat, which is now
dry, measures about 10m in width and remains open to a depth of up to 3m. It
surrounds a rectangular central island, raised up to 0.5m above the level of
the ground surface outside the moat and with dimensions of approximately 34m
north west-south east by 31m. This moat was almost certainly associated
directly with the manorial site, and in size and location it resembles a
number of other moated sites in the region which are known or believed to have
been constructed to contain dovecotes and are associated with similar
high-status sites.

A number of features in the first area of protection are excluded from the
scheduling; these are the farmhouse and all associated outbuildings, garden
walls and garden furniture, inspection chambers, modern paving and the
surfaces of driveways, rabbit fencing, fence posts and gates; the ground
beneath these features is, however, 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.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities at the centre of a
parish or township, sharing resources such as arable land, meadow and
woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where they survive as
earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks,
platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, and
enclosed crofts and small paddocks. They frequently included the parish
church within their boundaries and, as part of the manorial system, most
villages include one or more manorial centres which may also survive as
visible remains as well as buried deposits. In this region of Norfolk villages
are a characteristic feature of the pattern of rural settlement, and their
archaeological remains are an important source of understanding about rural
life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

The majority of moated sites in England served as aristocratic and seigneurial
residences, with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather
than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites
were built was between about 1250 and 1350. The two moated sites which are
among the surviving remains of the medieval settlement of Babingley represent
one of the manorial centres which were at the heart of this medieval
community, and it is likely that some or all of the adjacent enclosures formed
part of the same manorial complex, with its associated barns, outbuildings,
yards and paddocks. As such they will preserve valuable archaeological
evidence concerning the buildings and the economic and domestic life of the
manor. The earthworks survive well, and the southern part of the moated site
of the manor house and the smaller moated site to the east remain largely
undisturbed by modern activity. Buried deposits on the moated islands and in
the moats and other earthworks will retain archaeological information relating
to their original construction and subsequent occupation and use. Organic
materials, including evidence for the local environment in the past, is also
likely to be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the moats and other

The type of earthwork known as ridge and furrow is evidence for a communal
system of agriculture based on unenclosed, open fields. Such open fields were
divided into parallel strips allocated to individual tenants and laid out in
groups known as furlongs. The characteristic broad ridges were produced by the
cultivation of the strips with heavy ploughs pulled by teams of oxen. Examples
of ridge and furrow are very rare in Norfolk, and the survival of such an
example at Babingley, associated with a manorial complex and other remains of
medieval settlement is therefore of particular interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hurst, J G, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in Seventeenth century cottages at Babingley, Norfolk, , Vol. 32, (1961), 332-342
Tymms, S (ed), 'The East Anglian' in Ruined and Decayed Churches, 1602, , Vol. 2, (1866), 225
Cross, R, (2001)
Derek Edwards, TF6726/M, (1981)
NF 3257, Norfolk Archaeology,
Title: Tithe Map, Babingley
Source Date: 1838
NRO ref. DN/TA 31

Source: Historic England

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