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Broadland History...erm?


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Over this last year I've been delving into the history of Broadland in quite some detail. Not I hasten to add it's more modern history, the fantastic Broadland Memories site has that area brilliantly covered, but history of the ancient variety.


You see what started me pondering was a visit to St Benet's Abbey, unusually by car, to retrieve Dylly The Boat's Beagle's (DTBB) tether which I had accidentally forgotten when we had moored Royal Tudor (RT) at the Abbey the previous day for a visit with guests. As my guests had gone for a day out by car in Norwich, and I was unable to find the tether...DTBB and I took the opportunity for an extended 'mooch' around on our own.


As we explored the liturgical precepts of the church ruins DTBB pulled one way on his lead as I tripped over a mole hill. On my way to the floor I spotted something out of kilter with the images I had seen of reconstructions of the church. An apse. I spent an hour or so crawling around on my hands and knees...long enough for some kindly soul to check if I had injured myself and needed assistance, whereupon after explaining what I was up to they were also crawling around on their hands and knees.


I needed a little more information so once back at home I started searching and quickly retrieved the results of the Geophysical Survey conducted in 1996. Sure enough there in the report is the paragraph


"Also, beyond the eastern end of the abbey some very faint linear high resistance anomalies may be discerned, apparently in the shape of an apse. However, any suggestion of a possible apsidal eastern end to the abbey must remain firmly in the realm of conjecture owing to the faintness of the anomaly and the generally poor quality of the resistance measurements obtained on the site."


Now this is 'geophys' speak for 'could be, but if you find nowt' we are not to blame...don't cut our portion of the budget'.


​Here's the interpretive geophysics map...the possible apse feature is marked 11...what do you guys think?



My mind is also working along the lines of 'ooh look at the position of the cemetery'!


​I set to familiarize myself with the general history of the Abbey. The work done and information provided by the Archaeological Trust is exemplary, however as I delved more and more into the records and turned to earlier secondary sources such as the 'Chronica Johannis de Oxenedes' (a chronicle written in Latin by a monk of St Benet's around 1290) I started to get a little disconcerted with the modern accounts of the ancient history of Broadland...as presented to the general public.



Particularly with regard some of the propaganda circulating at the time of the dissolution. I'm still beavering away on my own 'History of Broadland' so will report more later if its OK?


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Hello Tim,


I am sure we are all up for some culture.

Sadly I could not get my head around the site plan, I know the site covers a very large area, if the plan had show the river then I would have had my bearings. 


I would think that the ruin that is left must have been a small part of the Abbey at one end of the site.


Best of luck with that latin.


Please keep us updated.




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Hi Tim,


Well then, when do you start working for Time Team and Tony Robinson? History is one of my favourite subjects all the way back to my school days, aye ok, that's not yesterday :naughty:


I hope you find even more pieces of interest, and put them on here.


cheers Iain.

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Thanks for the geophysical plan. Very interesting. Well, it might be an apse but the land does slope quite sharply just there so I would be surprised.


By the way, the river is on the plan, bottom left. You can see the site of The Chequers a former riverside pub.


This website http://www.norfarchtrust.org.uk/stbenets recently much updated and improved is the place to get up to date information about St Benet's.


The ruins have been repointed and stabilised at great expense over the last couple of years and I was very lucky to get a visit to the top of the old mill when the scaffolding was there. Fantastic views. Some pictures here http://www.ludhamarchive.org.uk/sbscaff.htm



I look forward to your next update on your investigations.




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Hi Nigel,


Nice to 'type' you again. I wondered if you could clear something up for me? Much like a medieval cartographer I'm trying to centre my geography before I start dipping into the geology and archaeology. I came across a hand drawn map on the Ludham archive (below),


but I'm having difficulty marrying it up to the other sources I have on the Great Estuary such as the Hutch Map and the Broadland NMP. Do you have some clues as to the data it was created from?

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I can help a bit here.


I drew the map. It is based on a map held by the Ludham Archive for which we don't know who the copyright holder is, or indeed the source, and we have no obvious way of finding out. Also, this map has too much information on it for the simple illustration that I needed. For these reasons we needed a map of our own.


I don't think it is fair to post the source map on here but if you want a copy I can e-mail it to you. Send me a PM. However, I notice a very similar looking map posted on the NBF. I hope I am allowed to put a link here http://the-norfolk-broads.co.uk/viewmessages.cfm?Forum=22&Topic=19485&srow=55&erow=65


I suspect that maps like this are based on OS contours. It all depends on how high you want the sea level to be. Choose a different level and you get a different looking map. The sand bar that Yarmouth stands on had not formed at this time so you can ignore the contours in the Yarmouth area. We know the estuary existed and that the Roman forts at Caister and Burgh Castle were in the shore.


The Ludham Archive is hosting a website about Flegg Island families. There is a post about this in the History section of this Forum. Now we can see where the island is. I write the Archive Group website, so it is a fair guess that anything on there was put there by me.


Hope this helps.



Ludham Community Archive Group

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That would be fantastic Nigel, PM sent.


In the meantime I'm wading through notes on a conference on the Geoarchaeology of River Valleys at the University of Ghent held in 2006. At first glance, and without checking some of the detail, it seems to poke some large holes into the Great Estuary theory postulated by Brian Coles' 1977 Ph.D. thesis.

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