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Historic England Research Records

Baconsthorpe Castle

Hob Uid: 131989
Location :
Norfolk
North Norfolk
Baconsthorpe
Grid Ref : TG1214338158
Summary : The remains of a moated site and fortified house known as Baconsthorpe Castle. Baconsthorpe Castle is built on what is thought to have been the site of the earlier manor of Wood Hall. The fortified house was built during the middle and later 15th century. The outer gatehouse and courtyards, with associated barn, were built during the following century. Alterations to the house were carried out in the early 17th century by Sir Christopher Heydon II, but by this time the fortunes of the family were in decline, and in the mid 17th century most of the buildings on the moated site were demolished and the gatehouse and outer walls were dismantled. After the demolition, the outer gatehouse was converted for use as a dwelling, known as Baconsthorpe Hall. Today, the site is managed by English Heritage.The remains of the fortified house occupy a roughly square platform 65 metres across, surrounded on the south, west and north sides by a water-filled moat between 13-15 metres wide. The standing remains of the house on the central island include a surrounding curtain wall rising above the inner edges of the moat, a gatehouse on the southern side, and a range of buildings along the southern part of the inner face of the wall on the east side. The walls of the house and associated structures have a core of mortared flint rubble with stone and brick dressings.
More information : Baconsthorpe Hall (G.T.) (In Ruins) (T.I.). (1)

Resurveyed at 1/2500. See large scale plan in attached booklet. (2)

Baconsthorpe Hall. For full description see guidebook (3)

The following field investigator's comments relate to sources 5-7.
On this evidence, its principal phases appear to be: (a) the creation of a fortified manor house by Sir John Heydon (d 1480), perhaps reusing an earlier manorial site, and its completion or extension by his son before the century's end, (b) a considerable elaboration of the site in the mid 16th century by Sir Christopher Heydon (d 1579), associated with a licence to crenellate and impark granted in 1561, which included the construction of the Outer Gatehouse; and alterations later in the century by Sir William Heydon, (c) the demolition of the principal residence within the Inner Court in or about 1650, and the subsequent conversion of the Outer Gatehouse to a residence - Baconsthorpe Hall - which continued in use until 1920.

The south and west arms of the moat as far north as the kick in
alignment/change in thickness of the west curtain wall are probably the work of Sir John. They form a good right angle together, and are of a consistent width of 12m-15m. Both arms are cut into the valley side with the result that their outer scarps rise up to 4m above the level of the water whilst the inner scarp is considerably less substantial, acquiring substance only east of the gatehouse central to the southern arm, where it rises to 1.5m perhaps through deliberate levelling of the moated island. The west arm was probably extended north and the moat completed when the west curtain was extended and the north and east sides of the walled circuit built later in the century.

The east arm of the completed moat seems later to have been extended to create the present mere which covers approximately 1ha and occupies the bottom of the valley. It has been created by damming across the valley on its north side. The north-east edge of the mere is of recent creation, leaving a deep, dry channel behind it; the south-east mere edge is similarly a recent creation, but a broad bank up to 0.5m high immediately behind may mark its former limit. This elaboration of the moat into a formal water setting for the castle is probably to be associated with phase (b) as outlined above, therefore dating to the late 16th century or early 17th; it should be part of and contemporary with the creation of formal gardens to the south (TG13 NW 15).

Earthworks surveyed by RCHME at 1:1000 scale; for further details see plans and level 3 descriptive text deposited in the NMR. (4)

The comments in source 4 summarise these sources. (5-7)

The current OS published description of the site is Baconsthorpe Castle (8).


The site's documented history is detailed in the MoW/DoE official handbook (authority 2), latterly summarised and revised (9).

See full listed building descriptions for details. (10)

Listed as a strong house by Cathcart King. (11)

Listed as a having gunports in the period 1360-1539. (12)

In the south-west corner tower is a single keyhole gunport flanking the curtain wall, and in the south wall beside the gatehouse is a row of vertical slots for handguns. These are unusual as they are divided at the internal face so that two men could use the one embrasure, and there are horizontal slots for a timber support for the guns. (13)

Excavations and earthwork surveys at Baconsthorpe Castle between 1951-1972 suggest two major building phases, each with domestic and military aspects.
The first phase comprises the inner gatehouse, main courtyard house, the service court and the north-east tower.
The second phase comprised the completion in stone of the northern court, the addition of an outer court, (or the replacement of an earlier one in stone), and the continued elaboration of the service court, possibly by Sir Christopher Heydon (1550-1579) He also built the great barn and emparked the site.
A third phase of modification may be attributed to his son, also Sir Christopher (1593-1623). (14)

The remains of the fortified house occupy a roughly square platform 65 metres across, surrounded on the south, west and north sides by a water-filled moat between 13-15 metres wide. The standing remains of the house on the central island include a surrounding curtain wall rising above the inner edges of the moat, a gatehouse on the southern side, and a range of buildings along the southern part of the inner face of the wall on the east side. The walls of the house and associated structures have a core of mortared flint rubble with stone and brick dressings. The outer gatehouse lies circa 75 metres south of and opposite the inner gatehouse. A large part of it still stands to a height of two storeys, now roofless, although the walls of the western end collapsed circa 1920. (15)

The site is listed in the English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10. (16)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" map sheet 1906.
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Source Number : 2
Source : Baconsthorpe Castle: Norfolk
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Source Number : 11
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 310
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Source Number : 12
Source : Fort : the international journal of fortification and military architecture
Source details :
Page(s) : 76
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Vol(s) : 4, AUTUMN 1977
Source Number : 13
Source : Fortifications of East Anglia
Source details :
Page(s) : 175
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Source Number : 14
Source : East Anglian archaeology reports
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Vol(s) : 102, 2002
Source Number : 15
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : North Norfolk District, 27-SEP-1995
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Source Number : 16
Source : English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10
Source details :
Page(s) : 135
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Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : First OS Archaeology Fied Investigator, FDC, 25-SEP-1969
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Paul Everson, 01-DEC-1986, Comments on RCHME: Baconsthorpe Castle and Gardens
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Source Number : 5
Source : Baconsthorpe Castle and gardens/ink survey
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Source Number : 6
Source : Baconsthorpe Castle and gardens/pencil survey
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Source Number : 7
Source : Baconsthorpe Castle and gardens
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Source Number : 8
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1:2500 1972
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Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Dallas C and Sherlock D. 1951-2. Baconsthorpe Castle: Excavations and Finds (unpublished typescript)
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Source Number : 10
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : District of North Norfolk, 30-SEP-1987
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Before mid C15
Monument End Date : 1432
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Manor House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built middle and late C15
Monument End Date : 1500
Monument Start Date : 1433
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House, Moat, Curtain Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork, Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Early C17 alterations
Monument End Date : 1632
Monument Start Date : 1600
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House, Gatehouse
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Laid out early C17
Monument End Date : 1632
Monument Start Date : 1601
Monument Type : Formal Garden
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Stuart
Display Date : Partly demolished
Monument End Date : 1666
Monument Start Date : 1633
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House, Gatehouse, Curtain Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building, Demolished Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NF 144
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 6561
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 144
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 21386
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 224554
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 2
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : DP067874
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TG 13 NW 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 966178
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1427695
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1500020
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1500021
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1953-01-01
End Date : 1954-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TG 13 NW 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1969-09-25
End Date : 1969-09-25
Associated Activities : Primary, BACONSTHORPE CASTLE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BACONSTHORPE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31