Hall Wood

 

During the 2000 season an investigation into potential Early Anglo-Saxon sites in Sedgeford was put together using antiquarian accounts and museum objects. It was hoped that this would provide some information about the people who predated the Christian Saxons of the Boneyard, where no pre-Christian Saxon material has yet been found.

Work started with extensive desktop research into the previous finds and excavations of early Saxon material in Sedgeford, most notably by an owner of Sedgeford Hall, Holcombe Ingleby. A keen antiquarian, he wrote extensively of life in Sedgeford before the First World War in The Charm of a Village (1920), in which he also discussed his many archaeological activities.

Previous Pagan Saxon Finds As a result of this work, it seems likely that over the years at least six cremation burials in urns have been excavated in a fairly discreet area of the parish, the surviving finds being mainly in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum. The earliest recorded Pagan Saxon find is a row of cremation urns discovered in a gravel pit c.1826; two of these urns are believed to survive and one has been published (Myres 1977, p.282).

Another urn was discovered by the Reverend Ogle in the area of Eaton Farm during the
19th century (Norfolk SMR No. 13882). Although this urn is not thought to survive, Ogle’s urn is one of a pair of finds from Eaton. At another point in the 19th century the finding of a plain urn, without contents was recorded (Norfolk SMR No. 11262). This urn is now held by Norwich Castle Museum, and Sedgeford is identified as the find spot in their records.

Moving into the 20th century, in 1913 Holcombe Ingleby found an urn (Norfolk SMR No. 1613) ‘...on the west side of the valley’ (Norfolk Archaeology 19). This may be one of those he illustrates in his volumes, but there is no way of knowing whether it actually is. Ingleby also excavated a group of inhumations in 1913, which he discusses in The Charm of a Village. A sketch map of the grounds of Sedgeford Hall drawn by Ingleby’s daughter, locates the area, but the Saxon identification of these finds is highly dubious. The map is of more interest for its incidental recording of a number of other locations of Pagan Saxon finds in the area.

In 1917 Ingleby discovered another urn (Norfolk SMR No. 1612) probably in a location close to No. 1613. This urn is probably that illustrated in Norfolk Archaeology 19.

In 1952 a ‘probably AD...’ and possibly Saxon socketed iron spearhead was found at Eaton, the only other early Saxon find from there (Norfolk SMR No. 356635). This is now in Norwich Castle Museum, and has also been published (Swanton 1973, Fig. 29, p.88).

Finally, in 1997, half of an early Saxon copper alloy brooch, was discovered by SHARP in the field to the south of the Boneyard. On the basis of these finds, fieldwork was concentrated on an area to the east of the village, close to Sedgeford Hall, identified from the records of the above excavations and finds.

The identified area is in Hall Wood, and was not suitable for geophysical survey due to dense tree cover, so three small trenches were used to assess the archaeology. These were placed so as to cover the top, bottom and slope of the abandoned quarry in the wood where some of the urns were thought to have been found. It was hoped that evidence of a cremation cemetery would be uncovered, but given the difficult conditions it was expected that preservation might be poor. In fact, no cremation remains were discovered in these test excavations, and very little archaeology of any sort. The trenches were excavated by hand to natural glacial gravels, and two small field boundary ditches were found in the southernmost one. These appeared to be post medieval, dated by a single sherd of glazed Grimston ware. In the other two it appeared that quarry activity had destroyed any archaeological deposits. Over the whole area the soils were remarkably devoid of residual archaeological material which might have indicated proximity to any kind of site.

It rapidly became clear that the area studied could not be the location of the antiquarian finds, and it has now been decided that an area to the south of the woodland is a more probable location, closer to the discovery site of the brooch illustrated above. The issue had been clouded by the Ingleby sketch map, which relates to inhumation burials, and it seems increasingly unlikely that these were in fact Pagan Saxon burials at all. Overall, the success of this season has been in disproving the existence of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground at this location, where it has long been advertised, even on Ordinance Survey maps.