Imagining the land

One of the main benefits of projects like ‘Imagined Land’ is the way they bring together research, resources – and people - that are out there in the community but have not necessarily been brought together in one place for exploration, discussion and connections. Last month I had the privilege of meeting up with Drs Helen Clarke and Sally Francis who both have research interests in the Friary. We have been discussing the content for the proposed interpretation panel there for some time – but the new project prompted a wider ranging discussion about the site and its context.

Out of this came a story which I hadn’t been aware of before. Sally told us that during the First World War, there was an internment camp for German prisoners of war at the friary site (1).  Special tokens struck in tin and copper were made for the PoWs’ use, which could be used in local shops. She then produced a beautifully preserved token for us to look at, with the words ‘Prisoners of war camp Burnham Norton Norfolk’ stamped around it.

It’s impossible to hold the token in your hand and not wonder about the story of the prisoner of war who held it just over 100 years ago in this remote corner of Britain. There are stories about the site which may be woven into the weft of the present day village – apparently one of the prisoners married a local girl; and others that provide local commentary on wider themes - it is believed that one of the prisoners was buried with full military honours at Ulph church and rifles were fired as a mark of respect. This amazing artefact and the stories attached to it sums up in a nutshell what we hope to explore through the ‘Imagined Land’ project.

While thinking about this blog I came across a link to a poem by Kevin Crossley-Holland inspired by the friary ruin (2): 'This is the aching arch of departure and return. . .' – a line which takes on a deeper resonance in the context of those prisoners of war, camping by the ruins, far away from home, uncertain of their future. It seems certain that the project is going to tap into a rich seam for ‘imagining the land’.

For more information go to the ‘Imagined Land’ project website; and/or come along to the public meeting at Tasburgh Village Hall on Wednesday February 15th (see below for more info). And please get in touch if you have stories to share about Tasburgh or Burnham Norton!



(1) Francis, S. A. (2003) Burnham Norton: One of the Seven Burnhams by the Sea. Burnham Norton.


News in brief

  • Saturday 4 February NNAS lectures ‘The Brecks from Above: Re-mapping the archaeology of the Brecks’ Sophie Tremlett, Historic Environment Service, Norfolk County Council. 2.30pm at the Town Close Auditorium, Castle Museum, Norwich. Lectures are free to all members; non-members are most welcome and are asked to leave a small donation. More info:
  • Wednesday 15th February: ‘Imagined Land’ Open Meeting Tasburgh Village Hall 7pm: Come along to hear about the project and sign up for training and activities. All welcome! More info: Simon Floyd Tel: 07896 781574 
  • Saturday February 18 NAHRG lectures:’The Ancient Origins of Medieval Fields: a Reassessment’ Tom Williamson (Professor of History, UEA ) University of East Anglia (Room Arts 01.02) at 2.30 pm Non-members are welcome to try one or two lectures before joining. More info:
  • 25th February 2017, 10.30-4.00 Archaeology Day:'War Wealth and Witchcraft in 17th Century Norfolk' Norwich Castle Museum. For more info:

A series of events focused on Norwich Churches organised by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust:

  • Saturday 25 February ‘Hidden Histories: the Colours, Smells, Sounds and Processions of Late-Medieval Devotions 2-3pm Norwich Castle Museum. Vic Morgan, UEA Senior Honorary Research Fellow and Historian and Friend of Norwich Historic Churches Trust. 
  • Tuesday 28 February, 12.30 – 1pm ‘All Saints to St Vedast: the contribution of medieval churches to the building of Norwich.’ Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. Brian Ayers, Senior Research Associate & Honorary Senior Lecturer, University of East Anglia and President of the Friends of Norwich Historic Churches Trust.  A free event organised by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust in association with the University of East Anglia and Norfolk Museums Service.
  • 29th April – 1st May ‘Flintspiration’ A Medieval Weekend hosted by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. More details at