Tasburgh enclosure

A short distance to the south of Norwich, in the beautiful valley of the River Tas, lies what is perhaps the most enigmatic of the properties owned by the Trust.

The roughly oval-shaped earthwork enclosure at Tasburgh lies close to the medieval church of All Saints. In places the earth rampart survives to a height of 3m. We do not know when it was built. Possibly it was an earthwork fort dating to the Iron Age (c. 700 BC–AD 43), and thus of roughly similar date to the fort owned by the Trust at Bloodgate Hill, South Creake. However, it might date to the Anglo-Saxon period, or perhaps the time of warfare and disorder in the 9th century AD when Danish Viking armies were wreaking havoc in East Anglia.

The site was bought by the Trust in 1994, so that it could be taken out of cultivation and put down to grass, and opened to the public. The purchase will prevent future damage to the buried archaeological remains and also ensure that the better-preserved sections of the defensive bank are not eroded.

For information and research produced during the 2017 HLF-funded 'Imagined Land' project at Tasburgh please visit the IMAGINED LAND PROJECT WEBSITE

Tasburgh enclosure from the airTasburgh enclosure from the airTasburgh enclosure planTasburgh interpretation panel

galleryclick on image above to open Gallery

Access and facilities

The site is always open. It lies c. 15km south of Norwich on the western edge of the modern village of Tasburgh, immediately to the north of All Saints' church.

  • by road: Tasburgh lies on the main A140 Norwich-Ipswich road. Travelling south from Norwich, turn right onto Church Lane. You will find the church c. 800m along this road, on the left hand side shortly after the junction with Grove Lane. Park next to the church. The site lies opposite the church on the north side of the road.
  • by bus: the centre of Tasburgh is served by Simonds service 1 (Norwich-Diss) – the stop on Church Road is very close to the site and to the church. Frequent buses stop on the A140 as it passes through Tasburgh, including services 1, 2 003, 18, 40, 118 and 569 operated by First Eastern Counties, Simonds and Anglian Bus and Coach. For up to date timetable information, please visit http://www.travelineeastanglia.org.uk. From the bus stop on the A140 you can walk along Church Road to the site in a little over ten minutes.

The Trust has provided two interpretation panels, one at the entrance to the site and the other on the opposite side of the road by the churchyard. There are no visitor facilities at the site but a pub (the Countryman) is situated on the A140 a short distance towards Norwich from the junction with Church Road.

More about the Tasburgh enclosure

The enclosure may once have been roughly oval, but we are not sure. The northern side today appears relatively straight. The eastern side does not survive, having ben quarried away. Early visitors to the site such as Camden (c. 1600) and Blomefield (in the 18th century) described the site as square. The earthworks enclosed an area of c. 6.2 hectares. The curved western side of the bank is clearly visible but has been ploughed down and was once much taller. On the north side the bank is c. 1.5m high and topped by an old hedge and by trees. The outer ditch which accompanied the bank has everywhere been infilled.

Tasburgh enclosure plan

Plan of the Tasburgh enclosure, showing the surviving banks, the location of the church and the excavation trenches (East Anglian Archaeology 54)

There has been very little excavation. A section across the western bank and ditch in 1948 showed that the ditch had once been 3m deep, with a flat bottom, and there were signs of a 'paved pathway' on the bank. There was no dating evidence, however. A geophysical survey in 1983 revealed little.

Excavation on the other side of the road took place at various times in 1975–80, before the churchyard was extended to the east. Here were found the remains of a number of timber buildings and plenty of artefacts, including pottery dating to the Middle and Late Saxon periods (c. AD 650–1066). It seems that occupation continued here, next to the church until at least c. 1200. The area around the church to the south of the present-day road actually once lay within the earthwork enclosure – the southern side of the fort probably coincides with the southern edge of the present churchyard.

Air view of Tasburgh enclosure

Air view of the enclosure from the north-west (Derek A. Edwards, © Norfolk County Council)

The fort might have been built in the Iron Age, even though no artefacts of that period have been found. Alternatively it may date to the Anglo-Saxon period. This might have been an Anglo-Saxon fortified centre or burh of the 800s, dating to the time of the Danish Viking invasion of East Anglia – or it might even have been built by the Danes themselves as a base during their campaigning.

More excavation and geophysical survey is needed before we know for sure what this enigmatic enclosure once was. In the meantime, the Trust's ownership protects it from further damage and allows it to be enjoyed by the public, both local residents and visitors from further afield.

Norfolk Heritage Explorer

To find out more about the Tasburgh enclosure, visit the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website. www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/SingleResult.aspx?uid=MNF2258.

Further reading

Rogerson, A. and Lawson, A.J., 1991. ‘The Earthwork Enclosure at Tasburgh’, in Davies, J.A. et al., The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk, East Anglian Archaeology 54, 31–58