North Elmham Bishops Castle

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop), and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameNorth Elmham Bishops Castle
Alternative NamesNorth Elman
Historic CountryNorfolk
Modern AuthorityNorfolk
1974 AuthorityNorfolk
Civil ParishNorth Elmham

Former church converted into a fortified manor house. Probably built by Bishop Herbert de Losinga (1091-1119) on the site of the Anglo-Saxon Cathedral of Elmham. Bishop Despencer, having obtained licence to crenellate, fortified the site c.1387. Ferruginous conglomerate with flint core and ashlar dressings. Brick dressings to C14 work. Roofless. Western tower with semicircular stair turret, aisleless nave, continuous transept with armpit towers and apse. Evidence for ashlar dressed tower and west transept arches, north and south nave doorways and entrances into armpit towers. C14 work includes a semicircular tower base matching the original stair turret and several masonry partitions with brick dressings. The site is surrounded by C14 earthworks. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Possibly included in the possible licence to crenellate issued to the Bishop of Norwich for all his manor houses in 1327, although doubtful any work done at that time and probably not even used as a residential manor until occupied by Bishop Despencer. The surrounding earthworks include a probably prospect mound.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTF988216
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  • Cushion, B. and Davison, A., 2003, Earthworks of Norfolk (Dereham: East Anglian Archaeology 104) p. 119-20 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 62-3
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  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 113, 115, 168, 181
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 158-9
  • Rogerson, Andrew, 1994, 'Castles' in Wade-Martins, P, (ed), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (2edn Norwich; Norfolk Museums) p. 68-9
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  • Wade-Martins, P. (ed), 1987, Norfolk From The Air Vol. 1 (Norfolk Museums Service) p. 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 308
  • Wade-Martins, P., 1980, Excavations in North Elmham Park 1967-1972 (Dereham: East Anglian Archaeology 9)
  • Wilton, J.W., 1979, Earthworks and Fortifications of Norfolk (Weathercock Press) p. 24-5
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 300-1 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 283, 420 online copy


  • Fletcher, J., 1982, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 38 Part 2 p. 192
  • Heywood, S.R., 1982, 'The Ruined Church at North Elmham' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 135 p. 1-10
  • Rigold, S.E. and Heywood, S.R., 1980, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 137 p. 327-29
  • Wade-Martins, P., 1970, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 35 p. 25-78, 263-267
  • Wade-Martins, P., 1969, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 34 p. 352-397
  • Rigold, S.E., 1962-3, 'The Anglian Cathedral of North Elmham, Norfolk' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 6-7 p. 67-108 download copy
  • 1935, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 40 p. 52-3
  • Clapham and Godfrey, 1929, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 23 p. 57-60
  • Clapham, A.W. and Godfrey, W.H., 1926, 'The Saxon cathedral of Elmham' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 6 p. 402-9
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  • B.T.R.C., 1903, The Builder Vol. 84 p. 267-70

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1385-89) Vol. 3 p. 381 online copy


  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)