Old Buckenham Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork Other/Unknown)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameOld Buckenham Castle
Alternative NamesBuckenham Priory; Bukenham; Bucheham
Historic CountryNorfolk
Modern AuthorityNorfolk
1974 AuthorityNorfolk
Civil ParishOld Buckenham

Old Buckenham Castle, Rectangular earthwork of uncertain date. The shape is more Roman than later but there is no other reason to assume a Roman date. On the other hand nothing certainly survives, that can be connected with a bailey. The castle erected by the Normans inside this fortification was given by William de Albini in 1146 to the Augustinian Canons to build a priory out of its materials. Classified by Renn as an angular motte within an oval to quadrangular bailey. (Pevsner; Renn) The earthworks of the castle comprise a substantial rectangular waterfilled moat, recently cleaned and re-cut, with a raised platform at the NE end of the island. Adjacent are other ditches which presumably bounded the monastic site but which may have earlier formed an integral part of the castle defences (F1 BHS 30-OCT-70). (PastScape no. 387622)

Norman castle within possibly earlier earthwork. Abandoned 1146 when granted to the Priory of Buckenham, the keep being used to provide building material for the latter. The priory was founded on the site of Old Buckenham Castle in 1146 on the completion of New Buckenham Castle, and was granted to the Augustinian Canons on the proviso that they dismantled the defenses of the old castle to prevent the site falling into the hands of rebels, and using the materials to construct the priory. The priory was dissolved in 1536. The north east crossing pier of the Priory church remains standing, constructed of flint and rubblestone, as do the earthworks. The crossing was excavated in 1950. The basic plan of the earthworks can be described as an oblong with rounded corners aligned southwest-northeast, this probably comprising the original keep or inner bailey. A lesser enclosure of the same size is attached to its southeast side. The outline of the Priory is visible on aerial photographs. (PastScape no. 387619)

Gatehouse Comments

Probably the site of a residence of the powerful Saxon earls of East Anglia and, therefore, the defences may be pre-Conquest. The materials given to Abbey must have been mainly timber and stone defenses seem most unlikely. The granting of the land for a religious house may have been a deliberate attempt to demilitarise the area and reduce tensions in the period of the Anarchy. If so the building of the strong castle of New Buckenham quickly undermined such diplomacy. Equally this may have just been a way to get rid of some unwanted land in a manner which would have made the old castle difficult to utilise against the new castle at a time when there was active warfare of a sort particularly notable for the use of sieges.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTM071925
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  • Cushion, B. and Davison, A., 2003, Earthworks of Norfolk (Dereham: East Anglian Archaeology 104) p. 178-9 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 60
  • Liddiard, R., 2000, Landscapes of Lordship (British Archaeological Reports British Series 309) p. 44-74
  • Remfry, Paul M., 1997, Buckenham Castles, 1066 to 1649 (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 164 (slight)
  • Rogerson, Andrew, 1994, 'Castles' in Wade-Martins, P, (ed), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (2edn Norwich; Norfolk Museums) p. 68-9
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 60-61
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 309
  • Wilton, J.W., 1979, Earthworks and Fortifications of Norfolk (Weathercock Press) p. 22
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 121
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1962, The Buildings of England: Norfolk: North-West and South (Penguin) p. 278
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1906 VCH Norfolk Vol. 2 p. 376-8 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 288 online copy
  • Harrod, Henry, 1857, Gleanings among the Castles and Convents of Norfolk (Norwich) p. 213-4
  • Blomefield, Francis, 1805, 'Hundred of Shropham: Old-Bukenham' An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk Vol. 1 p. 369-394 online transcription


  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Clarke, R.R., 1957, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 412

Primary Sources

  • Ellis, H.J. and Warner, G.F. (eds), 1903, Facsimiles of royal and other charters in the British Museum Vol. 1 p. 27 online copy