South Elmham Hall

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSouth Elmham Hall
Alternative NamesBishops Palace
Historic CountrySuffolk
Modern AuthoritySuffolk
1974 AuthoritySuffolk
Civil ParishSt Cross South Elmham

The moated site of a medieval bishop's palace at South Elmham Hall. The moat varies between 10 metres to 16 metres in width, and is waterfilled, surrounding a sub-rectangular island with maximum dimensions of 145 metres by 100 metres north-west - south-east. Parts of a timber bridge were found in waterlogged deposits in the eastern arm of the moat during cleaning operations in 1986-9, and some remaining in position. The ruined walls of a building of two storeys, which is considered to be of 13th or 14th century date, stand adjacent to the inner edge of the western arm of the moat. This building, of flint with brick quoins, has sometimes been described as a chapel, but is more likely to have served as a gate lodge. South Elmham Hall is a manor house of 16th century date, with some 17th and 19th century alterations. It is constructed of flint rubble with some freestone dressings, mainly rendered, under a tile roof. It stands in the southern half of the island and incorporates part of a 13th century or later medieval hall built of flint masonry with freestone dressings. On the south-east side of the moated site are the remains of fishponds visible as an array of large, well defined, rectangular and 'L' shaped depressions. At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the manor of South Elmham was held by the Bishop of Thetford. Soon afterwards it was purchased by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich Priory. References in the medieval account rolls of the manor to a chapel and two cloisters within the moat are evidence that the site may have housed a small monastic cell in the early 12th century, and there is a belief that the see of Elmham was centred here in the 7th century. In the 13th to 14th centuries, it became an important residence of the Bishops of Norwich. In 1540, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the property was granted to Edward North (created Lord North in 1553). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Sometimes said to have been granted a licence to crenellate. This was, in fact, granted to North Elmham, Norfolk however may have been included in the possibly general licence to crenellate all the bishops manors said to have issued in 1327.

- 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 ReferenceTM307832
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  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 131
  • Martin, Edward, 1999 (3edn), 'Medieval Castles' in Dymond, David and Martin, Edward (eds) An Historical Atlas of Suffolk (Lavenham) p. 58-9
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 181
  • Pevsner, N., 1961, Buildings of England: Suffolk (London, Penguin) p. 396
  • Wall, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Suffolk Vol. 1 p. 616 online copy


  • Ridgard, J., 1987, 'References to South Elmham Minster in the medieval Account Rolls of South Elmham Manor' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 36.3 p. 196-201 online copy
  • Smedley, N. and Owles, E., 1970, 'Excavations at the Old Minster, South Elmham' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 32.1 p. 1-16 online copy
  • Rigold, S.E., 1962-3, 'The Anglian Cathedral of North Elmham, Norfolk' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 6-7 p. 67-108 download copy


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk East of England Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 69 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk East of England Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 72 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 76 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 75 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 81 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 71 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 64 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 70 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)