Norwich, Castle Mall

Norfolk Archaeological Unit, 2009

Data copyright © Norfolk Archaeological Unit unless otherwise stated

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Primary contact

Dr Liz Popescu
Post Excavations and Publications Manager
Oxford Archaeology (East)
15 Trafalgar Way
Bar Hill
CB23 8SQ
Tel: 01954 204193
Fax: 01954 273376

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Norfolk Archaeological Unit (2009) Norwich, Castle Mall [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Funded by English Heritage and the developer (Estates and General/Friends Provident), extensive excavations in central Norwich have permitted detailed analysis of the great Norman and medieval institution of Norwich Castle and part of the Anglo-Saxon town that preceded it. The results appear in four volumes of the East Anglian Archaeology series:

Norwich Castle: Excavations and Historical Survey, 1987-98, Part I: Anglo-Saxon to c.1345, by E. Shepherd Popescu, East Anglian Archaeology 132
Norwich Castle: Excavations and Historical Survey, 1987-98, Part II: c.1345 to Modern, by E. Shepherd Popescu, East Anglian Archaeology 132
Norwich Castle: Excavations and Historical Survey, 1987-98, Part III: A Zooarchaeological Study, by U. Albarella, M. Beech, J. Curl, A. Locker, M. Moreno-García and J. Mulville, with E. Shepherd Popescu, East Anglian Archaeology Occasional Paper 22
Norwich Castle: Excavations and Historical Survey, 1987-98, Part IV: People and Property in the Documentary Record, by M. Tillyard, with E. Shepherd Popescu, East Anglian Archaeology Occasional Paper 23.

Reconstruction of Norwich Castle

Reconstruction of Norwich Castle as it may have appeared in the late 11th century, showing the timber keep on its small motte. The possible extent of the ditched Castle Fee boundary is indicated, with the church and cemetery of St John lying just outside the castle's south gate. (© Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. Painted by Nick Arber)

The digital archive that appears on these web pages forms the fifth element of the publication and presents detailed information on the various cemeteries that were sealed by the castle defences, as well as a group of 17th-century prison burials found on the castle mound.

Use the link below for more information on the Castle Mall excavations:

Project Background

St John burial

Aerial view of the south bailey during its use as a car park in 1989 (looking south-west). The Castle Meadow (or north-east bailey) lies in the right foreground. The surviving church of St John the Baptist, Timberhill is visible in the top left corner of the image, adjacent to which are the initial excavations in Castle Mall Area 1 (Norfolk Aerial Photographic Library).

Recognition of Norwich Castle as one of national importance led to its scheduling in 1915, the protected area being extended in 1983 to encompass much of the Castle Fee or Liberty which enclosed a total area of about 9.3ha (23 acres). Despite eventual landscaping for a Cattle Market in the 18th century, most of the south bailey had remained open space since the laying out of the castle's defences. In response to the threat of its redevelopment for a retail centre - named Castle Mall (Site 777N) - a large scale excavation was undertaken by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit (NAU) between 1987 and 1991). The development area amounted to 2.3ha (5.7 acres), of which 2ha (5 acres) were archaeologically investigated.

St John burial

Excavations in progress, showing fills of the barbican ditch and part of a collapsed castle gatehouse. Norwich Castle Keep stands in the background.

The excavations focused on the castle's south bailey and subsidiary ditchwork, as well as elements of the defences of the north-east bailey. Recorded evidence included five cemeteries (four of which appear to have originated in the Anglo-Saxon period), supplemented by other observations surrounding the castle. The latter notably includes a church and cemetery recorded at the Anglia Television site in 1979 within the former north-east bailey (Ayers 1985). An additional church and cemetery - St Martin-in-Balliva - may have lain enclosed within the defences of the south bailey.

The academic significance of the early cemeteries excavated at the site has already engendered much interest. Enquiries for more detailed data than will appear in the published volumes have already been made. This interest, along with a desire by English Heritage, the Norfolk Archaeological Unit and the lead author (Elizabeth Shepherd Popescu) to develop the digital dissemination aspects of the project, are the reasons behind this digital element. This project seeks to extend the availability and life span of the cemetery data recorded during the Castle Mall excavations, providing a supplement to the traditionally published synthesis and its supporting data. The digital project is founded in ideas expressed in a dissemination proposal (Shepherd Popescu et al 2001), supplemented by a digital publication proposal (Shepherd Popescu 2002) and building on the findings of a pilot project (Shepherd Popescu and Hardman 2002). These documents led to the production of a Project Design for the digital dissemination stage (Shepherd Popescu and Hardman 2004).