Home

Brampton: The Roman Shore

December 27, 2016

Mist fills the river valley. It is Christmas Eve Eve and I notice that the mists sticks to the hollows and seems to highlight the probably line of the Roman shore (- the Bure was only contained in the 18th Century and, until then, wandered where it wished. Although the Pastons and the millers probably exherted some control in order to protect their stewponds / mill water). In Roman times this was an arm of the Great Estuary and  flat-bottomed early “wherries” probably traded from here – exporting barley and pottery, I guess.

img_0932

Advertisements

Last night at Brampton church Norfolk archaeologist, Alice Lyons, delivered a detailed and enlightening talk upon the Roman history of the village. Or, more specifically, the Roman town which originally lay to the south of the current settlement. A site of both pottery and leather manufacture at a scale unmatched anywhere else in Roman Britain. A site of 150 permanent pottery kilns at Brampton at a time when a 20 kiln site would have been considered big. Busy wharves loading shallow drafted coastal shipping, a stone built bathhouse in an otherwise timber built town. A key communication hub with access to the sea and to major arterial routes. Altogether a contrast to the modern village – how times change.

Alice rounded off the talk by showing some fine examples of Dr Knowles’, and others, finds from the 1970s excavations. These come from those which are held collection in the Norwich Castle museum. She followed this by identifying pottery shards found locally. It was generally agreed that if ever the chance to publish the Knowles archives at the museum, it should be grasped. Perhaps a project for Crowd-funding.

Feudal Brampton

January 22, 2012

For a thousand years the extent of the arable land in Brampton has remained as it was defined in the Doomsday Book. That Norman record reduced the economic activity of the feudal settlement to a single paragraph. The plough lands were said to extend to a Caracute and a Virgate. (A Caracute being an area equivalent to that which could be ploughed by eight oxen in one season and a Virgate being the amount ploughable by two oxen in a season). Thus totalling around 150 acres of better drained land

The actual extent of the plough lands can be roughly estimated today from a large scale OS map as long as you adopt some basic rules. For example, start near the Church as the assumed centre of the village; assume that the modern roads follow ancient routes; ignore the Victorian railway line and trust the line shown as the Parish boundary. If we use the known field names encompassing Hall and Street Farms the area coincides with those known as Church Field, Seven Acres, Kiln Field, Hill Field, Winter Letts, Topletts and the Town Field. It is a very neat fit and 150 acres looms out of the plan.

Wind blow to history

January 7, 2012

Strong winds on Wednesday almost erased another little-noticed piece of Brampton’s history. An apple tree, rotten of trunk and with no crown to speak of, displays what must be a terminal split. Structurally unsound, but still just standing, it seems unlikely that it will survive for much longer. It’s significance being that it’s origins seem likely to be domestic; planted at the end of a garden or small holding in an area which seems today to be just farmland. I mentioned the site in an earlier piece (6th November 2011) and I have yet to establish the real recent history of this site.
20120107-110506.jpg

The ancient history of the site is much easier to identify. For the old apple tree marks the edge of ancient track which leads to what seems to have been a wharf or loading area on the original shore of the Bure. This was not the Bure as we know now, but the Roman waterway, bustling with shallow drafted sailing vessels collecting the amphorae and other pottery from the nearby industrial town with its many kiln. Within yards the astute observer can cast from the site of a rural dwelling of the nineteenth century to the fourth century AD.

An old dwelling?

November 6, 2011

I drive past the ghost of a garden every week day. To the left of the Buxton Road just before the bridge, an apple tree clings on to existence on an old hedge line. This is the only mark which remains of a dwelling or smallholding. Upon checking the old maps of the area, the site was clearly occupied as a smallholding when the tithe map of 1837 was produced. By 1885, when the surveyors of the Ordnance Survey were gathering their records, the smallholding seems to have had a dwelling added to it. The map shows a typical part cottage / part barn of the type that you can still detect in some of the older village houses.

Buxton Road – land near the bridge: the old smallholding

It was only marginally affected by the arrival of the railway line in the 1880’s, although the upheaval must have been enormous. Did the cottage become abandoned then or much later?

By 1946 an aerial photo was taken covering the Parish and the enlarged image, although slightly blurred, appears to show the area being cultivated like an allotment. Perhaps by then the house had been abandoned but the separate smallholding continued.

The Buxton Road: modern map showing the same area today

 Today the latest plans show the shape of the field boundary and only the apple tree remains to mark the spot. No doubt someone in the village knows the history. I would be pleased

Caution Mermaid crossing

February 24, 2011

After some dull February days it came as a relief this morning to feel that Spring is really happening. The intensity of bird song has increased – the Skylarks of the Town field were in full song and a bolshie Yellowhammer was re-establishing his ground on the railway line. The full throated calls of the Song Thrush, with it’s characteristic regular five repeats, rang out over the Common. There was even a sense that the sun may appear.
Down at the Mermaid, river bank repairs are continuing. The sleeper wall which holds the river in place as it passes under the railway line has finally had to be replaced. There is some doubt as to how long the originals had been in place- the uprights had been pointed by hand and hammered in. I suppose it is possible that these could have been put in by the Victorians during the construction of the railway, but it would be interesting if anybody knows? It was with some relief that I learnt that the timbers which form the narrow crossing over this section are going back on.

Wordle: Old field names at Brampton