Bat­tle­field Nor­folk

Michael Rayner ex­plores some of the county’s mil­i­tary her­itage

EDP Norfolk - - EYE ON THE COUNTY - Michael Rayner CPRE Nor­folk plan­ning cam­paigns con­sul­tant

I’m sure we all have our favourite places in the coun­try­side that we love to visit. For some­one like my­self, in­ter­ested in the great out­doors and mil­i­tary his­tory, this will of­ten in­clude a bat­tle­field.

Liv­ing in Nor­folk, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for do­ing this are not as wide­spread as they are for those liv­ing in his­tor­i­cally more bel­liger­ent coun­ties. How­ever, if one is pre­pared to do a lit­tle re­search it is still pos­si­ble to ex­pe­ri­ence a wide va­ri­ety of mar­tial-tinged land­scapes in Nel­son’s county.

Within Eng­land only 47 bat­tle­fields are des­ig­nated on His­toric Eng­land’s Reg­is­ter of His­toric Bat­tle­fields. This is due to the nec­es­sar­ily strict level of ev­i­dence needed for reg­is­tra­tion, which then gives th­ese sites a de­gree of pro­tec­tion within the plan­ning sys­tem. It may come as no sur­prise that there are no reg­is­tered bat­tle­fields in Nor­folk, be­cause Nor­folk has not been on the route of in­ter­nal armies’ cam­paigns, nor has it been the tar­get for any in­va­sion from over­seas, bar­ring Vik­ing raids.

As well as need­ing to be se­curely lo­cated, reg­is­tered bat­tle­fields have to be the sites of size­able en­gage­ments be­tween formed bod­ies of sol­diers, and not as a re­sult of what could be termed ‘civil dis­tur­bance’, or re­lated to sieges. This means that Nor­folk’s two largest mil­i­tary en­coun­ters are not in­cluded in the 47, al­though one of them in par­tic­u­lar pro­vides a re­ward­ing site for a visit and a coun­try walk.

Th­ese two bat­tle­fields are North Wal­sham (1381) fought dur­ing the Peas­ants’ Re­volt, and Dussin­dale (1549) at the con­clu­sion of Kett’s Re­bel­lion. Un­for­tu­nately, the lat­ter is now largely built over by the Broad­land Busi­ness Park, al­though an ex­cel­lent re­search pa­per was writ­ten by Alexan­der Hodgkins in 2015 for those want­ing to find out more about it.

The bat­tle­field of North Wal­sham’s gen­eral lo­ca­tion is known from the un­usual nearcon­tem­po­rary con­struc­tion of at least three bat­tle­field crosses, the best sur­viv­ing of which is just to the east of the B1150 Nor­wich Road a mile south of the town.

It is likely that this cross and the cross stump near the wa­ter tower on the edge of town have been moved from their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tions, while the bat­tle­field it­self is now par­tially wooded due to the later ad­di­tion of West­wick Park, along with arable fields lead­ing up to the edge of North Wal­sham, in­stead of be­ing open heath­land as it was at the time of the bat­tle. How­ever, much about the bat­tle can be un­der­stood if one walks to the site from North Wal­sham us­ing the good net­work of pub­lic foot­paths in the area.

With North Wal­sham set to grow in the near fu­ture, it is pleas­ing to see that North Nor­folk Dis­trict Coun­cil has ac­knowl­edged the im­por­tance of the bat­tle­field as a her­itage as­set as it looks to adopt its new Lo­cal Plan, with the likely out­come that hous­ing will be kept from the core of the bat­tle­field.

Hope­fully this will also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to have some on-site in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Nor­folk’s big­gest bat­tle, where the Bishop of Nor­wich Henry De­spenser ‘grind­ing his teeth like a wild boar’, crushed a rebel force.

Many other places with mil­i­tary as­so­ci­a­tions ex­ist across the county and can form the fo­cus for vis­its. Th­ese in­clude nu­mer­ous Sec­ond World War sites re­lat­ing to air­fields and de­fences, such as Lang­ham Dome.

Some of Nor­folk’s cas­tles bore wit­ness to sieges, in­clud­ing Cais­ter Cas­tle, men­tioned in the fab­u­lous Pas­ton Let­ters, while much more re­mains to come to light as a re­sult of the ‘King’s Lynn un­der siege’ project, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing ar­chae­ol­ogy from the English Civil War. All in all there’s plenty to give an in­ter­est­ing walk in the coun­try. www.cprenor­

ABOVE:Cais­ter Cas­tle was be­seiged

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