The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Thetford Castle



The central mound is termed by the townspeople the "High Castle Hill," and the ascent may be made by various paths, two of which are called the "running path" and "the steps." One of the ramparts is called the "wooded hill," and the others are known as the "little hills." [...]

On the summit of the Castle Hill there is a strange depression from 8 to 10 feet below the surrounding ramparts, and in this five elms were planted in 1823 and still flourish. [...] Almost every person who visits this hill after a lapse of years is convinced that the depression at the top has been greatly lowered in the interval, but for this there appears to be no foundation in fact.

[...] It has been supposed that the ballast from the ditches would not have sufficed to build up the ramparts and mound - the latter alone being nearly 1000 feet in circumference at the base - and local tradition says that the big Gallows' Pits a few hundred yards away were partly excavated for this purpose.

Tradition throws little light upon the possible origin of the Castle Hill. It is said that after the devil completed the long dykes at Narborough and Newmarket - both are mentioned - he jumped to Thetford, swirled round on one foot and made the earthworks. He is still alleged to haunt a depression - sometimes a muddy pool - in the moat north-east of the wooded hill, and will appear if one walks around seven times at midnight.

One tradition states that there was formerly a splendid royal castle on the site of the hill. It was filled with treasures, which at some period were in danger owing to the raid of a neighbouring tribe. The king, therefore, assembled his mighty men, and by their united efforts the castle and treasure were hidden beneath this huge mound of earth. Tradition, unfortunately, does not state why they were left there. Perhaps, however, the most general belief concerning the hill is that beneath it are seven silver bells, brought hither from the church of the Cluniac Priory, a tradition implicitly accepted by many inhabitants of the town.
From 'Thetford Castle Hill' by W G Clarke, in 'Norfolk Archaeology' v16, 1907.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
1st September 2009ce

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