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

Thetford Castle



A retrospective check of the 'log book' divulges the slightly unwelcome fact that I last visited here back in June 2001. Yeah, doesn't time (seem to) fly? More to the point, I guess, is the realisation that the Iron Age earthworks didn't make that much of an impression upon the would-be prehistoric antiquarian back then, the - it has to be said - frankly bonkers Norman motte apparently having blown the somewhat younger mind. To be fair the incredible 80ft castle mound is peerless in its class ... if I understand correctly, second only to the one and only Silbury in the UK artificial mound stakes. Yeah, I know. There's no comparison. But nonetheless.... simultaneous plaudits and pity are due to those poor Saxon peasants who no doubt struggled to raise this monster for their Norman 'overlords'.

It therefore fair knocks me back to approach this time around from Castle Hill - that is to the north - and come face to face with towering bivallate banks... and I mean towering. Hell yeah! According to Norfolk HER records excavation has proved these to be of Iron Age origin, although no doubt 'touched up a bit' a millennium or so later. The surviving defences form a roughly east/west barrier, the original plan, although not clear to me, possibly using the loop in the River Thet (and presumably, resulting marsh?) as natural defence to other points of the compass? A sort of promontory fort, without the promontory. Or something like that. Whatever, impressive in the extreme.

Which is a lot more than can be said about the tediously puerile, pathetic reaction of a group of Thetford's yoof to a lone man daring to take pictures of this wonderful site. Vile chants - I'll spare you the details - ring out from the top of the motte.... safety in numbers. Sure, I'm intimidated by such odds. But I won't back down. Oh no, not with such wondrous evening light playing upon these ancient, and slightly-not-so-ancient earthworks. Later on I climb to the top of the motte for a rare, aerial view of a hillfort and meet another group of 'yoofs', one of whom again states a distaste toward me taking images. Why? Well, clearly (?!?) it proves I'm a pervert. Sorry... don't get your logic. Hmm. Call me what you will. But I will not stand for that. I really, really hope I'm wrong. Truly, I do... But the young man doth protest too much, methinks.

Hence there are conflicting emotions generated from a return to Thetford. Wonder at the overpowering, overwhelming nature of not only the Norman, but Iron Age defences. And sadness at what visitors to 'in-town' sites sometimes have to go through. I would therefore recommend you take a friend, just to be on the safe side. But please go. Don't let the bastards grind you down. Having said that, I found Castle Hill difficult to locate. So no change there, he says. In retrospect, make your way to the roundabout co-joining the A1088 and A1066 (Hurth Way) and look out for Castle Street - bit of a give-away, that. The earthworks will rise up to your left... parking is within a small free car park (signposted).
2nd April 2012ce
Edited 4th April 2012ce

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