North Elmham Castle

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North Elmham Castle


North Elmham Castle.jpg
North Elmham Castle
Grid reference: TF988216
Location: 52°45’20"N, 0°56’41"E
Condition: Earthworks only remain
Owned by: English Heritage
Website: North Elmham Chapel

North Elmham Castle, also known as North Elmham Bishop's Castle and North Elmham Bishop's Chapel, is a ruined castle in North Elmham, in Norfolk, first built as a chapel but later converted into a small caslte or fortified manor house.[1]


The castle was built on the site of the Anglo-Saxon cathedral of Elmham in the 11th century.[2] Under Herbert de Losinga, the seat of the bishopric was transferred to Norwich, but the ownership of the site remained with the bishops.

On 29 December 1387 Henry le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, obtained a licence to crenellate the church. He then fortified the structure into a double-moated castle.

The castle fell into disrepair during the 16th century, and by the 19th century nothing was visible above ground.


The site was excavated during the 1970s, revealing the earthworks and ruins. Remains of a kitchen hearth, arches, cathedral towers, and walls are all visible.

English Heritage is the current stewards of the site. Visiting the ruins is free and open year round. The castle is a grade I listed building and a scheduled monument.[2]


There is debate over some of the ruins at the site. Though it is known for certain that part of the ruins are from the castle and 11th-century church, the building which stood there prior is in doubt. It was thought to have been the site of an Anglo-Saxon cathedral built of stone and flint, and used as the seat of the bishops of East Anglia during the late Anglo-Saxon period until 1075. Architectural historians now believe that though a church made of timber did exist on the site, the stone remains are actually of a Norman chapel built after the Norman invasion.

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