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In Search of Norfolk’s First Stone Churches

The use of ferruginous gravels and sands and the reuse of Roman building materials in early churches

Peter Wade-Martins
Publication Year:
168 pages, Illustrated throughout in black & white, and colour.
BAR number:


This work takes a fresh look at the evidence for early church building in Norfolk, focusing particularly on how locally available stone and the materials from ruined Roman buildings were reused in Norfolk’s first stone churches. The author first identifies the stones and Roman materials used in early church buildings before limestone ashlar was readily available. A second section reviews and presents survey results from more than 650 churches in the county. Finally, the author presents an illustrated catalogue of the study sites which will serve as a foundational reference for any researcher interested in Norfolk’s ecclesiastical and architectural history. As a result, Wade-Martins revolutionises our understanding of early church buildings in the county, identifying many early buildings which were not previously recognised.


Peter Wade-Martins has spent his working life as an archaeologist in Norfolk. His PhD was a fieldwalking project to understand early settlement patterns in relation to isolated churches and village greens in central Norfolk. He was County Archaeologist from 1973 to 1999, building up the county’s field archaeology service. As the first Director of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust from 1999 to 2014, he negotiated the acquisition of sites like the Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ fort at Burgh Castle, most of the Roman regional capital at Caistor and St Benet’s Abbey in the Broads. His autobiography A Life in Norfolk’s Archaeology 1950-2016: Archaeology in an Arable Landscape was published in 2017 (Archaeopress).


‘This is a milestone piece of work which should advance East Anglian church studies considerably and prove to be of lasting value.’ Dr Andrew Rogerson FSA

‘A pioneering study of the types and sources of stone used in the construction of churches in the 11th and 12th centuries in East Anglia. based on personal inspection of all 640 surviving medieval churches (including those that are ruinous): that is an impressive achievement.’ Professor Warwick Rodwell, OBE, Consultant Archaeologist to Westminster Abbey

‘I wish I had had access to this work when I was researching the ruined and disused churches (Batcock 1991). It also covers wider historical questions - for example, the relationship of medieval buildings to the earlier Roman landscape.’ Neil Batcock

Table of Contents (B683_Wade-Martins_9781407361390_-_toc.pdf, 208 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (B683_Wade-Martins_9781407361390_-_intro.pdf, 4,568 Kb) [Download]