Proposed wind farm cable route threatens ‘lost’ medieval church

Concerns have been expressed about a proposed route for offshore wind farm cables that could affect an important archaeological site on the edge of Reepham.

The remains of a round-towered St Mary’s church in Kerdiston could be threatened by Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas wind farm projects, whose planned onshore cable route skirts around the northwest edge of Reepham before crossing the Marriott’s Way near Brick Kiln Farm on Kerdiston Road.
Cropmarks of the medieval church of St Mary’s are visible on aerial photographs from 2006, which were “discovered” by the late Trevor Ashwin and his wife Imogen as part of a series of guided walks and archaeological events in and around Reepham in 2014.
According to Norfolk Heritage Explorer: “The cropmarks show the church had a round tower to the west and an apsidal eastern end, which later became square. A possible smaller side chapel is visible to the south and a possible enclosure to the north.”
This field had long been thought to be the site of the church, which was marked on historic maps, and had previously been known as Chapel Hill Close (near Old Hall Farm). The church had probably been downgraded to a chapel and abandoned by the 14th century.
The tithe map of 1844 identifies the field name as Chapel Yards, which was later also known as the Chapel Close (not to be confused with Chapel Close off Smuggler’s Lane, Reepham).
The site of the Kerdiston church (grid reference TG 0855 2397) is located 160 metres south of Giant’s Moat and 60 metres north of a second probable medieval moat. Domesday records that William de Warrenne held “half a church” with his lands in Kerdiston.
Giant’s Moat is thought to be the site of the manor house of the de Kerdistons, who were prominent in the area by the 14th century and were buried in either Langley Abbey near Loddon or St Mary’s Reepham, suggesting that the church at Kerdiston, which was probably associated with the hall, had already been abandoned by then. (It is suggested that the stones from the former church were used in nearby buildings.)
Following concerns from a local resident about the proposed positioning of the wind farm projects’ underground cable corridor close to the site of the church, Reepham Town Council has written to Vattenfall, suggesting that any cable-laying work and the associated movement of heavy vehicles in the area “could damage the fragile remains of the church and its possible graveyard.
"The work could, of course, provide an opportunity for a geophysical survey and, if necessary, an excavation, which would provide valuable information about the church.”
A spokesperson for Vattenfall said: “We are aware of the site of St Mary’s chapel, and are assessing the area carefully along with Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service and Historic England. We would like to thank local people for highlighting their interest in this heritage asset.
"We recognise that local people are the local experts, which is why we have engaged so much with them since last year, and will continue to do so. It is with local feedback that we are able to maximise the considerable benefits of Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas, and minimise their impacts.”
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Top: Before his death in December 2016, Trevor Ashwin digitally enhanced this version of the Google Earth image of the previously unknown round-towered church at Kerdiston – Reepham’s fourth medieval church. Below: Ordnance Survey map from 1958, which clearly shows the site of St Mary’s Chapel in Kerdiston.

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