The Roman Saxon Shore Fort of Burgh Castle, Norfolk

Built around AD 300, Burgh Castle is one of the best preserved Roman monuments you can see in Britain today. Although only 3 walls survive, they are virtually standing at their original height. I happened to be in the Great Yarmouth area for a weekend so took the opportunity for some fresh air combined with history in this wonderful spot.

Cameras and drone packed, off we go.

Burgh Castle walls

As you can see on the top photo the three walls are very clearly there today. You have to remember that in those days the sea and estuary came a lot more inland and right up to here. The fort was built as part of a series of Saxon Shore Forts to hold cavalry units against the Saxon raids. 

Those in the know will have heard of the remains of another similar Fort not too far away in Caister. The 2 forts controlled the way into to the Waveney estuary and it is believed that the 2 forts were collectively named Gariannonum by the Romans.

Social Wellness Walks
castle fort from above in norfolk

I was interested in this pic I took from directly above. You can clearly see marks of activity down through the ages. Crop marks are seen outside the walls so as well as the military inside there was most likely a civilian settlement outside too.

After the Romans left we know that Burgh Castle became an Anglo Saxon settlement perhaps in the 7th Century at least. Excavations in the 1950s found a burial site within that dates the settlement at around 700 to 900 AD.

Burgh castle drone view

There is another mystery that Burgh Castle is connected with. It is strongly suggested as the place for the first Irish Monastery in southern England. Known as Cnobheresburg it was founded by Saint Fursey who was sent to Christianise East Anglia. We know it existed and and Anglian ex Saxon Fort was used. Historians cannot find proof of exactly where it was. Burgh has the best arguments so far but there is also some evidence against. There is proof of Christian burials from the time but not much more.

the ruins of the castle walls

After the Norman Conquests and in the 12th century a motte was built and the fort used as the bailey. Throughout that time and since you can see from the condition of the walls that tiling and the outside flint that protected it has been taken and used for other buildings, this leaves us with the raw materials that made up the walls.

After the initial Normal settlement the mound was flattened and the ditch that protected it was filed in. Even so you can see from the fort why the location was chosen for its elevation. The views out across the marshes are beautiful and expansive.

a windmill on the norfolk marsh

If you are a keen bird fanatic then you would love it here. The reeds and marsh offers so much to birds of such variety. In my walk around I must have spotted at least 10 to 20 birds of prey diving into the reeds. A great sight. I must admit for a Saturday I hardly came across others, just the odd dog walker. So peaceful.

From the free car park you can take a 1 mile circuit taking in the castle, the village and the marshes. You will also pass the lovely little church of St Peter & St Paul.

little church of St Peter & St Paul

You can tell, upon seeing the church that a lot of the stone was probably taken from the Fort itself. There is much evidence of Roman brick within. This round towered church as nave walls and the tower dating as far back as late Saxon, with the bulk of the building from the 13th and 15th centuries.

stones from the wall
historic roman fort in norfolk

Well, not only the marvel, not only the history I found this area a beautiful place to walk and discover nature. I truly love heading outdoors on a whim and finding some hidden beauties. It inspires me to get out and find even more.

If you are ever in the Great Yarmouth area and want to spend some time outdoors then I highly recommend Burgh Castle. Free parking, free open countryside and lots to see and be inspired by. It is located by the village, also called Burgh Castle, at the southern point of Breydon Water, only about 4 miles from the town of Great Yarmouth itself.

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  1. Hello
    FascinTing thank you.
    I’m fromportsmouth so am familiar with Portchester castle which looks almost identical. I always knew of the ‘Saxon shore forts’ but I imagine they were built by imperial command ?
    There is an early church and remains of a monastery at Portchester. It would be interesting to know if Christians could take shelter , again I don’t know the dates and when the Roman Empire accepted Christians ( and might therefore offer protection to them from the Saxons?)

    Many thanks

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi will, thank you, that sounds very interesting too! We need to explore and do an article on Portchester I think

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