Roman, Saxon and Viking artefacts at site of new Norfolk Hospice near King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 15:35 12 August 2011

Work starts at the site of the new Norfolk Hospice Tapping House in Hillington. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

Work starts at the site of the new Norfolk Hospice Tapping House in Hillington. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

Archant © 2011 01603 772434

Archaeological dig reveals hidden past of Hillington site

A Viking carved dragon head, Saxon brooch and Roman coins have all been found at the site of a new hospice in West Norfolk.

Archaeologists have unearthed a range of fascinating artefacts from across the ages as preparation work began for the Norfolk Hospice Tapping House at Hillington, near King’s Lynn.

The carving of the dragon head, about an inch long, is believed to date from the Viking era while the bronze brooch dates to the Middle Saxon period.

“We have a watching brief on the site while the groundwork is being done and have found a number of really interesting artefacts,” said David Whitmore, manager for the Norfolk Archaeological Unit (NAU).

“We have found a whole range of things on the land which would indicate some sort of continuous settlement in the area. We have done previous work in Congham and it seems to be similar,” said Mr Whitmore.

The field may once have been the heart of a village settlement, as it is close to the church, and like many villages in the area has contracted over time.

“It may be that the centre of the village moved or the village got smaller - we don’t really know the reason why,” said Mr Whitmore.

The artefacts have been unearthed in the last few days and have been taken to the NAU in Norwich for further investigation and recording.

“We found some rudimentary features as well, small areas of thin clay which may have been a floor, but there was no way of dating it,” said Mr Whitmore.

The archaeological unit was called in by the Norfolk Hospice which is raising funds to create a new centre on the land.

Chief executive Richard Shaw said they thought the area may have previously been scoured by “nighthawkers” - unauthorised people trespassing on private land in order to take artefacts buried there.

“They won’t have found anything of value but they will have taken some of Hillington’s heritage,” he said.

Work on the hospice has been held-up by around a week because of the archaeological dig, but the time had been built into this first phase, he said.

The groundworks, including the foundations, should be completed in around six weeks and the hospice will then be marked-out on the site so people who make donations to the £2.7m project can see what the money is being spent on.

So far £1.3m has been raised towards the 12-bed hospice for the west of Norfolk and parts of the Fens.

The first sod of the new building was cut last week when Mr Shaw said the people of Norfolk and the Fens “urgently need and truly deserve the very highest standard of hospice care for everyone who requires it.”

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