History of the Hall

The ancient landscape and buildings of South Elmham Hall Farm are evidence of a fascinating and complex past that is still being researched by archaeologists and historians.


The atmospheric Minister ruins are set in an earthwork that may be of Roman origin. Described as "one of the most enigmatic and romantic ruins in England", the 11th century Minster rivals North Elmham in Norfolk as the seat of the Anglo-Saxon See of Elmham. Though this historical mystery may never be solved, the long association of the Bishops of Norwich with South Elmham Hall - starting with Herbert de Losinga, founder of Norwich Cathedral - is seen as the continuation of an earlier Anglo-Saxon presence.


The Hall, in its moated site, was a residence for the Bishops of Norwich at the heart of a deer park. Another ruin - of one of the gatehouses - survives close to the Hall. It may have been built by Bishop Despenser, who suppressed the Peasants Revolt in Norfolk and, in 1399, tried a Lollard for heresy in a Court at South Elmham.


The former first floor Great Hall (now subdivided) contains the earliest domestic wall paintings in Suffolk, and was grand enough to have been used to entertain royalty. In 1326 Edward II stayed here on his way to Norwich.


With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate was granted to Lord North, sold to the Tasburgh family in the 17th century ,and in the 18th to the Adair family. In 1920 the farm was bought from the Adair estate by the grandfather of the present owners.


The history continues to emerge, on a recent foray in to the archive held at the Bodliean Library in Oxford, there is listed in the catalogue a document "concerning an exchange of monastic lands between Henry VIII and Edward North, Chancellor of the Court Of Augmentations stating that the latter paid £3060 for the manor and rectory of Paddington which he now exchanges for the manor of South Elmham & other lands in Suffolk & Cambridgeshire" Dated 29th Nov. 1540

....MORE ON THE DEER PARK There are other contemporary documents of local interest including the sale of the park in St James South Elmham in 1561. There were at least two, possibly three parks used by the medieval bishops, a study of the satellite maps by an archaeologist from the University of East Anglia has revealed the possible scale and siting of these parks. This corresponds with observations on the ground of earthworks and veteran trees.

A more detailed history can be downloaded in a simple to print pdf format here.