HOLME-NEXT-THE-SEA lies on the north west corner of Norfolk, between Hunstanton and Thornham. Besides being the site where Seahenge was discovered, it is where Peddars Way reached the sea and travellers continued their journey across the Wash into Lincolnshire. Seahenge was a circle made from split oak tree logs with a central upturned stump. The site consisted of an outer ring comprising fifty-five small split oak trunks, forming a circular enclosure of around 7 metres. Their split sides faced inwards and their bark faced outwards (with one exception). One of the trunks on the south western side had a narrow Y fork in it, permitting access to the central area. Seahenge (as it came to be called) was uncovered by the action of the sea in 1998. It was removed for preservation and for eventual display, before the regular process of the tides could destroy it, which they would have soon done, once the sea had uncovered it. It may now be seen in Kings Lynn Museum.

The poverty of stones to make up a henge does not mean that none were built in Norfolk – it just means that they were built of wood instead. Unlike stone, wood rots away, and so the ancient circles have disappeared from view. It took a dry summer and a  passing aeroplane to reveal the Woodhenge in Arminghall, and the erosion of thousands of years of mud and sand to disclose Seahenge at  Holme. Woodhenge (discovered in 1929) is said to date from late Neolithic times and this makes it considerably older than Seahenge. Seahenge was constructed over four millennia ago in the Bronze Age. This makes it a few hundred years younger than its more famous brother, Stonehenge. These two Norfolk structures are the best known wooden circles in Norfolk, but others undoubtedly existed in the past, and have either been obliterated by later developments or await future discovery. 

NORFOLK is lacking in large lumps of rock, and this has made such stone circles as the Rollright stones (on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshite border) absent from our landscape. It is true that the monoliths that make up Stonehenge were brought from many miles away, but this was exceptional. Most of these structures were made of locally available materials. I know that most of these structures in Norfolk were built of wood, but this implies that stone was used for some. This I believe to be true. Stone is rarely found in Norfolk, but some large boulders may occasionally be found in the east of England, left here as parts of the moraines deposited by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. One such stone may be found at Ingatestone in Essex, where it forms part of the town’s name. Another boulder is to be found at Lyng in Norfolk. These single rocks cannot be made into a stone circle, but that does not mean they were not venerated; certainly that at Lyng has stories attached to it that indicate a ritual use in the past.


Joseph Mason



One response

  1. Big boulder in Swaffam as well.


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