The monument includes a medieval ringwork, prominently sited at the end of a low spur projecting into the flood plain on the east bank of The Black Bourn river, to the south of the village of Little Fakenham. It lies about 15m from a ford across the river.
The ringwork, which has an overall diameter of approximately 110m, is visible as a pennanular earthwork enclosure incorporating an inner bank, a ditch and a slight counterscarp bank. On the north west side a causeway, 5m wide, which crosses the ditch, marks the original entrance. The inner bank, ditch and counterscarp bank are most clearly defined on the southern side of the
enclosure. Here the bank stands to a height of approximately 1.4m above the level of the ground surface in the interior and measures about 9m wide at the base. A section of the bank, approximately 30m in length, has been flattened on the western side of the earthwork, immediately to the south west of the entrance. The ditch measures about 13m wide and up to 2m below the counterscarp bank. The counterscarp bank measures approximately 0.4m in height and 1.4m wide. The surface of the interior of the enclosure is lower than the level of the ground outside the earthwork.
No excavations of the ringwork are known to have taken place, however, its similarity to Red Castle in Thetford suggests a Norman date. Fakenham was centre of the Suffolk estates of the de Valognes family, who were descended from Peter de Valognes, sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1086. The ringwork may have been built by the de Valognes family to defend their estate either in the years following the Norman Conquest or in the Anarchy, 1134- 1154.
The fence surrounding the ringwork is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.
ASSESSMENT OF IMPORTANCE
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.
The ringwork in Burnthall Plantation is one of only a small number of examples identified in Suffolk, and the site is typical of this type of fortification, although its position, close to a floodplain, is unusual. Ringworks tend to have been sited on higher ground, in a more commanding position. The earthwork survives well and the ditch and bank are likely to contain evidence for the
construction an d use of the site. Remains of features such as buildings are also likely to be preserved in the interior of the enclosure, and evidence for earlier land use and activities preceding the construction of the earthworks will survive in soils buried beneath the inner bank and counterscarp.