In the Suffolk landscape there is a recurrent pairing of medieval churches and manorial halls, usually in prime valley side locations close to a water supply. The halls were often surrounded by water-filled moats in the 13th or 14th centuries as an indication of their status, but the actual ‘hall-and-church’ clusters are probably older. Evidence from Suffolk and elsewhere in England suggests that these clusters originate in the Late Saxon period (c.AD 850-1066), when the possession of a church was one of the indicators of thegnly rank. These complexes often consist of a roughly square area that contains a church in one quarter, as at Wattisham. These could well be the hitherto elusive Late Saxon thegnly fortifications called burhs. If so, the defences were fairly minimal, perhaps just a ditch and fence, but with perhaps an accent on the entrance – the burhgeat (‘fort gate’) referred to in the 11th-century list of the qualifications for thegnly status. In some cases the clusters have grown into hamlets or villages, but others have remained as small units.

Brockley Hall and Church