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South Elmham Hall, Harleston, Suffolk

South Elmham Hall is a 13th century former bishop's palace standing within a four-acre moated site. The 16th century exterior of the Grade I-listed house hides a medieval hall, and traces of the bishop’s private chambers. Many features survive including probably the earliest domestic wall paintings in Suffolk. The tour includes a walk through the former deer park (good shoes recommended) to South Elmham Minister (once described as one of the most romantic and enigmatic ruins in England) and 11th century chapel built to commemorate the site of a Saxon 7th century minister. The garden of South Elmham Hall includes a ruined gatehouse, and a grove of mature trees. The Hall is at the centre of a traditional mixed farm, which has won awards for conservation and wildlife management.

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South Elmham Hall was at the centre of an ancient episcopal estate with the Bishops See of Elmham dating from the 7th century. Nothing remains from the earliest settlement except pottery scatter on the settlement sites. The Vikings are said to have plundered and burned the East Anglian Minsters. South Elmham Manor was gifted to the Priory of Norwich on the Foundation of Norwich Cathedral in 1100 by the then Bishop Herbert de Losinga. Herbert also stocked a deer park.

Bishop Walter de Suffield is said to have 'lived at South Elmham in great splendour'; Bishop Henry de Spencer had a licence to crenulate in 1387. Held by the Bishops until 1450 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Then acquired from Henry VIII by Edward (later to become) Lord North. The Norths remodelled the medieval palace into a hunting lodge; they in turn sold in 1617 when it became part of the Flixton estate. Later in the 19th century it was home to the Stewards and managers of that estate. Recent work reveals more of the original C13 bishop’s palace than thought.

Tour features

Visitors will be given a tour of the grounds and garden, including gatehouse ruin, the ground floor and first floor of the Hall. This is followed by afternoon tea. There follows a 15 to 20 minute guided walk across the fields to South Elmham Minster.


Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the long history of the Hall, estate and Minster so well researched by Mr Sanderson. The stroll through the fields to the well-hidden Minster was a lovely end to the day.


From A143 turn off at the Homersfield sign along B1062. Do not go into Homersfield but take the next turning, sign-posted St Cross and South Elmham Hall, then follow those signs all the way to the farm via Hall Lane. (Approximately three miles from A143). From the A12 via Halesworth, take the Wissett Road and beyond Wissett through Rumburgh All Saints and St Margarets, South Elmham, take the first left after St Margaret’s Church at South Elmham Hall sign – approximately eight miles from Halesworth. Park in car park and report to Mr. Sanderson at Bateman's Barn.

South Elmham Hall is situated on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk approximately 25 miles south of Norwich, 20 miles east of Diss

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Useful information

Price £18.00
Duration 2 hours

Tea and cakes. Lunch available for groups.

Special restrictions

No stilettos. Because our properties are old and fragile, unfortunately we cannot include children under 14.

Disabled access

Ground floor only, outside garden includes lawns and gravel paths.

Tour dates

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  • Booking

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