Homestead Moats in Huntingdonshire

HOMESTEAD MOATS [Class F]

While the earthwork of class E was essentially a castle, that of class F was before anything else a home, and it is probable that all the moats mentioned under this heading at one time enclosed a house, and often a homestead a well. They may be roughly divided into the following types:-

  1. Moats round monastic houses, of which we have three examples, Sawtry Abbey, Ramsey Abbey, and Stoneley Priory;
  2. Moats surrounding the houses built as a consequence of subinfeudations, the builders of which, following the example of their Norman ancestors, frequently shut off their own dwelling house form their servants’ quarters. Good examples of these will be found at Coppingford, Prestley and Broughton;
  3. Smaller moats surrounding a house only, and generally of a date when protection was not so essential, such as those at Bruce’s Castle, Moygnes and Launcelynsbury;
  4. Moats of a later date inclosing a large area, probably as a feature of distinction, in which stood not only the house but the farmstead as well, as at Monk’s Hardwick, Midloe and Wintringham.

 

Details of the smaller moats follow below whilst the larger ones are described, with a ground plan map, from the section menu on the left

SMALLER HOMESTEAD MOATS

ABBOTS RIPTON, Bellamy's Grove

This moat encloses an area of 320 ft. by about 280 ft., now covered with trees. It has a bank on both sides of the moat, except on the west.

ABBOTS RIPTON, Heath Farm

A rectangular enclosure of 300 ft. by 130 ft., divided in two by a raised bank 25 ft. wide at its base. Another enclosure on the east, about 215ft. by 170 ft., with shallow moat; and another enclosure, about 250 ft. north-east, about 67 ft. by 25 ft., with shallow ditches.

ABBOTS RIPTON, Moat Farm

This was originally two enclosures, the larger, where the house is, 150 ft. by 120 ft., and the smaller, to the west, 140 ft. by 80 ft. The moat is wet in places but partially filled up.

ABBOTSLEY, Waterloo Farm

One side of a moat about 400 ft. long.

ALCONBURY, Weybridge

Some distance north of Weybridge Farm (itself a moated house) is a moat of the Homestead type inclosing an area of 150 ft. by 100 ft.

ALCONBURY WESTON, Hermitage Wood

This is little more that a large pond with an island, and a trench from its south-west corner.

BOTOLPH’S BRIDGE

Some small remains of a moat which appears to have enclosed the church and house, both of which have been pulled down.

BUCKDEN PALACE

The moat, which enclosed the buildings and gardens of the palace, was mostly filled up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It has been opened out quite recently by Mr R. H. Edleston, the present owner, and the lower parts of a red-brick wall, probably of the fifteenth century, which flanked its inner face have been discovered.

BUCKDEN, Shooters’ Hollow

A rectangular moat in the south-west corner of the parish; the enclosure is 100 ft. by 80 ft.

BUCKDEN WOOD

A rectangular moat near Top Farm. The area enclosed is 65 ft. by 55 ft.

CALDECOTE, Near Stilton

In a large field west of the church is a moat inclosing an area of 155 ft. by 115 ft. at one end and 80 ft at the other. The north-west side has a return angle near the middle. The moat is about 30 ft. wide across the top and 6 ft. 6 in. deep, and two sides and part of a third are still wet, but the remainder is very weak.

CALDECOTE WOOD, Near Stilton

A fine diamond-shaped moat, the enclosure being 190 ft. across in the longer dimension and 140 ft. in the smaller.

COLNE, Moat West Of The Old Church

The area enclosed by this fine moat is 200 ft. by 150ft. The moat is wide and deep and still wet.

COLNE, Moat East of The Old Church

This is a square moat, the enclosure being 150 ft. by 120 ft.; it is deep and still holds water.

CONINGTON, Bruce's Castle

A fine quadrangular moat inclosing a space of 300 ft. by an average of 335 ft., now planted with trees. Although called a castle, it apparently only enclosed the manor house probably built by Bernard de Brus shortly after 1242.

CONINGTON, Round Hill

This curious earthwork takes the form of three sides of a pentagon, each approximately 550 ft. long. It is situated at the extreme top of the east edge of a range of hills known as ‘The Conington Downs’; on the sides where the moat is, the ground falls rapidly away, but on the other side it is practically level. The moat has a distinct banter on the inner side. The ground enclosed is now planted with trees.

CONINGTON MOAT, North-east from the Church

A moat forming two sides of a square, 500 ft. by 380 ft.

COPPINGFORD (Copmanford)

 This was apparently a square of 380 ft. by 380 ft. within the moat, and having an inner enclosure, 250 ft. by 190 ft. in the north-west corner. The north side and the north-east corner of the moat have almost disappeared, being merged into a roadway, but the inner bank remains, standing from 3 ft. to 5 ft. above the road. The moats probably mark the site of a house built by the Copmanford family about 1200.

COVINGTON, Moat at north of village

This moat is a double square, the total length, within the moat, being 310 ft. and the breadth 200 ft.

COVINGTON, Moat south of the church

A rectangular oblong, about 670 ft. by 350 ft. with two inner enclosures, viz.:- a square of 170 ft. by 200ft. in the north-east corner, and the other about 350 ft. by 200 ft., which adjoins this on the west side and encloses the present farm house.

COVINGTON ‘SPRING’

A nearly circular enclosure east of the village, approximately 80 ft. in diameter. It is marked on the Ordnance Map as ‘Spring’.

ELLINGTON

This small moat, roughly rectangular, encloses an area of 100 ft. by 80 ft.

ELTON, Moat on the Sheep Walk

A rectangular moat, inclosing an area of 240ft. by 100 ft.

EYNESBURY, Caldecote

A wet moat partly surrounding a farm house, inclosing about 200 ft. by 150 ft. Parts of the north and east sides are missing.

EYNESBURY, Launcelynsbury

A rectangular moat on the east side of the parish which encloses 150 ft. by 100 ft. The entrance is at the south-west corner.

EYNESBURY, Puttock's Hardwick

A fine wet moat at the south end of the parish, forming two sides and part of a third of an oblong enclosure, 180 ft. by 110 ft., in the middle of which stands a farm house. The missing parts of the moat have been filled up within living memory.

FENSTANTON, The Grove

This house was formerly entirely surrounded by a moat which enclosed 480 ft. by 250 ft. The south and east sides remain, and the line of the north side can be traced in the garden. The west side has been filled up in recent years.

FOLKSWORTH

This is a roughly oval moat, about 250 ft. by 150 ft. within its banks. The moat is about 40 ft. wide across the top, and its water line is about 4 ft. to 5 ft. below the level of the ground within the enclosure, but only about 2 ft. below the normal level outside.

It has, however, a well-developed outer bank about 2 ft. high and 9 ft. wide across the top. On the west there is an outer enclosure about 135 ft. wide at the south end, surrounded by a hallow moat; it has a boldly rounded south-west corner and a bank inside its moat.

GLATTON, Manor Farm

This earthwork appears to have enclosed about 170 ft. by 90 ft. surrounded by a moat and outside bank. On the north side was a smaller enclosure about 160 ft. by 53 ft.

GODMANCHESTER, Back Church Lane

On the north side of Back Church Lane is a plot of ground, 240 ft. long by 230 ft. wide, surrounded on three sides by a wet moat.

GRAFHAM, Manor House

Here is a square moat, average 240 ft. by 230 ft., within which, on the west side, is a large pond which has some appearance of being the remains of an inner enclosure. More probably, however, this moat itself represents the site of the house and its garden, and there was a large outer enclosure adjoining it on the north, portions of the moat of which still remain on the west side, and two large ponds possibly represent the south side.

GRAFHAM

Near the east end of the parish is a moated enclosure, 430 ft. long by 260 ft. wide. There is a somewhat curious configuration at the south-east corner.

GREAT GRANSDEN

In Gransden Park, to the south-west of the Hall, is a moat which is probably the site of the earlier house. It encloses a square of 120 ft. by 90 ft. There is an extension some 100 ft. long to the north-east, and another to the south-west 130 ft. long, which turns and runs northward for another 180 ft. Possibly there was a large outer enclosure to the north, the northern side of which may have followed the line of the road from Great Gransden to Waresley.

GREAT STAUGHTON, Place House

This rather fine moated site consists of an enclosure 430 ft. long by about 180 ft. at one end and 310 ft. at the other, in which the house stands in the south-east corner. Westward of this is another enclosure 190 ft. long by 320 ft. wide. Behind these two, on the north, is a third enclosure about 580 ft. long by 160 ft. to 280 ft. wide. The outer moat is complete on the west and part of the north sides; the eastside probably occupied the site of the present cart-road; and the south side, against the main road, is lost. The middle moats are intact and still hold water.

GREAT STAUGHTON, Gaynes Hall

On the north side of the house two considerable fragments of the outer moat remain; the west side has been filled up in making the garden; the south and part of the east sides are represented by wet moats. At the north-east corner a piece of ornamental water apparently represents the moat of an inner enclosure, but the northern moat at this corner is lost.

GREAT STAUGHTON, Dillington

This moat incloses an area of about 230 ft. by 200 ft., and has an entrance towards the south end of the west side.

GREAT STAUGHTON, Cherry Orchard Farm

Three sides of this moat remain, the roadway probably occupying the south side. The area enclosed is 200 ft. by 100 ft., the farm house standing at the south end of the enclosure.

GREAT STAUGHTON

At the south end of the parish, near the county boundary, is a rectangular moat about 230 ft. by 200 ft. within its banks, having entrances on its north and south sides.

GREAT STAUGHTON, Agden Green

On the high land south-east of Kimbolton, is a circular moat once inclosing a windmill, the position of the framing of which can still be traced. The enclosure is 70 ft. in diameter and the moat is from 35 ft. to 40 ft. wide across the top, and its bottom from 5 ft. to 6 ft. below the normal surface of the ground. There is a bnak round the moat on its outer side for about three parts of its diameter.

GREAT STUKELEY, Prestley Manor

This four-sided moat is almost a right-angled triangle, the two sides of which are respectively 530 ft. and 460 ft. Adjoining the diagonal side is a nearly square inner enclosure, about 200 ft. by 130 ft. The bottom of the moat seems to be lined with a rough concrete. Both enclosures are now planted with trees. This moat probably incloses the site of the manor house of Prestley’s Manor.

HAMERTON RECTORY

In a field on the south side of Hamerton rectory, at the foot of a considerable slope, there is a moat which appears to represent two sides of a rectangular enclosure. A third side, viz., the north, is represented by a kind of terrace formed in the hill side. Outside the moat, on the east, is a square space surrounded by a shallow moat. Between the terrace and the Rectory House at the top of the hill is a large mound, which is said to be only the debris arising when the ancient Manor House was pulled down and the modern Rectory House built on its site.

HEMINGFORD GREY, Manor House

The ancient Manor House of Hemingford Grey is surrounded by a moat on three sides. Sosme part of the east moat has been filled up, and possibly part of the west. The River Ouse may have served the purpose of a moat on the north, but this was possibly not the original arrangement. The enclosure is 270 ft. wide from east to west, and, if it extended to the river, it was 300 ft. from north to south.

HILTON, St John’s College Farm

Two sides of a square moat, about 140 ft. by 140 ft.

HUNTINGDON

In the south-east of the parish of St Mary, by the river bank, is a rectangular area 50 ft. by 30 ft. enclosed by a shallow moat. Outside it, on two sides, is another shallow trench with an outlet to the river.

KEYSTON, Old Manor House

About half-way up a sharp rise from a brook is a considerable moat forming one side of an enclosure with a mound in its north-west corner. On the east and west sides the ground has been scarped to form terraces. The east side has a moat and bank behind it; and from this moat two long ditches run east towards a large fish-pond (now drained), thus inclosing a considerable area. The east boundary of the site seems to have had a moat with an outer bank. The fish-pond probably formed part of the moat, and another piece of it seems to remain at the north-east corner.

KIMBOLTON

Old Maps show the moat surrounding the vicarage garden complete with the exception of the south-east corner. Two sides are now filled up, and there is nothing to show where they ran.

KIMBOLTON, Stoneley Priory

The site of this small priory is marked by considerable portions of its surrounding moats, which appear to have enclosed an area of 600 ft. by 500 ft. The moat is missing on the south and south-east.

LITTLE STUKELEY, Bury Grove

A large grass field is surrounded on two sides and on part of a third by a large bank and ditch; on the fourth side, the south-west, the line seems to be lost. Through the midst of the enclosure runs a water-course emptying itself into a large pond just outside the south-west boundary of the field. In the east corner an area of about 260 ft. by 160 ft. seems to be formed into a kind of plateau with a shallow fosse and an indication of a low bank round it; owing to the sharp fall in the ground the fosse could never have held water.

OFFORD D’ARCY, Little Worth End

The house is still surrounded on three sides by a wide wet moat. The enclosure is 100 ft. by about 100 ft., with an entrance on the west. Behind it was another and larger enclosure, about 150 ft. wide and probably 280 ft. long (possibly as much as 350 ft.), but only the moat on the north and parts on the east remain. A wide waterway on the south may have served the purpose of a moat.

OLD HURST

This moat encloses an area of 120 ft. by 60 ft. There are entrances on the south-east and south-west sides.

PAPWORTH ST. AGNES

A moat here, in parts still wet, surrounds a rectangular enclosure about 360 ft. from north to south, by 240 ft. from east to west. The south half of the west side seems to have been utilised as a stock yard, by forming a dam across the middle, a not uncommon arrangement; but the south side has apparently been filled up. Within this moat the ancient house still stands. To the east an extension of the moat encloses an area of 300 ft. by 200 ft., of which the north, south and east moats remain; the west moat of this enclosure would be the south half of the east moat of the other enclosure, and it is not clear whether it ever existed, but the line is now marked by a wall and a piece of hedge.

PIDLEY

To the east of Dove House Close Spinney and north-east of Manor Farm is a dry moat inclosing three sides of a square, about 200 ft. by 190 ft.

RAMSEY ABBEY

The precincts of Ramsey Abbey were evidently surrounded by a bank and fosse. Near the modern cemetery two lengths of wet dyke seem to be part of this fosse, and the line of the north bank may be followed crossing the field, not far from the cemetery wall. On the east side of Wood Lane both bank and fosse run round the north and north-east sides of a large grass field until they come to the hedge of Lord de Ramsey’s park. Within the park the bank and fosse have been levelled, but a belt of trees seems to carry on the line until at the south-east corner, in a plantation on the side of Hollow Lane, the bank again appears, but the fosse is lost in hollow ground. The boundary probably followed the line of ‘Hollow Lane’ on the south and a small watercourse parallel with the lane on the south-west; the missing parts of the west boundary may easily be imagined by studying a map of the modern streets which have encroached upon the Abbey precincts at this point. About half a mile from the north-east corner of the boundary bank there is an ancient bank close to the line where the high land rises out of the fen. This may represent an outer defence (more against the fenland waters than attack); it stretches for some 1,700 ft across two grass fields.

RAMSEY, Biggin House

This moat encloses a space of about 300 ft. by 180 ft. The west side has been somewhat altered and partly filled up.

RAMSEY, Bodsey House

There are remains of a moat on the south and part of the west side of this ancient house.

ST NEOTS, Wintringham Hall

This is a farm house, with a fine rectangular moat defective on the south side. The enclosure is 360 ft. by 300 ft. On the west side, just outside the main moat, as a smaller enclosure, 180 ft. by 150 ft., with a sunk space in the middle said to be the site of a chapel, but probably that of the original house.

ST NEOTS, Wintringham

In a field called the Birches, south of Wintringham Hall, is another moat.

SAWTRY, Archer's Wood

This earthwork is a roughly square enclosure, 190 ft. by 180 ft. enclosed by dry moats. It lies near the middle of a much larger outer enclosure, and its south side is extended to the west for 210 ft. where it joins the outer moat, and to the east for 120 ft. at which point a strong bank runs in a north-east direction for about 440 ft. where it joins the north-east side of the outer moat. The outer enclosure is thus divided into two parts, the northern part being the larger. Within the larger enclosure and east of the inner one, is another small moat 50 ft. by 30 ft.

SAWTRY, SW from church

In a field to the south-west of Sawtry Church is a small moated enclosure about 80 ft. in diameter, raised slightly above the level of the field, and with a slight depression in the middle. There is an indication of a bank round the outside of the moat, and ways in on the north and south sides. This is probably the site of a windmill.

SAWTRY, East of the church

This is another small moat east of the church, the area within the banks being 100 ft. by 90 ft.

SOUTHOE, Broughton

Just north-west of Boughton Manor Farm are the remains of an earthwork now much injured by gravel digging. It appears to have been a parallelogram, the north part for a length of 150 ft. being 160 ft. wide, while the south part, some 260 ft. long, was only 138 ft. wide-the west. side being in one continuous line. This area was enclosed by a moat averaging 33 ft. across the top and about 4 ft. to 5 ft. deep, with signs of a bank inside. There are remains of ditches outside the moat, but they are of an indefinite character.

SOUTHOE, Moat at Rectory Farm

This is a well defined rectangular moat still holding water, and inclosing an area of 180 ft. by 140 ft. There is a short extension of the moat at the south east corner.

SOUTHOE

There is a nearly circular moat, about 165 ft. diameter within the banks, on the south-west of the church.

SWINESHEAD

This moat represents three sides of an oval, the north end being missing. The area enclosed is 330 ft by 260 ft.

TETWORTH, Storey's Moats

The main moat encloses a rectangular space 250 ft. by 250 ft. with a small excrescence at the south-west corner.

TETWORTH, Moat in Biggin Wood

A square moat, inclosing 140 ft. by 140 ft.

TILBROOK HARDWICK MOAT

A rectangular moat inclosing 200 ft. by 170 ft, on which stand some farm buildings.

TOSELAND

The enclosure is 250 ft. long 170 ft. wide, and lies in Toseland Wood, within 300 ft. of the Romano-British way from Sandy to Godmanchester, now a mere field track. The moat is wide and in places 10 ft. deep. There is an extension at the south-east corner.

UPTON, Christ's College Farm

The remains of the moat which once surrounded the house enclose 150 ft. by 120 ft.; the east side is lost. At the north-west corner there is an elongation of 120 ft. to the west.

WARBOYS, Woolvey

In a field on the north side of the road from Warboys to Chatteris, and 2,200 ft. east of Woolvey Farm, are some curious earthworks. They appear to have consisted of an outer moat of irregular shape which extended into the arable field on the west and across the road on the south. Towards the middle was an inner enclosure surrounded apparently by a shallow moat.

WARESLEY, Vicarage Farm

There are parts of three sides of this moat, which enclosed about 360 ft. east to west, and, if a pond on the roadside represents the north side, 250 ft. from north to south.

WINWICK

This is a rectangular moat inclosing an area of 220 ft. by 150 ft. It is as much as 10 ft. deep to the water line on one side.

WOODHURST, Spinney Moat

This is rectangular moat (150 ft. by 140 ft.) with an entrance on the west side. Some 750 ft. to the south is a pond (called Mosshouse Pond) in which is an island, about 50 ft. across, standing 9 ft. above the water level and 4 ft. above the surrounding ground.

YAXLEY, Manor Farm

There are slight remains of a moat in front of the house, and the large field at the back is surrounded by a considerable bank and ditch on its north and east sides. The west ditch of the enclosed area may be traced crossing the middle of the field.

 

Footnotes
  1.  Lansd. MS 921

  2. 2 Fountain Charter. Cotton Charter XIII, 3. Printed in Dugdale’s Mon. angl. (1655), I, 8

 

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