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A moated site, three fishponds, two trackways and field systems at Moat Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Cranfield, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0792 / 52°4'45"N

Longitude: -0.5915 / 0°35'29"W

OS Eastings: 496622.496377

OS Northings: 243251.237049

OS Grid: SP966432

Mapcode National: GBR F18.M8Y

Mapcode Global: VHFQC.PZPZ

Entry Name: A moated site, three fishponds, two trackways and field systems at Moat Farm

Scheduled Date: 22 December 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009240

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20442

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Cranfield

Built-Up Area: Cranfield

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cranfield

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a moated site with cultivation earthworks representing
an associated field system, three ponds, two trackways and an earlier
medieval field system surrounding the moat. Moat Farm is situated 1.6km north
of Cranfield church on a Greensand plateau. Documentary research has shown
that Moat Farm was enclosed at a comparatively early date and the monument
thus represents the surviving remains of a single unified landholding which
originated in the medieval period.

The moated site, located at the northern end of the monument, has maximum
dimensions of 120m north-south by 70m east-west and is irregular in plan,
having five sides of unequal length. The profile of the ditch on the southern
arm has been slightly altered as a result of gardening at the front of Moat
Farm house but the remainder is thought to be largely unaltered. The ditch
varies between 5m and 10m in width and while the southern arm is up to 1.5m
deep, the north-eastern arm is only about 0.3m deep, due to accumulated silt.
The island is flat and level with the surrounding land and measures 100m
north-south by 50m east-west. Standing buildings on the island, Moat Farm
house and outbuildings, were built in the 19th century or later and the
house has a cellar. However its precursor, which was demolished in the early
1800's, stood in front of the present building and its below-ground remains
are thought to be well preserved. Two wells to the north of the house are now
capped and, although in use until recent times, the shafts are potentially
medieval in origin. There are two causeways giving access to the island from
the east; one now serves Moat Farm house and a second now leads to the barns
and outbuildings. Next to the northern causeway is a fishpond, internal to the
island and connected to the north-eastern arm of the moat. The pond, which
contains standing water, is 10m long, 5m wide and at least 0.3m deep. North of
the moat and linked to its apex by a short leat is a waterfilled pond
measuring 12m long by up to 4m wide.

The moated site is approached by a medieval trackway, marked by a green lane
10-12m wide which lies slightly to the west of the modern metalled drive.
North of Moat Farm the track is diverted slightly to the east and continues
beyond the area of the monument, giving access to modern fields. A second
trackway branches from the main track and runs just outside the north-eastern
arm of the moat. This track is less well preserved; a part north of the moat
survives as a hollow way about 1m deep but adjacent to the north-eastern arm
the hollow is infilled and the location of the pond shows that the track went
out of use at a comparatively early date.

Parallel to and at either side of the track leading to Moat Farm are lines of
ridge-and-furrow. The ridges are up to 0.3m high and are about 180m (or one
furlong) in length and are thus complete; the modern fields are thought to
respect the original medieval field boundaries. A recent Parish Survey of
Cranfield has shed light on the medieval landholdings in the locality. This
research has demonstrated that the two fields described above were part of a
single landholding, or `toft', associated with Moat Farm and that fields to
the west, also containing ridge-and-furrow, were held by occupants of the
neighbouring moated site at Broad Green farm. The Moat Farm holding also
included four fields to the north and east of the monument but these have been
ploughed in recent years and do not retain features relating to medieval
cultivation of the land.

To the south and west of the moated site is a ditch which is thought to be an
earlier enclosure boundary, representing a different pattern of land-use
because it lies partly outside the western boundary of the historically
documented landholding. The ditch is about 1m deep and there is a slight bank
less than 0.3m high on the inner (western and northern) edges. The outer edge
of the western arm lies 40m from the edge of the moat, on a line approximating
to that projected south from an existing field boundary, although the northern
end of the ditch and bank curves slightly eastwards off that line.
There has been some recent disturbance of the ground at the southern end,
where a dried-up stream bed approaches the ditch from the north-west and the
enclosure abuts the northern headland of an adjacent area of ridge-and-furrow
earthworks; some of these are included in the scheduling to enable their
relationship with the enclosure to be demonstrated. The enclosure ditch then
continues the line of the stream south of the moated site; the outer edge of
the ditch lies up to 30m from the southern edge of the moat. At the edge of
the modern track leading to the moat the ditch is largely infilled and is
observed only as a slight hollow which extends east of the track where it
flows into a pond; this measures 10m across and 0.3m deep and is seasonally
water-logged. It is thought that the eastern boundary of the enclosure
corresponded with the existing field boundary north of the pond and, although
infilled over most of its length, the enclosure ditch survives as an
irregularly shaped water-filled pond at its northern end. The northern arm of
the enclosure is thought to follow the line of the existing field drainage

Three separate fishponds are located within the scheduling. The first lies at
the south-east of the earlier enclosure and is thought to be contemporary with
it; the pond is described above. A second pond, which lies at the north
eastern boundary of the monument, is thought to be a later modification of the
ditch of the outer enclosure; it is water-filled, having an irregular lobed
shape in plan, and measures up to 30m long by 14m wide. The third pond is
located to the north of the moated site and is thought to be cut into an
infilled part of the hollow way. This pond is oval in plan, measuring 14m long
by 6m wide, and is linked to the moat by a short leat.
The area of the cellared house on the moat island is excluded from the
scheduling but the associated farm buildings are thought to have shallow
foundations and, while the buildings themselves are excluded, the ground
beneath them is included. The derelict World War II RAF station at the
extreme east is also excluded from the scheduling, as are the fences and the
metalled surfaces of the modern track; although the ground beneath these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some
cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was
between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in
central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built
throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and
exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a
significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding
of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples
provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.

The moated site at Moat Farm is set within a medieval toft or enclosed field
system associated with a single farmstead. Tofts may have contained both
pasture and arable fields, the latter often exhibiting traces of
ridge-and-furrow, parallel earthworks created by a method of ploughing
peculiar to the period. During the medieval period land was generally divided
up between members of the community, with individual peasants holding small
dispersed parcels of land located in large open fields; but by the 15th
century a widespread process of enclosure had begun, in which the open fields
were apportioned into cohesive units, often centred on an individual farm or
manor house.
Documentary research has identified that Moat Farm was enclosed at a
relatively early date and that it has comprised a single coherent landholding
from the medieval period to the present day. The monument includes a
well-preserved moated site, which is thought to contain the below-ground
remains of the medieval farm house, and well-defined ridge-and-furrow
demonstrating the extent and layout of a substantial part of the associated
field system. Waterlogged silts, accumulated in the fills of the moat and
various ponds, provide conditions favouring the preservation of organic
remains from which the environment and agricultural economy of the medieval
farm may be reconstructed. Additional surviving earthworks are evidence of a
system of fields pre-dating the Enclosure; the site therefore has potential
for the study of changes in land-use and tenure through time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Coleman, SR, 'Bedfordshire Parish Surveys' in Cranfield, (1986), 31-33
Coleman, SR, 'Bedfordshire Parish Surveys' in Cranfield, (1986), map 1
Gadsden G R, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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