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Astley Castle moated site, fishponds, garden remains and Astley College

A Scheduled Monument in Astley, Warwickshire

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Latitude: 52.5028 / 52°30'10"N

Longitude: -1.5425 / 1°32'33"W

OS Eastings: 431149.370414

OS Northings: 289533.6353

OS Grid: SP311895

Mapcode National: GBR 6L0.0TM

Mapcode Global: VHBWK.6CW5

Entry Name: Astley Castle moated site, fishponds, garden remains and Astley College

Scheduled Date: 18 April 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011194

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21541

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Astley

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Astley St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


The monument is situated to the north-east of St Mary's Church in Astley
village and includes the moated site of Astley Castle, its associated garden
features and fishpond complex. It also includes the earthwork remains of a
medieval settlement, the earthwork and buried remains of Astley College, and
an area of ridge and furrow cultivation.
In 1266 Warin de Bassingburn was granted a licence to enclose the manor house
at Astley with a dyke and walls and to crenallate it. The moated site has
external dimensions of 100m north-west - south-east and up to 115m south-west
- north-east. The waterfilled sections of the moat measure approximately 10m
wide, and the moat ditches, themselves, measure up to 20m wide. Access onto
the moated island is by means of a bridge across the south-west arm of the
moat. The bridge has a round arch of probable 19th century date and a later
parapet. At the northern end of the bridge is evidence for the layout of the
medieval gatehouse, which took the form of a rectangular tower projecting
forward into the moat on a large masonry platform. The gatearch was
asymmetrically set within the tower to the east of a block of rooms, of which
that adjoining the gatehall must have served as the porter's lodge. The wall
between the gatehall and the porter's lodge survives and is pierced by an
arched doorway, now blocked. An illustration of 1875 shows that, by this date,
the gatetower had been demolished and the doorway to the porter's lodge was
serving as an entrance to a garden walkway around the inner edge of the moat.
Only the northernmost gatearch survives, providing the frame for the modern
doors. It has a four-centred arch of two chamfered orders with a shield panel
above. The arch jambs are partly original, though the arch itself is mostly of
post-medieval date. The gatehouse appears contemporary with the remains of the
curtain wall along the inner edges of the south-west, south-east and north-
west arms of the moat. The lower courses of this wall are thought to date from
the 14th century. The bridge, gateway and the curtain wall are all built of
regular coursed and squared sandstone and are Listed Grade II. These features
are included in the scheduling.
There are the remains of the stone pier for a timber bridge across the north-
east arm of the moat. It is considered that this bridge was built during the
19th century to provide access to the garden situated to the north of the
moated site and it is included within the scheduling.
The moated island measures 60m north-west - south-east and 70m south-west -
north-east. The north-east edge of the island slopes upwards from the edge of
the moat to form an internal bank. The south-west corner of the moated island
is partly occupied by the ruined house known as Astley Castle, a Grade II
Listed Building. The house has its origins in the 13th and 14th centuries and
exhibits many periods of construction. It is considered that the materials
from the original fortified manor house, built on the moated island, were re-
used in the 16th century when the house was rebuilt. This house was remodelled
in c.1820. The house is excluded from the scheduling. An estate map of 1664
indicates that, at this date, there was a range of buildings along the
southern curtain wall. There is no surface evidence for the range of
buildings, but they will survive as buried features. In 1664, a formal garden
occupied the northern half of the moated island.
Immediately to the north and east of Astley Castle moated site are the
earthwork remains of garden features which are thought to have been laid out
during the 19th century and are probably contemporary with the remodelling of
the house in c.1820. The features to the north include an earthwork avenue
which is approximately 30m long and is bounded by yew trees. The avenue runs
between the bridge across the north-east arm of the moat, and a small pond
situated to the north. The pond is bounded by earthwork banks and is now dry.
There are raised platforms on either side of the avenue which were also
planted with yew trees.
To the east of the moated site is a raised area which has been built parallel
with the south-east arm of the moat. A large cedar of Lebanon tree and the
stumps of several others indicates that the edges of the platform were
originally planted with trees in order to stabilise it and to create a garden
feature visible from the house. These garden earthworks provide evidence for
the landscaped setting of Astley Castle moated site during the early 19th
century and represent the most recent phase in the historical development of
the site.
There is a complex group of earthworks in the area to the west of
Astley Castle moated site and this includes the remains of part of a medieval
settlement which is situated in the south-west part of this area. The
earthwork remains of the settlement include three house platforms built
adjacent to each other and aligned east-west. These remains are bounded along
their western side by a hollow way. The hollow way is now in use as an access
road and does not survive well. It is therefore, not included in the
scheduling. To the east of the northern platform are the remains of a second
hollow way with a linear bank immediately to the east.
The area between the south-west corner of the moat and the north wall of the
parish church forms a levelled platform which is thought to be the site of
Astley College. In 1338 Sir Thomas de Astley founded a chantry served by four
secular priests in the Lady Chapel of the parish church. In 1343 the chantry
was converted into a collegiate establishment and the Lady Chapel was rebuilt
and rededicated. The chapel, which was still called 'new' in 1493, was
probably sited within the choir of the parish church, which eventually became
the nave of the present building. A series of openings and other features in
the north wall of the present nave, opening onto the levelled platform,
probably indicate where the collegiate buildings were attached. The college
itself was dissolved in 1545 although an estate map of 1664 shows that, at
that date, there was still a large building immediately north of the parish
church. The buried remains of the collegiate buildings will survive both
within and to the north of the present graveyard and are included in the
scheduling. North of the College site and to the north-west of the moated site
is a second large earthwork platform. At its north-west corner (some 60m
north-west of the moated site) is a mound with a diameter at the base of 18m.
It is thought that the platform represents the site of formal gardens known to
have been laid out north-west of the moat in the 17th century, whilst the
mound is probably a prospect mound from which the layout could be viewed. In
1664 this part of the site was known as the 'New Garden'. Despite some damage
caused by subsequent ploughing, the layout of this garden, its walkways and
planting layout will survive as buried features beneath the ground surface and
this area is included in the scheduling.
North-west of the platform on which sat the formal garden, and occupying the
area along the eastern side of the hollow way to the north of the settlement
remains, is a complex of fishponds and other water-control features. The group
of four inter-connecting ponds and their associated leats are seasonally
waterlogged. The ponds are rectangular and have been constructed around a
raised central area. Sluices would have originally controlled the water supply
within each individual pond. The pond at the south-west edge of the complex
was surveyed in 1967 and has been recently infilled. It will survive as a
buried feature and is, therefore, included in the scheduling. The fishponds
are bounded along their northern edge by an outer bank. The leat which
connects the fishpond complex with the moated site is visible as an earthwork.
It has been partly straightened during the post-medieval period, but is
included in the scheduling. The uniformity of the ponds and their proximity to
the 'New Garden' indicates that they are likely to have been incorporated
within the formal garden layout in the 17th century. There is a slight
circular depression within the central raised area. This may be the remains of
a further pond added to the complex when the gardens were laid out.
Immediately to the north-west of the moated site, and south of the inter-
connecting leat is a brick-lined well and the remains of a small pumping
house. The lower courses of a building that housed both the well and the
pumping machinery are visible on the ground surface. Two concrete bases for a
pumping engine which originally lifted the water from the well and the remains
of machinery within the well itself, are visible. These remains provide
evidence for the development of water management on the site in the 19th
century and are included in the scheduling.
To the north, north-west and east of the moated site are the earthwork remains
of ridge and furrow cultivation. The ridge and furrow respects the moated site
and provides a stratigraphic relationship between the moated site and the
earthwork features in the surrounding area. A 10m wide sample area of ridge
and furrow to the north and east of the site are included in the scheduling in
order to preserve these relationships.
In 1166 Phillip de Estlega held three knight's fees, including Astley. After
the death of his descendant, Thomas de Estleye, who was killed at the battle
of Evesham, the manor of Astley was granted to Warin de Bassingburn. By the
Dictum of Kenilworth, in 1266, Andrew de Estleye received royal confirmation
of the grant to him by Warin de Bassingburn of his lands, including Astley.
The last of the male line of the Astley's died in 1420. In this year, the
manor of Astley passed to the family of Lord Grey of Ruthin and it was held by
the Greys until the mid 16th century.
The present Astley Castle, which is a ruined structure and Listed Grade II,
its associated outbuildings, the surfaces of all modern paths and driveways
and the modern walls situated on the moated island, the brick-built outflow
channel at the outer edge of the north-east arm of the moat, the electricity
poles and their support cables and all fence posts are excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 monument survives well and is largely unencumbered by modern development.
The moated island will retain considerable structural and artefactual evidence
of the original manor house known to have existed here since before 1266 and
for a succession of later structures on the site. Organic material will be
preserved within the waterfilled moat ditches and also, within the seasonally
waterlogged fishponds. The garden earthworks of both 17th and 19th century
date not only provide important evidence for the setting and layout of Astley
Castle moated site, but they also reflect the changing trends of garden design
over a period of more than three centuries. The gardens to the west of the
moated site reflect the 17th century emphasis on formal, ornamental gardens,
while the garden earthworks to the north and east provide evidence for the
19th century fashion for naturalised parkland with isolated earthwork
features. Astley College is a well-documented example of a collegiate church
with historical records dating from its foundation in the 14th century through
to its dissolution in the 16th century. Earthwork remains and map evidence
indicate that structural remains associated with the collegiate church will
survive as buried features in the area to the north and north-east of the
Both the collegiate remains and those of the formal gardens to the north must
have been laid out to respect the settlement site whose earthwork remains
occupy the south-western corner of the site. These remains survive in good
condition and will provide evidence both for the date and character of
occupation by lower orders of society, when compared to the castle site, and
for the manner in which the settlement was deserted.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1908), 119
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Warwickshire, (1974), 75
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 19
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 15-22
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 17
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 18
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 17
RCHME, SP 38 NW 1 - Astley Castle, (1968)
Sites and Monuments Record,
Title: Newdigate Estate Map
Source Date: 1664

Source: Historic England

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