Ancient Monuments

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The Moot: a ringwork and bailey, earlier Roman settlement remains and later garden earthworks immediately east of the River Avon

A Scheduled Monument in Downton, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 50.9911 / 50°59'27"N

Longitude: -1.7441 / 1°44'38"W

OS Eastings: 418059.069574

OS Northings: 121329.230208

OS Grid: SU180213

Mapcode National: GBR 528.XHK

Mapcode Global: FRA 767H.GC2

Entry Name: The Moot: a ringwork and bailey, earlier Roman settlement remains and later garden earthworks immediately east of the River Avon

Scheduled Date: 30 January 1952

Last Amended: 20 June 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011452

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21905

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Downton

Built-Up Area: Downton

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Downton St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes The Moot, a ringwork and bailey, later reused as a
formal garden with an earthwork theatre, and an area of Roman remains under
and to the south of it. The site is located on level ground on the east bank
of the River Avon and at the foot of a west-facing slope.
The ringwork and bailey survive as earthworks although these were modified in
the 18th century to establish a formal garden and associated earthwork
theatre. The ringwork is at the centre of the monument and is defined by
earthworks surviving to between 5m and 6m above the medieval ground surface.
Two entrances, to the north east and to the west, divide the earthworks into
two separate sections. The interior area is 20m across.
Beyond the ringwork, to the east and north, is the bailey, an enclosed area
which contained associated ancillary buildings and settlement. The north side
of the bailey has been partly levelled and built over although below ground
remains will survive. To the east and north east the bailey is visible as a
level area c.80m north to south by c.40m east to west, defined by a bank and
ditch. The bank has been altered, presumably at the time the garden was
established, but survives to 2m high. The accompanying ditch is c.5.5m deep
on the south east side. To the north east the ditch has been largely
infilled; a small-scale excavation in 1990 suggested that this occurred at the
time of the 18th century remodelling. The extent of the survival of
archaeological remains on the north west side of the bailey, beneath the
houses and gardens south of Tannery House, is uncertain and this area has not
been included in the scheduling.
The defensive works still visible at The Moot were probably constructed by
Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, in 1138. It was put under siege during
the civil wars of Stephen and Matilda, and was probably slighted in 1155. It
was occupied throughout the medieval period and had royal visits in 1317 and
1344. The last sizeable works were in 1466 and by 1647 the site was in
The 18th century remodelling of the earthworks has produced a fine example of
formal gardens and a terraced earthwork theatre, landscaped as an amenity for
Moot House which lies nearby. To the west of the theatre is a large fishpond
which may have been constructed as a backdrop to the stage. Also included, at
the rear of the theatre and on the southern bank of the ringwork, are the
foundations of a building, the Temple of Mercury.
Evidence from excavations and geophysical survey has confirmed that the
ringwork was constructed on the site of earlier remains. Geophysical survey
has indicated that the area south of the ringwork's southern ditch was
occupied by earlier buildings, one of which was cut by the construction of the
ditch. Other features in this area include a further, smaller, building as
well as a track and associated ditches. Some of these align with sections
excavated further to the south which were dated to the Roman period.
Excavations within the gardens of Tannery House north of the ringwork have
produced Roman pottery which may indicate the northern extent of these
The houses within the monument are excluded from the scheduling
as are the changing rooms on the recreation ground; all fences and boundary
walls are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these
buildings and features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.

Despite the alterations in the 18th century, most of the archaeological
remains of the ringwork and its associated enclosure survive and its history
is well documented. The combination of a ringwork with a bailey is unusual
and this example is one of the largest in the country. The earthwork remains
of the formal garden, with its unusual earthwork theatre, also survive well.
Evidence also survives for Roman occupation, particularly in the area south of
the ringwork where structural remains in the form of buildings, tracks and
ditches survive. Several Roman settlements are recorded from this area of the
Avon valley, including villas and farmsteads. The site has significance as an
integral part of the settlement record emerging for this area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Sumner, H, The Ancient Earthworks of the New Forest, (1914)
Report for English Heritage, Hinton, D A, Excavation at 'The Moot', July 9th-13th,
Report No. 463 (pagintion 12), Wessex Archaeology, Tannery House, Downton, Wiltshire, Archaeological Evaluation, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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