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Park Farm moated site, deer park and fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in Eaton Bray, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8789 / 51°52'44"N

Longitude: -0.607 / 0°36'25"W

OS Eastings: 495981.318692

OS Northings: 220957.048686

OS Grid: SP959209

Mapcode National: GBR F3R.3BS

Mapcode Global: VHFRJ.F1FF

Entry Name: Park Farm moated site, deer park and fishponds

Scheduled Date: 23 April 1958

Last Amended: 1 November 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011713

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24418

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Eaton Bray

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Eaton Bray with Edlesborough

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Details

The moated site at Park Farm lies on level ground some 4km to the north of the
Chiltern Hills, and approximately 800m to the west of the village of Eaton
Bray. The monument includes a large rectangular moated enclosure,
containing a smaller circular moated island, located within the eastern part
of a contemporary deer park defined by sections of the boundary earthworks.
The monument also includes two fishponds, associated with the construction of
the deer park and the occupation of the moated site, which lie on the eastern
and north western perimeter of the park. It is protected in six separate
areas.

The outer moated enclosure measures 160m north east to south west by 120m
north west to south east, surrounded by a water filled ditch which varies
between 10m and 16m in width. The interior of the island is relatively level,
although slight traces of former buildings are evident, particularly in the
north eastern corner. Access to the island, which stands about 1m above the
level of its surroundings, is provided by a 40m wide causeway spanning the
northern end of the south eastern arm of the moat. The causeway overlies a
T-shaped arrangement of ditches, noted in 1911, which were interpreted as the
remains of an elaborate entrance structure. The second, circular enclosure
occupies the north western quarter of the larger island, and measures about
60m in diameter. This island stands about 0.7m above the level of the outer
enclosure and is surrounded by a ditch measuring between 20m and 35m in width,
the western part of which is incorporated within the arm of the outer moat
forming a pronounced bulge. The south eastern part of the inner ditch circuit
has been reduced to a depth of about 1m by the gradual accumulation of silt,
and is only partially wet. The circular moat is broken in two places. To the
north a concrete dam and sluice has been constructed to regulate the level of
the water, which is lower in the northern arm. The outlet channel (now a
buried pipe) extends northwards from this point and joins with the adjacent
brook. The eastern part of the inner moat, which was originally spanned by a
drawbridge, has subsequently been infilled to provide a causeway. The surface
of the inner island retains numerous minor undulations indicating the
foundations of former structures, and fragments of brick are visible in the
outward facing scarp around the western side.

The construction of the moated site by William de Cantilowe is recorded in the
Annals of Dunstable Priory for 1221. Although frequently referred to as a
`castle' the moated site is best described as a fortified manor, although
sufficiently imposing to have been considered a threat both to Dunstable and
the surrounding countryside. The Inquisition Post Mortem at the death of
William's successor in 1274 provides an inventory of the structures located
on the islands, within the moats, which at the time were strengthened by walls
and crossed by two drawbridges. The inner island contained an elaborate hall
and a granary. The outer ward supported numerous outbuildings including
stables for 60 horses. This document also mentions a `new chapel', which may
represent the final fulfillment of a grant by Merton priory in 1211. The manor
was rebuilt by the Bray family during the reign of Henry VIII, and the earlier
hall on the inner island replaced by a building of three ranges. By 1675, when
the then owner, Sir John Huxley, died, the manor was described as empty and in
a considerable state of disrepair. Huxley's son undertook to repair the
damage, and a trust deed dated c.1692 refers to a manor, now known as `Eaton
Park House', surrounded by barns, stables and other outbuildings including a
`stone dovehouse' and a malthouse. The manor is depicted within the moat on
Jeffrey's map of Bedfordshire in 1765, although it was finally demolished in
1794. By 1849 the site had been cleared of all standing remains, and the tithe
map of that year records the moated enclosure as an area of pasture, termed
`Park Gardens'.

In 1911, the earthworks within the moated enclosures were investigated by
F Gurney who identified the outline of the Tudor hall within the eastern part
of the round island. Further undulations adjacent to the inner edge of the
east part of the moat, noted in 1911, and still just visible, are thought to
indicate the location of the inner drawbridge.

The earliest reference to the deer park occurs in the Close Rolls for 1241. In
1274, the documents of the Inquisition Post Mortem refer to 28 acres of
woodland contained within a park, and the Hundred Rolls for the same year
records a charge against Richard Clifford the king's officer, who took venison
from the park whilst he held control of the estate following the death of
George de Cantilowe. In 1911, the boundary earthworks (or pale) remained
plainly visible around most of the park's perimeter, and enclosed an area of
approximately 40ha. The park pale consisted of a bank flanked by two ditches,
the outer of which is maintained by the line of the brook on the northern side
of the moated site. The boundary continued for about 800m to the west of the
farm buildings before turning to the south toward the line of the River Ouzel.
It then flanked the northern side of the river for about 700m, then turning
northwards and passing within 100m to the east of the outer moat. Only four
sections of the park pale are now well preserved and clearly visible; the
remainder of the circuit has been denuded by subsequent ploughing. These
sections which are situated on each of the main sides of the park, allow the
complete circuit to be inferred, and are included in the scheduling.

A section of the northern boundary bank, 110m in length and 1.5m high, is
located some 360m to the north east of the moated site. The bank has a flat
surface, supporting an avenue of trees, and measures about 7m across. A narrow
channel cut through the western part of the bank formed an outlet from an
adjacent series of fishponds, the northernmost of which replaces the inner
ditch. These ponds are described below. The outer ditch is now part of the
brook which divides the modern fields. The western boundary is represented by
a short section located within a copse some 420m west of the moated
site.

At this point the bank is about 7m wide and 0.5m high, flanked by both inner
and outer ditches, which measure some 1.5m across and between 0.3m and 0.5m in
depth. The line of the earthworks is resumed further to the south, extending
for about 270m along the side of the River Ouzel some 350m to the south west
of the moated site. The bank, 10m in width and 1.3m high, describes a long,
sinuous curve, reflecting the earlier, meandering course of the river,
depicted on Jeffrey's map of 1765. The boundary is rendered more imposing by
the artificial truncation of the slope leading towards the river, extending
the inner ditch, which measures between 2m and 7m in width. Towards the
eastern end of this section, the outer ditch which measures about 2m across
and O.5m deep, has been superseded by the subsequent alterations to the river.
A 10m wide causeway spans the ditches about 100m from the eastern end of the
earthworks, and corresponds to a break in bank which is thought to represent
an original entrance to the park. The eastern boundary remains clearly visible
over a length of about 100m near the eastern side of a post-medieval pond
situated some 130m to the south east of the moated site. The bank here
measures about 6m across and 0.8m high, flanked by the two ditches each
measuring between 2m and 3m in width and averaging 0.4m in depth. The line of
the park pale remains just discernible extending for about 80m across the
pasture to the north. This section, however, has been reduced by later
ploughing to a maximum height of c.0.1m, and is therefore not included in the
scheduling.

There are several ponds located around the perimeter of the park, two of which
are considered to be medieval fishponds, contemporary with occupation of the
manor. The fishpond which lies 40m to the east of the moated site was recorded
as containing water on the 1847 tithe map. However, it had been largely
infilled by the time of Gurney's investigations in 1911, and now remains
visible as a series of shallow depressions which mark the extent of the buried
features. It consists of a rectangular pond measuring 28m north to south by
18m east to west, the south western corner of which is connected to a second,
linear pond which extends some 40m to the east. A narrow spur which extends
about half way across this junction is considered to represent the remains of
a dam or sluice. This linear pond has a maximum width of approximately 7m and
gradually tapers to a width of 3m at the eastern end where it abuts a series
of minor earthworks marking the position of the park pale.

A series of connected channels and ponds which lies adjacent to the surviving
section of the boundary earthworks on the northern part of the park's
perimeter, was first identified as a fishpond complex in 1911. It consists of
three ponds arranged within a triangular area, contained by a low bank
around all but the northern side. The northern pond is approximately 5m wide
and 88m in length. It flanks the inner edge of the park pale bank and was
formerly supplied with water via a narrow channel which extends for about 12m
from the eastern end. A 6m wide, flat topped bank separates this pond from the
central pond in the complex, located immediately to the south. This central
pond is roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 40m in length, and with a
maximum width of 16m. The southern side of the central pond is defined by a
similar bank, c.1.2m in height, which extends around the western edge of the
feature allowing a 3m wide supply channel linked to the northern pond. The
third pond, which is about 31m in length and 7m wide, flanks the southern edge
of this bank and is connected at the western end to a rectangular extension,
25m in width, which extends to the south of the northern pond. The water
levels in the ponds were originally regulated by a narrow outlet channel cut
through the boundary bank at the western corner of the complex. The ponds are
now about 1m deep and contain deep deposits of waterlogged silt.

The following items are excluded from the scheduling: the wooden platforms
around the edge of the moat and the concrete dam, all fences and fence posts,
and the wooden structures built on the line of the park pale to the west of
the moated site, and on the banks separating the western fishponds; although
the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 Park Farm is an exceptionally well preserved example of a
large, double island type. The islands retain the foundations of numerous
structures, related to both the period of its original construction, and to
the later development of the manor house. Despite the recent cleaning of the
moat, the silts remaining within the lower parts of the ditches will contain
both artefactual and environmental evidence pertaining to the period of
occupation; and the western part of the moat surrounding the inner island
remains undisturbed. The history of the site is well documented providing
details of the date of construction, the original and subsequent owners, and
inventories listing the various buildings located on the islands.

The moated site is associated with the surrounding medieval deer park, and
contemporary fishponds.

Deer parks were areas of land set aside for the management and hunting of deer
and other animals. Such parks frequently surrounded major houses, castles or
palaces, and normally comprised areas of woodland and pasture provided a
mixture of cover and grazing for the deer. Parks could contain a number of
features including fishponds and warrens, and were usually surrounded by a
park pale: a massive fenced or hedged boundary often accompanied by ditches.
Although a small number of parks may have been established in the Anglo-Saxon
period, it was the Norman aristocracy's taste for hunting which led to the
majority being constructed. The peak period of construction, between AD 1200
and 1350, coincided with a time of considerable prosperity amongst the
nobility. However, the popularity of the deer park waned in the 15th century,
and by the end of the 17th century most were abandoned. The original number of
deer parks constructed in England is unknown, but probably exceeded 3000. Deer
parks were long lived, and those which now survive illustrate important
aspects of the activities of the nobility. Where examples are well documented,
and retain significant remains, the principal features are normally identified
as nationally important.

The deer park surrounding the moated site at Park Farm is mentioned in
documentary sources dating from the 13th century, and retains several well
preserved sections of the park pale which illustrate its former extent. The
sections of the bank retain evidence for the process of construction and the
accumulated silts within the ditches provide conditions suitable for the
preservation of artefacts related to the period of use. The deer park reflects
the status of the associated moated site and provides information concerning
the activities and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Furthermore, the construction
of the deer park reflects a major change in land use, which may have involved
the displacement of existing farming communities, evidence for which may
survive in the buried land surfaces beneath the banks.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving fresh water
constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish in order
to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of
constructing and using fishponds began during the medieval period and reached
a peak in the 12th century. Fishponds were often grouped together, either
clustered or in line, and joined by leats; each pond being stocked with a
different age or species of fish. They were largely the province of the
wealthier sectors of society, and are considered particularly important as a
source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval
settlements and institutions.

The fishponds constructed adjacent to the park pale surrounding Park Farm
moated site remain well preserved, and retain many features related to the
separation of the stock and systems of water management. The silts within the
ponds (particularly the waterlogged deposits in the western example) will
retain artefactual and environmental evidence relating to the period of use.
The ponds represent an important component of the medieval landscape created
to support and enhance the moated site, and are important evidence for the
domestic economy of the household.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Godber, J, History of Bedfordshire, (1969), 129
Rickards, V, Thunder, C, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1912)
Williams, S, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1912), 370
'BHRS Transcripts' in Bedford Historic Record Society Transcripts, , Vol. 19, (1937), 116-7
Gurney, F G, 'Eaton Bray' in The Frederick Gurney Collection, (1912), 149
Gurney, F G, 'Eaton Bray' in The Frederick Gurney Collection, (1912), 185
Other
Held by Bucks Museum Service, Gurney, F G, The Notebooks of Frederick Gurney, (1912)
Parish of Eaton Bray Tithe Map, Heard, W, CRO MAT 13, (1849)
Parish of Eaton Bray, Tithe Map, Heard, W, CRO MAT 13, (1849)
Sketch in Gurney's notebook, Gurney, F G, CRO X325/146 & 137, (1911)
Title: Map of Bedfordshire (1765)
Source Date: 1765
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: MAT 13 Tithe Map: Eaton Bray
Source Date: 1849
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Map and Award
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date: 1880
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date: 1902
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date: 1925
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date: 1925
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Trust Deed, CRO AD 3880, (1692)

Source: Historic England

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