Ancient Monuments

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Yarl's Wood hermitage and moated site

A Scheduled Monument in Milton Ernest, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1928 / 52°11'34"N

Longitude: -0.4828 / 0°28'58"W

OS Eastings: 503804.008598

OS Northings: 256040.216594

OS Grid: TL038560

Mapcode National: GBR G1C.JRM

Mapcode Global: VHFQ1.L43S

Entry Name: Yarl's Wood hermitage and moated site

Scheduled Date: 5 January 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012057

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20457

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Milton Ernest

Built-Up Area: Twinwoods Business Park

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Milton Ernest

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a moated site and hermitage situated on fairly level
ground at the head of the valley of a small stream which feeds the moat and
thence flows south to the River Great Ouse. The moated site is roughly
rectangular in plan, measuring a maximum of 65m by 75m, and is defined by a
ditch up to 8m wide and 1.5m deep. The southern arm of the ditch carries the
stream which enters the moat at the north-west; a diversion of the stream
runs around the north-eastern side of the moat in a channel or outer ditch 3m
wide by 0.5m deep which is parallel to the moat ditch. Where the stream flows
into the moat the ditch is shallower and opens into a marshy depression about
20m long by 15m wide; this is thought to be a fishpond, or series of ponds,
integral with the moat which has become silted up over the years. Sluices,
whose remains are thought to survive buried in the silts, will have controlled
the flow of water from the stream into the moat, fishponds and outer channel.
On the south-eastern arm of the moat there is an outer bank 0.5m high and 3m
wide. Contained within the moat is an island which, excluding the depression
containing the fishponds, measures about 40m by 40m and has remains of a stone
building upstanding to about 0.5m in height at the centre. This building,
exposed by partial excavation in 1961, comprises the dry-bonded foundations of
a rectangular hall measuring at least 10m long by 6m wide; finds of pottery
and ironwork showed that the building was occupied from the 12th century and
was destroyed by fire in the 16th century. Remains of walling have also been
observed 10m to the north-west of the main building.
The moated site is documented as the site of a hermitage associated with
Cauldwell Priory and the name `Yarl's Wood' survives as a field name: The
island later became the site of a manor house; one John Fitzjeffrey is
recorded as the tenant of the `Armytage' in 1536, shortly before the
archaeologically attested fire.

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 moated site at Yarl's Wood is identified historically as the site of a
hermitage, the home of a religious individual or group seeking solitude and
isolation. Although one of many types of ecclesiastical monument
characteristic of the medieval period, positively identified hermitage sites
are comparatively rare. Such monuments are representative of a very
particular and exceptional way of life adopted by a small minority of people
throughout the medieval period.
Yarl's Wood Hermitage moated site is largely well preserved and partial
excavation has revealed the form of buildings on the island. The fishponds
and parts of the moat contain waterlogged silts from which information
relating to the medieval environment and the economy of the site may be

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hutchings, J B, Milton Ernest - A Field Survey, (1969), 69-78
Beds 912,
P.A.S., Ordnance Survey Record, (1974)
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date:

Ward, M W, Conversation with Farm Manager, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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