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Blunts Hall ringwork

A Scheduled Monument in Witham, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7985 / 51°47'54"N

Longitude: 0.62 / 0°37'12"E

OS Eastings: 580758.611305

OS Northings: 214345.59828

OS Grid: TL807143

Mapcode National: GBR QL9.7KK

Mapcode Global: VHJJY.P2N2

Entry Name: Blunts Hall ringwork

Scheduled Date: 3 February 1976

Last Amended: 13 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012098

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20770

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Witham

Built-Up Area: Witham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Witham St Nicolas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument at Blunts Hall is situated on gently sloping land, overlooking
the River Brain 700m south west of Chipping Hill church. It includes a
sub-rectangular ringwork which measures 84m north-south by 76m east-west. The
ringwork consists of an enclosure, the interior of which has been raised to
about 1.2m higher than the surrounding ground level. The prominent internal
bank survives to a height of 3.5m above the level of the island and an average
width of c.6m. This bank is surrounded by a ditch which survives as a
waterfilled earthwork to the north and is infilled to the south. To the north
and west the ditch varies in width from 10m to 15m, with an average depth of
c.1.5m deep. To the east and south the ditch has become infilled. It is now
visible as a shallow depression 0.2m deep and survives as a buried feature. A
small modern wooden footbridge gives access to the island over the northern
side of the ditch. At the south east corner of the enclosure is a conical-
shaped mound 3.5m in diameter, which forms part of the rampart and is 0.8m
higher than the inner bank.

Limited excavation of the centre of the enclosure and through the bank and
ditch was undertaken in 1958. This yielded occupation debris including a
hearth and a possible pottery kiln. The site has been dated to the 12th
century by the unglazed pottery recovered from the excavation along with bone
and oyster shells.

Blunts Hall appears in Domesday as a manorial site owned in part by Eustace of
Boulogne and in part as the Honor of Peverell by Humfrey. The site
subsequently fell into the hands of Henry I who granted it to Stephen who,
after his succession to the throne, granted it to Geoffrey de Mandeville. From
documentary evidence the ringwork is considered to have been constructed in
1141, but as with most adulterine castles (baronial castles erected without a
royal charter, commonly during the 'anarchy` of Stephen's reign) it was
abandoned during the reign of Henry II.

The sheds, paths, fences, footbridge and greenhouse are all excluded from the
scheduling though the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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

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.

Blunts Hall ringwork survives well as both upstanding earthworks and, as
partial excavation has demonstrated, also as buried features. The raised
enclosure will seal an old landsurface as well as retaining archaeological
information relating to the occupation of the site. The partially infilled
ditches have been shown to contain evidence relating to the construction of
the site. The waterfilled sections of the ditch will retain environmental
information relating to the economy of its inhabitants and the landscape in
which they lived.
In addition the site is well documented in historical sources. It is a good
example of how adulterine castles, a feature of the 'anarchy` period
sprang up in the mid 12th century and how they rapidly became abandoned in the
relative stability following Henry II's accession in 1154.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Trump, DH MA PhD, 'Transactions of the Essex Archaeology Society' in Blunts Hall, Witham, , Vol. 1, (1961), 37-40

Source: Historic England

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