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Moated site known as `The Camps' and associated fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in Staploe, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.2293 / 52°13'45"N

Longitude: -0.3648 / 0°21'53"W

OS Eastings: 511780.174841

OS Northings: 260274.669233

OS Grid: TL117602

Mapcode National: GBR H2G.BKM

Mapcode Global: VHFPX.M7JB

Entry Name: Moated site known as `The Camps' and associated fishponds

Scheduled Date: 10 June 1992

Last Amended: 7 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013874

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20403

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Staploe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Eaton Socon

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The moated site known as `The Camps' lies some 160m to the north of the Eaton
Socon to Bushmead road, on the south side of the valley of the Duloe Brook.
The monument includes a large medieval moated enclosure containing a smaller
moated island and a series of leats leading to the south which formerly
regulated the supply of water to a pair of contemporary fishponds.

The outer enclosure is roughly square in plan. Both the southern and eastern
sides measure approximately 100m in length, whilst the western side is some
20m longer. The northern arm, which curves outward slightly in the centre, is
about 130m long. The surrounding ditch varies between 5m and 10m in width,
being both steeper and narrower to the north although the depth is fairly
consistent at c.2m. The base of the ditch is partially waterlogged, retaining
standing water in the south eastern corner, and contains deep deposits of dark
organic silt. A low bank, c.5m wide and 0.5m high, flanks the outer edge of
the eastern arm, slight traces of which continue along the southern arm. The
surface of the enclosure is fairly level except near the north western corner
where there is a small oval pond, 10m by 15m, now largely infilled. The
rectangular inner island measures 65m by 40m and is aligned within the north
east corner of the outer enclosure. This island is surrounded by a steep-
sided ditch, on average 8m wide and 1.8m deep, which is similarly wet near the
southern corner and contains waterlogged silts. A narrow, partly buried,
channel at the north eastern corner originally connected this ditch to the
outer moat. The inner and outer ditches are separated by an interval of
approximately 8m-10m which is raised by about 0.5m, indicating the former
presence of a substantial bank. A further section of bank, measuring c.3m
wide and 0.4m high, survives along the outer edge of the western arm of the
inner ditch. The northern edge of the island is marked by a slight bank,
perhaps the base of a palisade or wall, which terminates in a low mound at the
north western corner. Traces of a similar bank and mound are visible near the
south eastern corner. The inner island is thought to be the site of the main
hall or residence, and there are fragments of building stone scattered across
the surface. The remains of medieval structures are also suggested by three
irregular mounds, measuring up to 10m across and 1.5m high, located in
the centre of the island. Ancillary buildings, perhaps kitchens, barns and
futher accommodation, would have covered the outer enclosure, as is known to
have been the case on comparable sites in the region. Fragments of building
material have also been found in this area and on the surface of the ploughed
field immediately to the south.

The complex of leats leading southwards from the main enclosure survives
partly as earthworks and partly as buried features within the ploughed
field. It was constructed to provide drainage from the moats and to regulate
the supply of running water to two fishponds located within an area of scrub
woodland approximately 100m to the south of the main enclosure. A shallow
channel, c.3m wide and 0.7m deep, extends southwards for about 150m from the
south west corner of the outer moat, on the same alignment as the western arm.
Near the southern end this channel is joined by a narrow leat which served as
the outflow from the larger of the two fishponds, located some 50m to the
north east. This eastern pond is about 60m long by 20m wide, orientated east
to west. It is water-filled and at least 1.5m deep, with low banks flanking
the northern and southern sides. A second leat, connected to the north side
of the outflow channel, survives as an earthwork for c.50m, running parallel
to, and 8m from, the western ditch. Further north this ditch can be traced as
a line of dark soil extending across the ploughed field towards the moats. A
third channel, also connected to the northern side of the outflow channel,
lies some 5m to the east. This leat provided the outflow channel for the
second (western) fishpond, located some 25m to the north. The western
fishpond, which is depicted on an estate map dated 1799, is orientated north
to south, the northern end protruding from the copse and visible as a
depression in the ploughed field. It measures 30m in length and 15m across
and, although largely infilled, descends to a depth of c.0.8m. A further
channel is visible as a dark band of soil extending from the north eastern
corner of the western pond towards the south eastern corner of the outer moat,
where a short projection from the outer bank indicates the position of the
junction. This ditch is flanked by a broad bank, 6m in width, which appears
as a spread of light chalky clay and survives to a height of c.0.15m. The
ditch continues southwards as a shallow earthwork between the two fishponds
and is thought to have provided the main source of water for each, since it
leads from the lowest section of the moat which would have retained the most
consistent water level. The buried remains of dams or sluices are thought to
survive at the various junctions within the complex of leats.

The leats and the eastern pond are recorded on a map dated 1624, by which time
they had been incorporated within a wider drainage system for the surrounding
fields and woods. The map also shows entrances in the centre of the southern
arms of the moats, indicating that the main approach to the site may have been
from the road to the south through the enclosures formed by the leats. A
scatter of flint rubble in the ploughed field near the centre of the southern
arm may indicate the location of a gate house or bridge. The present entrance,
a narrow causeway across the outer western arm, is not considered to be an
original entrance since it was formed by infilling, rather than by leaving a
gap during the excavation of the ditch. Several hollows in the northern bank
separating the inner and outer moat ditches have formerly been interpreted as
entrances, but are now considered to be the result of amateur excavations
earlier this century.

The 1624 survey refers to the site as `Bellocamps' and records it as the site
of `Bellocampos house in ancient and former times'. Popular tradition
attributes the construction of the site to the Romans, no doubt prompted by
the Latin word `bello' in the placename. The site is, in fact, a moated
residence of a type commonly built for influential individuals in the Middle
Ages. The term `Bellocamps' is a rough Latin translation of the name
Beauchamp, meaning beautiful field (bellus-campus), and refers to the family
which held land in the parish in the 12th and 13th centuries. Hugh de
Beauchamp is thought to have died during the Third Crusade. His grandson,
also Hugh, endowed the foundation of Bushmead Priory in c.1195, which lies
some 350m to the north west.

The pheasant coop located within the angle formed by the southern arm of the
outer moat and the western leat is excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath is included.

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.

Despite some superficial damage `The Camps' is largely undisturbed, and
remains one of the best preserved moated sites in Bedfordshire. The islands
will contain evidence of buildings in the form of buried foundations and the
impressions of timber structures, and other features related to the period of
occupation such as wells, yard surfaces and refuse pits. The ditches will
provide detailed information concerning the water management system and
contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and environmental
evidence can be retrieved to illustrate the development of the site and the
landscape in which it was set. The sections of the ditches within the
ploughed field to the south of the main enclosure survive as buried features
and form an important part of the system which regulated the adjacent

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow moving fresh water
constructed for the purpose of breeding and storing fish in order to provide a
consistent and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of constructing and
using fishponds began in the medieval period and reached a peak of popularity
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 important as a source of information concerning
the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions. The
fishponds adjacent to The Camps form an integral part of the settlement, and
represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support
the economy and enhance the surroundings of the moated site. The ponds are
well preserved, both as visible and partially buried features, retaining the
complex of ditches used to control the water levels within.

The proximity of The Camps to the priory at Bushmead, and the historical
association between the two monuments, is of particular interest in the study
of the relationship between religious and secular life in rural medieval
England. The monument lies within an area where moated sites are relatively
numerous, with at least six known examples within a 4km radius. Comparisons
between these sites will enable valuable insights into the development of
medieval settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (transcriptions)' in The Cartulary of Bushmead Priory, , Vol. 22, (1947)
'Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (transcriptions)' in Inquisition Post Mortem: Geo. Cantilupe. 1274, , Vol. 19, (1937), 116-7
4/1 Estate Map & 4/2 Survey Book, CRO GY 4/1 & 4/2, (1624)
Beds SMR 494: text, Simco, A, The Camps, Bushmead, (1985)
Estate Map, CRO MA 20, (1799)
Inspector's Report, Oetgen, J, 20403 The Camps moats and fishponds, (1992)
Taylor, CC & Brown, AE, Bushmead, 1986, Unpublished earthwork survey
Text in SMR, Simco, A, 492 Bushmead Priory, (1978)
Wade-Gery, W A, The Camps, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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