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The earthworks and buried remains of a ringwork known as the Round Moat

A Scheduled Monument in Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.0923 / 52°5'32"N

Longitude: 0.0769 / 0°4'36"E

OS Eastings: 542379.399122

OS Northings: 245808.497843

OS Grid: TL423458

Mapcode National: GBR L8L.VMF

Mapcode Global: VHHKN.9N0W

Entry Name: The earthworks and buried remains of a ringwork known as the Round Moat

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 23 October 2020

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014823

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24430

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Fowlmere

Built-Up Area: Fowlmere

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Fowlmere St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval ringwork, an adjacent pond and the buried
remains of a medieval building associated with the site's water management
system. It is situated to the south of Fowlmere High Street, some 175m to the
south east of the early 14th century parish church.

The ringwork comprises a roughly oval stronghold, fortified by an earthen bank
and an external ditch. The bank, or rampart, which forms a wider arc around
the eastern side of the monument than to the west, encloses an area measuring
about 95m north east to south west and 65m north west to south east. The
interior slopes gently towards the north where the bank reaches a maximum
height of about 2m, approximately 1m above the height recorded elsewhere
around the perimeter. During the period of occupation, the bank would probably
have been surmounted by a wooden palisade. Material for the construction of
the ramparts was quarried from an 8m wide external ditch, or moat, which
completely encircled the ringwork and would have provided an additional means
of defence. Despite the gradual accumulation of silts within the base, the
ditch still reaches an average depth of c.1.5m. The southern arc of the moat
is largely dry, as was the remainder of the circumference until a channel was
dug along the base in 1902. This channel has subsequently been recut and
extended, and now carries water around approximately 75% of the perimeter. The
original water source, a channel entering the moat from the south, has been
built over by part of the residential development which surrounds all but the
north eastern side of the ringwork. A more limited supply is now provided by a
series of drains leading from the estate which enter the moat on the south
eastern, and eastern sides. The outflow runs through a narrow leat which links
the north eastern side of the moat to a field boundary ditch some 50m to the

Access to the interior of the ringwork is provided by a 4m wide gap in the
centre of the southern arm of the rampart, and by a 3m wide break in the north
western part of the defences. The southern entrance way is approached by a
causeway, 5m in width, spanning the ditch. The north western entrance is
thought to have originally been served by a bridge.

In 1887, workmen planting trees within the interior discovered a well and part
of a cobbled surface. In 1906, the Rev A C Yorke undertook a series of
exploratory excavations within the ringwork. Trenches cut between both
entranceways revealed further cobbled areas, and part of a similar surface
(thought to represent a yard) was found in the northern part of the interior.
The ditch adjacent to the southern entrance was found to have been originally
some 3m in depth, silts having accumulated to a depth of about 1.8m. This was
confirmed by later, more detailed examination of the ditch in 1992 which
revealed steep sloping sides and a flat base. A small, dry, pond measuring
approximately 18m by 6m, lies approximately 15m to the east of the southern
entranceway, within the interior of the ringwork. This was also investigated
in 1906 and found to contain silts to a depth of about 0.6m overlying a bed of
broken flints. In the centre of the interior, Yorke's trenches revealed
deposits of organic material to a depth of about 1m containing fragments of
animal bone and medieval pottery.

A broad channel formerly extended some 50m to the north from the north western
angle of the moat. The area between the ringwork and the parish church (termed
Church Close on a tithe map dated 1850) was the subject of a rescue excavation
in 1975, prior to a residential development. This investigation revealed a
parallel ditch some 45m to the east of the moat extension. Traces of
structures and a series of occupation surfaces dating to the 13th and 14th
centuries were discovered in the area between these two features, possibly
representing activities contemporary with the occupation of the ringwork. This
area is however, overlain by housing and is not included in the scheduling.
The north eastern arm of the ringwork is flanked by a large, roughly
rectangular pond, measuring approximately 110m north west to south east and
between 25m and 35m north east to south west. The pond, which is currently
dry, is defined by inward facing scarps which descend to about 1m below the
level of the surrounding ground on all but the north western side. This side
was surveyed in the mid 1970s, but has been buried by subsequent landscaping.
The north eastern scarp lies parallel to a brook, formalised as a field drain,
which runs northwards towards the River Cam. The south western edge curves
inwards following the line of the ring defences and is separated from the moat
by a distance of approximately 3m. Sample excavations undertaken in 1993
demonstrated that the base of the pond is formed by a natural bed of clay
overlain by about 0.3m of accumulated deposits. It is thought that this
feature represents the formalisation of a natural boggy depression, possibly
for use as a fishpond, or for the purpose of attracting wildfowl. There is no
evidence for a inlet channel leading from the adjacent brook, and the pond is
thought to have been supplied with water from the moat, perhaps via a narrow
break visible in the north eastern bank. The pond is therefore considered to
be a later adjunct to the ringwork which could only have functioned whilst the
moat was maintained. The drainage channel associated with the later
reinstatement of the northern part of the moat, passes through the break in
the north eastern perimeter and is cut through the accumulated deposits within
the pond.

The excavations in 1993 included a trial trench within the roughly triangular
area which separates the moat from the eastern corner of the pond. A thick
layer of upcast material containing medieval pottery was discovered, which is
thought to relate to the cleaning of the moat in the medieval period. Beneath
this lay the remains of a medieval structure composed of a sequence of
occupation layers 0.3m in depth and a related post hole. This structure is
associated with an infilled stream channel, also revealed by excavation, and
is considered to be of particular importance for the understanding of the
water management system surrounding the ringwork.

The rent roll for 1447 records the ringwork in the possession of Robert White,
whose name was subsequently connected with the site which was known as `Whites
Close'. The 1850 tithe map shows the ringwork as an old enclosure containing
pasture, termed `The Round Moats', a name which is still applied to the
monument. At this time the ringwork was held by trustees on behalf of Mary
Douglas and Anne Mitchell and occupied by a tenant, Thomas Nash. Trees were
planted in the interior in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
Few of these survived when the site was described in 1906, although the site
has subsequently become wooded.

All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these 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.

The Fowlmere ringwork is a particularly large and well defended example of
this type of medieval fortification, and remains in a very well preserved
condition. Previous excavations have sampled only a minimal area of the site
yet have demonstrated conditions suitable for the preservation of buried
features within the interior, which will include structures, yards and other
evidence relating to the period of occupation. The surrounding moat will also
contain both environmental and artefactual evidence within the accumulated
silts pertaining to use and subsequent abandonment of the site. The ramparts
will retain evidence for the process of construction, and for the presence of
any palisade or superstructure. Earlier features may also be preserved within
the buried landsurface below the banks.

The ringwork lies approximately equidistant between the parish church to the
north west and a small moated site (known as Crow's Parlour) to the south
east; the relationship between which will provide valuable information
concerning the changing circumstances of the higher ranks of local medieval
society in relation to the early history of the village.

The importance of the monument is enhanced by the survival of associated
features including a pond and the remains of a medieval structure related to
the water management system which forms an integral part of the site. The
pond, in particular, provides an insight into the changing role of the
ringwork: from a defensive stronghold during a period of conflict to a high
status residence in more settled times.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Conybeare, E, History of Cambridgeshire, (1897), 14
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948), 30
Spoerry, P, Archaeological evaluations at High Street, Fowlmere, (1993), 1-3
Spoerry, P, Archaeological evaluations at High Street, Fowlmere, (1993), 1-3
Spoerry, P, Archaeological evaluations at High Street, Fowlmere, (1993), 1-3
'Annual report of the County Archeology Office 1991/2' in CAC annual report, (1992)
'Excavations near The Round Moat, Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire' in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, , Vol. 67, (1977), 69-71
'The Round Moat at Fowlmere' in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, , Vol. 12, (1908), 114-119
Planning Archaeologist, Cambs C.C., Sydes, R, Fowlmere Round Moat, (1994)
Tithe apportionment ledger, CRO R86/56, (1850)
tithe apportionment map, CRO 296/P/13, (1850)
Tithe apportionment map, Fowlmere, CRO 296/P/13, (1850)

Source: Historic England

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