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Woodwalton moated site, 350m east of Park Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Wood Walton, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.413 / 52°24'46"N

Longitude: -0.2119 / 0°12'42"W

OS Eastings: 521713.486374

OS Northings: 280949.105087

OS Grid: TL217809

Mapcode National: GBR J1P.M8B

Mapcode Global: VHGLH.8MT1

Entry Name: Woodwalton moated site, 350m east of Park Farm

Scheduled Date: 3 November 1954

Last Amended: 19 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015197

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27185

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Wood Walton

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Abbots Ripton with Wood Walton

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a large medieval moated site situated to the north of
the Raveley Road on the eastern side of the village of Woodwalton. The moat
occupies a low lying position on the rising ground of the southern margins
of Woodwalton Fen.
The island is triangular in plan, measuring about 160m and 130m along the
straight north western and south western sides, respectively, and 190m along
the eastern side, which has a slight outward curve. The ditch surrounding the
island varies between 5m and 10m in width and between 0.8m and 1.4m in depth.
It is widest and deepest along the south western arm and remains water- filled
at the western corner. The ditch is interrupted by two causeways, both of
which are c.10m in width. The south western entrance lies some 50m from the
western corner and leads into a shallow hollow way crossing the southern part
of the island. This entrance appears to have been created by leaving a gap in
the line of the ditch, and is believed to be contemporary with the occupation
of the site. The second causeway spans the north western arm about 30m from
the western corner. Traces of the inner edge of the ditch remain visible
indicating that the causeway was formed by later infilling, perhaps after the
occupation on the island had ceased.
The surface of the island is marked by a variety of earthworks representing
aspects of its use. A level platform, slightly raised above the general
ground surface and roughly 50m square, lies adjacent to the centre of the
eastern arm of the moat; the three remaining sides of the platform are defined
by shallow banks and scarps. This is considered to be the site of the
principal dwelling, characteristically placed on the opposite side of the
island from the entrance. A group of three fishponds lies to the north of the
platform. The main pond measures about 18m in length, 9m wide and 1m deep,
and is orientated parallel with the eastern arm of the moat. This pond is
linked to the north western arm of the moat by a narrow and largely buried
leat, and remains seasonally wet. The two smaller ponds, now mostly infilled
and dry, lie immediately to the west of the main pond, set at right angles to
the two ends.

A windmill mound stands in the western corner of the island. The mound is
approximately 14m in diameter and 1m high with a flat summit measuring about
8m across. A slight depression in the centre of the summit indicates the
position of the central post which would have allowed the superstructure to be
turned into the wind, and a very slight depression surrounding the mound
(mainly visible on the northern side) is thought to mark the track of the
turning pole.

Towards the centre of the island, slightly to the north of the south western
entrance, is a large semicircular ditch. This has an internal circumference of
20m and measures up to 10m in width and 1.5m in deep. It has been suggested
that this feature is an internal moat, surrounding three sides of a narrow
building platform. The remaining area of the island contains a number of small
infilled ponds and a variety of low-lying undulations which are thought to
reflect the buried remains of further structures such as barns, stables and
other outbuildings. Slight traces of an internal bank can be seen along the
south western and eastern arms of the moat. This is thought to have resulted
from ditch clearance during the period of occupation. A further slight bank,
about 4m in width, flanks the outer edge of the north western arm. This is
also considered to have resulted from ditch cleaning, and is included in the

The moated site may have formed part of the manor of Woodwalton which was held
by the Norman `de Bolbec' family from 1086, and granted to the Abbey of Ramsey
in 1134. The manor was seized by the sons of Aubrey de Sellea in 1143-4,
during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, although it
was later restored to the abbey. The medieval settlement at Woodwalton was
dispersed over a considerable area. The moated site lies towards the south
eastern limit of settlement, the area which subsequently developed as a post-
medieval and modern village. Approximately 2km to the north stands the Castle
Hill motte and bailey castle, the subject of a seperate scheduling, and a
further area of settlement remains has been identified some 500m to the north
of the castle in the vicinity of Higney Grange. The medieval Church of St
Andrew's stands in isolation, in the area between the moated site and the
castle, and was presumably located thus in order to serve both parts of the

All fences and fenceposts within the area of the monument are excluded from
the scheduling, as are the posts which carry an electricity cable across the
site, the ground beneath these features is, however, 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.

The moated site at Woodwalton survives well. The circuit of the moat is
complete and shows little sign of modern disturbance. The fills within the
moat will contain valuable artefactual evidence related to the period of
occupation, and environmental evidence illustrating the appearance of the
landscape in which the monument was set. The island contains visible and
buried evidence for a variety of structures which will represent the character
of the settlement. These include the sites of the main dwelling and various
ancillary buildings, and also a particularly interesting internal moated
feature. The fishponds on the island are a significant illustration of the
economy and status of the site. Ponds of this type are a characteristic
feature of a wide range of medieval settlements. The artifical pools were
constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish in order
to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. On sites such as
Woodwalton, the moat itself would almost certainly have served as part of the
system, although smaller ponds, sometimes clustered together, would have been
used to rear the fry and to separate stocks of differing age or species. The
difficulty of obtaining fresh meat throughout the year was only one reason for
the development of fishponds. The ponds also enabled compliance with religious
dietary requirements (eating fish on Fridays) and served as a status symbol,
enhancing the prestige of the household.
The visible and buried remains of the small fishpond complex at Woodwalton
moated site is a good example of a small nucleated pond group. The silts
within the ponds will retain further artefactual and environmental evidence
related to the period of use.
The mill mound is also an significant indication of the site's economy.
Windmills of the medieval period were wooden structures mounted on central
posts attached to cross timbers embedded in earthen mounds for stability. The
superstructure was rotated to face into the wind by pushing a pole projecting
from the mill on the opposite side to the sails, the end of which was often
supported by a wheel which left a characteristic channel around the mound. The
appearance of the superstructure is only known from documentary evidence as no
medieval examples have survived. The mounds sometimes remain and those, such
as Woodwalton, which are found in association with contemporary monuments are
considered nationally important. The mill mound at Woodwalton retains
evidence for the position of the central post and will contain further
evidence for the structure on which the windmill was mounted. Its presence
signifies part of the agricultural role of the settlement and, as mills were
often controlled by manorial lords, has implications for the social standing
of the moated site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hall, D, Fenland Research, (1984), 6
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 305-7
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 298
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 305-7
Brown, A E, Taylor, C C, 'Proc Cambs Antiq Soc' in Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: III, (1978), 63-4
Brown, A E, Taylor, C C, 'Proc Cambs Antiq Soc' in Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: III, (1978), 63-4
Paterson, H, AM 107 Field Monument Warden's Report (SAM 178), (1987)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Huntingdon, (1926)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Huntingdon, (1926)

Source: Historic England

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