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Roundabout Wood moated site, fishponds, and farming and settlement remains

A Scheduled Monument in Bledlow-cum-Saunderton, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7143 / 51°42'51"N

Longitude: -0.8516 / 0°51'5"W

OS Eastings: 479434.017053

OS Northings: 202351.636144

OS Grid: SP794023

Mapcode National: GBR C2Q.FHV

Mapcode Global: VHDVQ.654N

Entry Name: Roundabout Wood moated site, fishponds, and farming and settlement remains

Scheduled Date: 21 April 1972

Last Amended: 25 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015211

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27159

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Bledlow-cum-Saunderton

Built-Up Area: Princes Risborough

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Bledlow with Saunderton and Horsenden

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument is situated within a shallow vale between Saunderton and
Horsenden, some 400m south of Horseden House. It includes a small medieval
moated site located in Roundabout Wood, together with an area of adjacent
settlement and cultivation earthworks and a number of associated ditches and
fishponds, created to manage and exploit the water courses which converge in
this area.
The moated island is roughly rectangular in plan, orientated north west to
south east and measuring 50m by 30m. The surrounding ditch is normally
water-filled and averages 6m in width and 1.5m in depth, the base containing
deep deposits of accumulated silt. In the absence of a causeway, access to the
island is thought to have originally been provided by a bridge and, although
the surface of the island is level and shows no superficial indications of the
structures which stood here, buried foundations and other features are
indicated by fragments of tile, stone and medieval pottery brought to the
surface by burrowing animals.
An incomplete furlong of medieval ridge and furrow extends across the area
between the moated site and the south western boundary of the pasture, the
pattern of ridges orientated in line with the moated site and extending for
some 140m to the north west. The height of the earthworks (which is rarely
greater than 0.3m) indicates that the period of cultivation was limited, and
both the ridges and a shallow ditch which mark their northern extent, were
later in the medieval period overlain by a series of fishponds running
parallel to the north western arm of the moat. Over an area 150m in length,
there are three rectangular ponds each approximately 1m deep and 20m wide.
Water still enters via a leat at the southern end, although the sluice gates
which would have dammed the narrow channels between the ponds have long since
disappeared, and the base of the ponds are now waterlogged rather than water-
filled. The original outflow channel (now largely infilled) emerges from the
northern pond and is visible as a single scarp extending across the floor of
the vale parallel to the north eastern arm of the moat. A later outflow leat
(not included in the scheduling) runs north east towards the ornamental pond
in the garden of Horsenden House. The water level in the ponds was also
regulated by a leat, now dry, which cuts across the ridge and furrow to the
north of the southern pond. This channel is included in the scheduling
together with a sample, 10m in width, of the cultivation earthworks to the
The area of an associated settlement is marked by a series of slightly raised
building platforms, which extend to the south of the moated site as far as the
southern boundary of the ancient pasture (now marked by a line of tree
stumps). The platforms average c.20m by 30m, and are divided by shallow
gulleys. These were evidently used to drain this rather wet area, and lead
into two main drainage ditches. One channel extends to the north west along
the present field boundary and joins the supply leat at the southern end of
the fishponds. The other ditch passes to the north of a small pond on the
southern edge of the settlement earthworks and then continues (largely
infilled) to the north east, where it is thought to have drained into a large
fishpond cut into the lowest part of the valley floor. This seasonally wet
pond is approximately 1.4m deep, 60m in length, and measures c.35m between the
artificial scarps to the east and west. An earthen dam, c.10m in width, forms
an arc between the scarps, separating this pond from a still larger pond which
extends some 200m to the south. These ponds are thought to be a later
development on the site, perhaps post-medieval in date and possibly part of a
more extensive series including the (now ornamental) pond in the gardens to
the north. In order to preserve the archaeological relationship between these
features and the moated site and settlement remains, the pond to the north of
the dam together with a sample of the pond to the south is included in the
scheduling. The field in which the moated site is situated is termed `Browns'
on the enclosure map of 1807. This is thought to refer to a manor, later known
by that name, which came into existence as a result of the division in 1236 of
one of the two manors of Saunderton, Saunderton St Nicholas, into three parts
following the death of Roger de Sanford in 1235. The third share of the manor
passed to his daughter Maud, and to her son Ralph Brown by 1300. Purchased in
1374-5 by Roger Braybrook, the manor remained in the possession of the
Braybrooke family until 1432. It was last mentioned as a distinct holding in

The horse jumps located within the area of the monument are excluded from the
scheduling together with all fences and fenceposts, although the ground
beneath these items is included in order to protect buried archaeological

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 Roundabout Wood survives in a very good condition. The
island is undisturbed by excavation or later development and will retain
buried structural remains as well as other features relating to the period of
occupation. Artefacts found both here and within the silts of the surrounding
ditch will provide evidence for the date of construction, the duration of the
site's use and the date of abandonment; environmental evidence from the ditch
silts will also provide insights into the appearance and management of the
landscape in which the monument was set.
The moated site is surrounded by evidence for an impressive water management
system, required both to drain the settlement areas and to feed the moat and
adjacent fishponds. Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving
fresh water constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing
fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. They were
largely the province of the wealthier sectors of medieval society, and are
considered highly significant as a source of information for the economy of
various classes of secular and religious settlement. The fishponds adjacent to
the moated site at Roundabout Wood are well preserved and represent
contrasting forms which reflect the increasing exploitation of this resource;
a change clearly demonstrated by the abandonment of arable cultivation in
favour of the construction of the northern range of ponds.
The direct association between the moated site and the adjacent settlement
earthworks is also of particular interest. The relationship between these two
contrasting yet interdependent settlement forms provides valuable insights
into the economic operation of the manor, and social differences in the
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 253-55
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 92-95
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 253-55
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 92-95
Simmons, H E S, 'Simmons Collection (British mills)' in Watermills of Buckinghamshire, , Vol. 2/21, (1989)
Comment on Enclosure Map (BRO IR/61R), Pike, A, 0307: Roundabout Wood, (1980)
Title: 1:2500
Source Date: 1972

Source: Historic England

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