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Double moated site of Old Hall, 250m north west of Church Farm

A Scheduled Monument in South Acre, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6987 / 52°41'55"N

Longitude: 0.6798 / 0°40'47"E

OS Eastings: 581179.301673

OS Northings: 314589.754974

OS Grid: TF811145

Mapcode National: GBR Q7B.YGB

Mapcode Global: WHKQP.DFZH

Entry Name: Double moated site of Old Hall, 250m north west of Church Farm

Scheduled Date: 10 February 1981

Last Amended: 19 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015269

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21417

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: South Acre

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: South Acre St George

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes, two adjacent but distinct moated enclosures which are
believed to be the site of South Acre manor, located on the south side of the
River Nar, c.250m north east of St George's Parish Church. On the opposite
side of the river lies the precinct of Castle Acre priory, which is the
subject of a separate scheduling (SM 21416). Both the moated sites contain the
visible remains of substantial masonry structures, including buildings, and in
the area between them are the buried remains of another building, also
included in the scheduling.

The western moated site is sub rectangular in plan and has overall maximum
dimensions of c.87m north-south by 71m. The moat ditch, which has become
partly silted but remains waterlogged and usually contains some water, has
a visible depth of c.1.5m and varies in width between 15m in the western arm
and c.10m in the eastern arm. The northern end of the eastern arm projects
towards the river to which it would have been connected by a sluice, and here
it is separated from the eastern end of the northern arm by a baulk c.7m wide.
Between the northern arm and the river there is a low earthen retaining dam
c.0.5m high and c.5m wide. The moat surrounds a raised central platform up to
c.0.4m in height above the prevailing ground surface. Access to the interior
was by means of a bridge across the eastern end of the southern arm. The
remains of the northern end of this bridge are visible as a massive block of
flint rubble masonry c.7.75m wide projecting from the inner face of the moat
ditch, and there is a corresponding projection in the outer face which is
likely also to contain buried masonry.

On the southern half of the central platform and along the north eastern side
there are earthworks up to 0.5m in height which contain further fragments of
flint rubble masonry and exposed wall footings up to c.1m thick, representing
the remains of buildings which appear to have been ranged around a
rectangular, walled courtyard.

The second moated site is c.26m to the east of the other and is rectangular in
plan, with maximum overall dimensions of 82.5m north west-south east by c.69m.
The moat ditch, which has become partly infilled and is now dry, ranges from
c.10m to c.15m in width and has a visible depth of between 0.5m in the western
and c.1.5m in the eastern arm. The upper part of the outer edge of the
northern arm has probably been eroded by the river which runs alongside it,
but the eastern end of it remains visible as a slight scarp c.0.3m in height,
and the rest of it will survive as a buried feature. A causeway c.7m wide
across the western arm provides access to the interior.

Within the moated area the outlines of parts of two large buildings can be
traced, defined by flint rubble wall footings visible on or just below the
ground surface and by earthen mounds and banks up to c.1m in height covering
areas of fallen and upstanding masonry. In dry conditions some of these buried
walls can also be seen as parch marks in the grass, and as such have been
recorded by means of aerial photography. The larger of the two buildings
occupies the central and western part of the moated site, opposite the
causeway, and was probably of open `E' plan, c.30m in length, with a central
block c.7m wide aligned NNW-SSE and wings projecting westwards at either end,
Another, smaller extension measuring c.6m east-west by c.4m projects eastwards
from the southern end of the central block. The second building, immediately
to the south east of this, is on a similar alignment, and is rectangular, with
maximum dimensions of c.24m NNW-SSE by c.7.5m.

The southern end of the interior of the moated site was probably surrounded by
another wall, evidence for which includes parch marks, recorded along the
southern and south eastern margins, and earthen mounds c.0.5m in height at the
south western and south eastern internal angles of the moat.

The remains of the small building between the two moats are visible in another
earthen mound c.1m in height standing opposite the causeway across the western
arm of the eastern moat and close to the outer edge of the eastern arm of the
western moat. The building measures c.6m east-west by c.4m, with an entrance
at the west end.

In the early 12th century the manor of Southacre was held from Earl Warenne by
Sir Eudo de Harsick, who was castellan of Castle Acre. He and his successors
were also benefactors of Castle Acre priory, endowing it with various gifts of
land. The manor was held by the Harsick family until the death of Sir John
Harsick in 1454, after which it passed by marriage successively to the
Dorward, Fotheringay, Beaupre and Bell families until sold c.1621 to Edward
Barkham, Lord Mayor of London. It was conveyed to Sir Andrew Fountaine of
Narham in 1703. The buildings on the two moated sites are thought to be the
remains of successive manor houses, and the building between the two has been
identified as a free chapel which was founded by the Harsicks for their
private use. A medieval brass and other memorials to the Harsick family are
preserved within the parish church nearby.

Modern fences surrounding the two moats are excluded from the scheduling,
together with an animal shelter constructed of wood and tarpaulin which is
situated between them, and a service pole within the eastern moat, although
the ground beneath these features is included.

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

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 double moated site of Old Hall survives very well with extensive remains
of what are believed to be at least two successive manor houses, and the
survival of these two distinct sets of buildings, unobscured by later
occupation of the site, are of particular value for comparative study in
relation to the documented history of the manor. Organic materials, including
evidence for the local environment, are also likely to be preserved in
waterlogged deposits in the western moat, and the buried ground surface
beneath the raised platform enclosed by the same moat will retain
archaeological evidence for earlier land use. The historical association of
the Harsick family with Castle Acre and Castle Acre priory on the opposite
side of the river give the monument additional interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 77-89
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 79
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 77-87

Source: Historic England

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