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Moat House moated site and fishponds, 150m north east of Rooks Grove

A Scheduled Monument in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.3858 / 52°23'8"N

Longitude: -0.1866 / 0°11'11"W

OS Eastings: 523511.235848

OS Northings: 277968.91659

OS Grid: TL235779

Mapcode National: GBR J23.FMT

Mapcode Global: VHGLP.Q96C

Entry Name: Moat House moated site and fishponds, 150m north east of Rooks Grove

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016672

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29752

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Abbots Ripton

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 rectangular medieval moated enclosure 150m north east
of Rooks Grove. The moat measures approximately 125m east to west and 50m
north to south, and contains two roughly square islands with associated
fishponds and water control features. Moat House, which is believed to have
been constructed in the early 16th century and extended in subsequent
centuries, stands on the eastern island and is a Grade II Listed Building. It
is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.
The moat surrounding both the islands has been partly infilled. To the north
this infilling, which extends around the north western corner, is partly
overlain by a modern entranceway and a tennis court. To the south, where the
moat is augmented by a low outer bank, a causeway gives access to the eastern
island. The ditch which separates the two islands has also been infilled.
Except where they are overlain by the modern constructions, the infilled
sections are visible as a series of depressions, and all infilled ditches will
survive as buried features. The open lengths of the moat still retain water
and are thought to be fed by surface water, supplemented by seasonal springs.
The eastern island, which is slightly raised, would have contained the
principal medieval dwelling which preceded the present house, while stables
and other outbuildings are believed to have been located on the western
The two large fishponds lie about 20m beyond the eastern arm of the moat.
These ponds are roughly rectangular in shape, aligned east-west and joined at
the west by a north-south channel. The northern pond, which still retains
water, is approximately 2m deep, and has a slight bank on its northern side.
The southern pond and the linking channel are both partly infilled, but will
survive as buried features. An outflow leat (channel), which would have been
controlled by a sluice, links the eastern arm of the moat with the western end
of the northern pond, with a further leat extending eastwards from the
southern pond. These channels have also been partly infilled but will survive
as buried features.
Abbots Ripton was granted to Ramsey Abbey by Earl Alfwold, the grant being
confirmed by King Edgar in 974, and returned as a manor in the Domesday Survey
of 1086. It was held by the Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries
when it was granted by the Crown to Sir John St John. During the tenure of the
St Johns the manor was augmented by the acquisition of further lands formerly
held by Ramsey Abbey and enfoeffed to the Vernon family in the 13th and 14th
centuries. This holding, which was leased to Sir Richard Cromwell in 1535, is
known to have included a manor house site which may be that of Moat House.
Sir John's descendant Oliver, Earl of Bolingbroke, conveyed the manor to Hugh
Awdley in 1640. Litigation following Awdley's death in 1662 led to the manor
being apportioned between his great nephews, Nicholas and Thomas Bonfoy. The
manor was reintegrated by their children, Hugh and Susan, in 1686, passing,
through Susan's marriage, to the Caesar family who sold the manor. By 1794
the greater part had been acquired by William Henry Fellowes, the remainder
passing to the descendants of Susan's cousin Hugh Bonfoy.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are Moat House,
all standing structures, all walls, fences, fence posts, gates, modern made
surfaces, the tennis court, the central heating fuel tank, the plank bridge
across the southern arm of the moat, the steps and platform immediately
adjacent to the eastern arm of the moat and all garden features; the ground
beneath all these items 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.

Moat House is a good example of a double island moated site. Although parts
of the eastern island have been overlain by later buildings, these demonstrate
the continuity of occupation from the medieval and early post-medieval
periods. Other features related to the period of occupation such as wells,
yard surfaces and refuse pits will also survive well, buried below the present
ground surface. The ditches, both open and infilled, will provide detailed
information concerning the water management system, and will 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.

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, which could be transferred to other bodies of water such
as moats. 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 at the Moat House site form an integral part of the complex and
represent an important component of the medieval landscape, created to support
the manorial economy. The northern fishpond is a particularly well-preserved
visible feature which may retain further waterlogged deposits relating both to
its use and to the site in general. The area around and between the two ponds
is expected to contain archaeological features and deposits associated with
their use and may further elucidate the way in which the water management
system operated.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crowther, D R, Etchells-Butler, S, Medieval Village Survey, (1983)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1932), 203

Source: Historic England

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