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Westhorpe Hall moated site and associated fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in Westhorpe, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.2819 / 52°16'54"N

Longitude: 1.0054 / 1°0'19"E

OS Eastings: 605103.036589

OS Northings: 269112.983145

OS Grid: TM051691

Mapcode National: GBR SHG.WJ8

Mapcode Global: VHKD3.CXW3

Entry Name: Westhorpe Hall moated site and associated fishponds

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016697

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30567

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Westhorpe

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Westhorpe St Margaret

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The monument includes a moated site and adjacent fishponds bordering the north
side of The Green at the eastern end of Westhorpe village. The moated site
contains the remains of a great house built in the early 16th century by
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and husband of Mary Tudor, the sister of
Henry VIII and dowager Queen of France. There is also some documentary and
archaeological evidence for an earlier manor house on the site.

The 16th century house, which was of great magnificence and was said to have
cost 12,000 pounds, is described in some detail in a survey compiled in 1538.
It was constructed around a courtyard about 38m square with a gatehouse
fronting a bridge across the moat on the west side. The gatehouse was of three
storeys with two square towers at the corners and was ornamented with turrets
and pinnacles. Ranges of two storeys extending to north and south of the
gatehouse defined the western side of the courtyard, and on the south side was
another range, also of two storeys. These ranges contained galleries on each
floor giving access to a series of apartments with inner and outer chambers,
and the range on the north side, though not described, probably followed a
similar plan. The principal apartments were on the east side and included a
hall, great chamber, dining chamber, a tower of two storeys, a chapel and
several smaller rooms, as well as cellars, kitchens, a buttery, a pantry and
other offices. The walls were of brick and embattled, rendered with plaster
painted black and white in a chequer pattern (possibly in imitation of knapped
flint and stone flushwork). The demolition of the house in or around 1750 was
witnessed by Tom Martin, a local antiquarian, who described the manner in
which it was pulled down as `very careless and injudicious' and lamented the
fact that the various ornaments, which appeared as fresh as when first built,
were being broken and crushed.

The moat, which is water-filled and approximately 16m wide, though slightly
narrower on the east side, surrounds a rectangular central platform raised
about 1m above the level of the prevailing ground surface and measuring
approximately 70m east-west by 52m. The eastern half of the southern arm of
the moat has been infilled, although the line of the inner edge is marked here
by a gentle, south-facing scarp, and a causeway approximately 7.5m wide across
the eastern end of the northern arm is also not original.

The outer walls of the 16th century house rose directly above the inner edge
of the moat, and the footings of these walls, constructed of coursed flint
faced with brick, survive as a revetment of the central platform. Evidence for
the survival of buried remains in the interior has also been recorded, and
parts of the footings and floor of a porter's lodge on the south side of the
gatehouse were uncovered during small scale excavations in 1987. The remains
of large rectangular projections are exposed at the north west and south west
corners of the platform, and at the north east corner can be seen part of the
base of a massive rectangular structure, probably a tower, measuring about 10m
east-west by 8.5m and with flint walls still standing to a height of about 1m
above the surface of the platform. The inner face of the east wall is exposed,
showing that it was 1.15m thick. At the south east corner is the outer wall of
a canted structure built of alternating courses of brick and flint with stone
quoins, also standing to a height of up to 1m above the level of the platform.

Dredging of the eastern arm of the moat in 1990 exposed the base of the north
eastern corner structure, showing that it had stone quoins and stood upon a
raft of elm planks above timber piles, and dredging of the northern arm in the
following year revealed details of the north wall surviving below the water
level, including the bases of stepped buttresses and rectangular and hexagonal
projections. At the foot of this wall, below the water, a mass of rubble
including blocks of bonded brick work and fragments of decorative panels and
architectural details such as window mullions in terracotta has been left
largely undisturbed. It is possible that the north eastern corner structure
and the canted structure at the south eastern corner are parts of an earlier
building, incorporated in the 16th century house. The latter is of different
construction to the greater part of the wall, with bricks of different type.
Similar bricks can be seen in the remains of a structure on the west side,
approximately 5m to the south of the bridge, with the broken stubs of walls
projecting outward into the moat and forming a straight joint with the
adjoining brickwork.

The most complete structure visible is the bridge across the western arm of
the moat, which is Listed Grade II and is included in the scheduling. It has
three arches and is faced with brick and, on the south side above the arches,
retains parts of a frieze of terracotta panels, each with Brandon's badge,
the head of a lion, in relief. According to the 16th century inventory, it
originally had parapets with stone pillars to support figures of heraldic
beasts, and although these parapets do not remain in place, fallen fragments
may survive in the moat below. The ruined remains of a brick foot bridge were
also recorded across the eastern arm of the moat, but these are no longer

The house which now stands on the eastern side of the central platform is
largely 18th century in date with modern extensions, although the eastern wing
includes brickwork which may be earlier in date. It is Listed Grade II and is
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

Adjoining the moated site on the south side is a sub-triangular enclosure with
maximum internal dimensions of 105m south west-north east by 98m, bordered by
linear ponds which are believed to have been fishponds, although they may have
been modified in the 16th century to create a water garden. The area enclosed
is raised up to 1.5m above the level of the green to the south west. The pond
on the east side is rectangular and measures approximately 70m in length
NNW-SSE by 13m in width. The northern end was connected to the south east
corner of the moat by a channel which has been partly infilled. The pond on
the south west side is aligned north west-south east and is approximately 142m
long overall and up to 8m wide except at the north western end, where it
expands southwards to a width of about 14m. Towards the south eastern end it
branches into three, with one arm continuing south eastwards, a second
extending south westwards to connect with a stream which probably fed the
system, and the third north westwards towards the southern end of the eastern
pond, to which it was connected by a short channel, probably containing a

According to the Domesday Book, there was a manor in Westhorpe before 1066,
held by Wulfric Hagni under the jurisdiction of St Edmund's Abbey. It changed
hands several times between the mid 13th century and the end of the 14th, and
soon after 1403 it passed to Sir William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. It
remained in the hands of the de la Pole family until the execution of Edmund
de la Pole in 1513 for treason (he was of the Yorkist faction and seen as
having a claim to the throne), and when the widowed Countess Margaret died in
1515, it went to Charles Brandon. His wife, the dowager Queen Mary, died at
the house he built here, and his last recorded visit was in 1537. He died in
1545 and the manor was subsequently among the lands granted to Anne of Cleves
following her divorce from Henry VIII.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the present
house, two greenhouses, a garden shed, modern garden walling, the surfaces of
a farm track along the western side of the moat, a driveway and car park,
paths and paving around the house, inspection chambers, fence posts and
railings, a service pole, propane tanks situated close to the outer edge of
the northern arm of the moat and adjacent clothes line posts; the ground
beneath all these features is however, 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 moated site of Westhorpe Hall is of paticular historical importance
because of its association with Charles Brandon and his wife, and the
surviving descriptions of the great house which he built here show that it was
an outstanding example of early 16th century domestic architecture. The
evidence recorded in limited excavations on the site and in the desilting of
part of the moat, in addition to the remains visible around the central
platform have demonstrated that the monument retains much archaeological
information concerning this house, including a large quantity of architectural
and decorative terracotta.

Archaeological deposits up to 2m in depth have been observed on the central
platform and will include evidence for earlier occupation of the site in
addition to information about the construction, occupation and demolition of
the 16th century building. Organic materials, including evidence for the local
environment in the past are also likely to be preserved in waterlogged
deposits in the moat and in the adjoining fishponds.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Boulter, S, Westhorpe Hall, Archaeological Recording, (1995)
Copinger, W A, The Manors of Suffolk, Volume 3, (1909), 324
Carr, R, Tester, A, Caruth, J, Gill, D, 'Proceedings Suffolk Institute of Archaeology' in Archaeology In Suffolk: Westhorpe Hall, , Vol. 38, (1993), 99
Gunn, S J, Lindley, P G, 'Archaeol J' in Charles Brandon's Westhorpe: an early Tudor Courtyard House, , Vol. 145, (1988), 272-290
Thurley, S, 'Proceedings Suffolk Institute of Archaeology' in Archaeology in Suffolk: Westhorpe Hall, , Vol. 36, (1988), 320
Typescript in SMR parish file,, Thurley, S, Excavations at Westhorpe Hall: An Interim Report, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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