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Moated site known as Franklin's Island

A Scheduled Monument in Highwood, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7109 / 51°42'39"N

Longitude: 0.3838 / 0°23'1"E

OS Eastings: 564789.441723

OS Northings: 204039.693593

OS Grid: TL647040

Mapcode National: GBR NJ9.MVY

Mapcode Global: VHJK6.L8R8

Entry Name: Moated site known as Franklin's Island

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017002

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33259

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Highwood

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Highwood St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a medieval moated site known as Franklin's Island which
is located towards the northern boundary of Writtle Park, 250m to the north
west of Writtle Park Farm and 490m to the north west of Writtle Park House.

The moated site includes a rectangular island measuring approximately 26m
north west-south east by a maximum of 18m north east-south west. The island is
contained by a dry moat or ditch which measures approximately 8m wide and
between 1.5m and 2m deep. A modern causeway crosses the south western arm of
the moat. The south eastern arm has been infilled although it survives as a
buried feature.

The moated site, which is marked as Franklin's Island on the 1874 1st edition
25 inch Ordnance Survey map, is situated on the extreme northern boundary of
Writtle Park. The manor of Writtle was an important royal demesne estate
dating from before the Norman Conquest. Writtle Deer Park is first mentioned
in 1200 and in 1280 Richard Bruis, the owner, was given eight doe and four
buck from Hatfield Forest by Edward I as breeding stock. Oliver Rackham in his
research on deer parks found that nearly all parks had a lodge, often with a
viewing tower, which was sited on high ground to provide views over much of
the park. The moated site of Franklin's Island, which occurs on the Writtle
Estate maps of 1783 and 1841 and the 1843 Tithe map, occupies just such a
position on one of the highest points in Writtle Park. In their 1993 Historic
Landscape Survey of Writtle Park, D E and N R Bannister uncovered The Manor of
Writtle Court Roll of 1406-7 which records an agreement with a tiler to repair
all the defects in certain buildings on the estate, including the lodge in
Writtle Park. Medieval tile and pottery has been recovered from the island and
is also evident in the margin of the cultivated fields surrounding the site.
It is therefore considered highly probable that Franklin's Island represents
the site of the park keeper's lodge.

As prominent features of the park landscape, lodges were deliberately sited
to impress visitors approaching the house. This may be evident at Writtle Park
as the 1783 Estate map shows the northern entrance to Writtle Park from Edney
Common extending past the south east side of Franklin's Island before linking
up with the main southern entrance immediately to the south of the main house.

A modern field drain visible in the northern corner of the moat ditch, is
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is 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.

Despite some infilling of the south eastern arm the moated site known as
Franklin's Island survives well. The island is largely undisturbed and will
retain buried evidence for structures and other features relating to its
former use. The buried silts in the base of the ditches will contain both
artefacts relating to the period of occupation and environmental evidence for
the appearance of the landscape in which the moated site was set. Although
comparatively small, its size and simplicity of design may reflect a
specialised use, such as implied by the documentary evidence, setting and
surface finds. If it was indeed the site of the park lodge, as seems probable,
the monument may well retain significant information regarding the park
management and duration of use.

Franklin's Island lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous,
enabling chronological and social variations to be explored. Further moated
sites are situated at Fithlers Hall Farm, Willingale, 1.1km to the west, at
Wards Farm, 1.25km to the west, at Moor Hall, 2.4km to the north and the royal
hunting lodge at King John's Palace, 4km to the north east. Comparative
studies between these sites and with further examples from other regions will
provide valuable insights into the development of settlement and many other
aspects of medieval society in England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Rackham, O, The Last Forest: The Story of Hatfield Forest, (1989)
Essex Record Office: E/WR1, Bannister, N R, Bannister, D E, Historic Landscape Survey of Writtle Forest and Park, (1993)
NMR: TL 60 SW 9, RCHM, (1975)
Title: 1st Edition 25" Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date: 1874
Essex Record Office: 52/9
Title: Estate Map of Writtle
Source Date: 1783
Essex Record Office: D/DP P35
Title: Plan of the Estates of Writtle and Roxwell
Source Date: 1841
Essex Record Office: D/DP P113
Title: Tithe Map of Writtle
Source Date: 1843
Essex Record Office: D/CT 414

Source: Historic England

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