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King's Court Palace moated site

A Scheduled Monument in Gillingham, Dorset

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Latitude: 51.036 / 51°2'9"N

Longitude: -2.2605 / 2°15'37"W

OS Eastings: 381828.528541

OS Northings: 126327.966712

OS Grid: ST818263

Mapcode National: GBR 0VP.Z68

Mapcode Global: FRA 664C.Z0L

Entry Name: King's Court Palace moated site

Scheduled Date: 30 January 1952

Last Amended: 17 May 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017276

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33532

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Gillingham

Built-Up Area: Gillingham

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Motcombe St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a moated site known as King's Court Palace, the site of
a medieval royal hunting lodge, situated near the confluence of the River
Lodden and Fern Brook.
The moated site is defined by a ditch, internal bank and partial external bank
which enclose a rectangular area 95m by 56m. The ditch is deepest on the
northern and eastern sides where it is up to 12m wide and 1.7m deep. On the
western side it measures 8m wide and 0.8m deep. The moat was probably water-
filled and fed from the River Lodden at the north west corner of the site. The
inner bank is best preserved on the western and northern sides where it
averages 16m wide and up to 1.3m high. It has been disturbed on the south and
south eastern sides where platforms have been cut into it, possibly in the
area of the original buildings. In the late 18th century Hutchins recorded
that foundations were formerly visible in one corner of the site forming an
`L'-shaped block. The inner bank has been reduced considerably in height at
the north eastern corner, creating a gap with an external platform. There is
an external bank on the lower western and southern sides, with a short stretch
at the north western corner, 12m wide and up to 1.5m high. There is no
indication of the original entrance, but it is likely to have been at or near
the south western corner where there is a gap in the two banks and a causeway
across the ditch. Two rectangular platforms on the inner bank either side of
this gap may suggest the location of the 14th century gatehouse referred to in
contemporary documents. The site is crossed by a modern trackway which bridges
the ditch and truncates the banks at the south western corner and diagonally
on the northern side. The earthworks are truncated by shallow drainage
ditches, probably modern in origin, on the southern and western sides of the
site. The moated site lies within Gillingham deer park, the boundary bank of
which is the subject of a separate scheduling (DO 796).
Gillingham was recorded as a royal manor in the Domesday survey. Henry I
issued a charter in 1132, suggesting a residence at the site by that date.
King John ordered extensive alterations to the house which were begun in 1199
and completed by 1203 when a feast was held to mark the opening of the castle.
He visited the site every year until 1214. Further additions, alterations and
repairs were made in Henry III's reign between 1249 and 1260 which included
the construction of the moat, curtain wall, drawbridge and gatehouse, and a
hedge around the courtyard which was later replaced by oak railings. Further
repairs are recorded up to 1354. In 1369 Edward III ordered the demolition of
the buildings and the sale of the materials. In the late 18th century
foundations of the building were dug up and the stone used for road repairs.
All fence posts and poles supporting overhead power lines are excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.

King's Court Palace moated site is a well preserved example of its class in an
area of the country where moated sites are rare. It will contain
archaeological deposits providing information about medieval high society, the
local economy and landscape. The survival of many contemporary documents
referring to the royal residence is unusual, and these provide details of the
buildings and rooms in the house and allow a fuller understanding of the
nature and development of the site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Historical Mounuments in the County of Dorset: Volume IV, (1972), 51-2
Hutchins, J, History of Dorset: Volume III, (1868), 618-9

Source: Historic England

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