Ancient Monuments

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Bruce's Castle: moated site immediately east of Bruce's Castle Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.4463 / 52°26'46"N

Longitude: -0.2592 / 0°15'33"W

OS Eastings: 518406.919801

OS Northings: 284572.542261

OS Grid: TL184845

Mapcode National: GBR J17.M8Y

Mapcode Global: VHGL8.GS91

Entry Name: Bruce's Castle: moated site immediately east of Bruce's Castle Farm

Scheduled Date: 27 October 1954

Last Amended: 27 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017844

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29708

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Sawtry

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Holme St Giles

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval moated site known as Bruce's Castle, situated
on the western side of Duckpit Fen, immediately to the east of Bruce's Castle

The island is roughly square, measuring approximately 80m by 100m, and is
defined by a substantial moat 6m wide by a minimum of 3m deep, which retains
water in all but the western arm. The outer edge of the moat is not embanked,
but a slight inner bank survives along the western edge of the island. A leat,
or channel, at the south eastern angle is now connected to a modern field
drain. Several water-filled hollows beyond the eastern arm of the moat are
thought to be the result of later activities around the site and this area is
not included in the scheduling.

The site takes its name from Bernard de Brus who built a manor house here in
about 1242. The antiquarian, William Camden, was sufficiently impressed by
the derelict remains of the manor house to term the site `a castle'. However,
by the late 16th century even these had disappeared, with a map drawn by the
owner, Sir Robert Cotton, in 1595 depicting the island as tree covered and
referring to it simply as `the old site'. Nevertheless, an Inquisition of 1279
makes it clear that the manorial complex here was both large and prestigious.

The Inquisition details a hall with wings to east and west, the west wing
having a chapel at the southern end and a room to the north called `The Great
Sklat (Slate) Chamber'. This hall was probably located towards the centre of
the island where traces of a raised platform still remain.

According to the Inquisition, a gatehouse was situated to the north of the
house, with a herbary between the two. The gatehouse had a drawbridge and
stables to either side with a large room - `Le Garite' (garret or attic)
above. To the east of the gatehouse were barns. The probable site of the
gatehouse is indicated by a narrow causeway across the northern arm of the
moat, and animal disturbance of the ground surface of the island in this
northern area has revealed building debris. The debris showed signs of
burning, suggesting the possibility that the site's abandonment resulted from
a disastrous fire.

The south eastern corner was occupied by a bakehouse, yard and fishpond. The
fishpond is still a visible feature, 15m long by 1.7m wide, and irregularities
on the ground in this corner of the island may indicate the site of the

The south western corner is said by the Inquisition to have held a vineyard, a
term which was also used to refer to orchards, particularly of pears which
were frequently used in the medieval period to make wine.

A road running north from the moated site gave access to Barn Yard Close which
is said to have contained a great barn, hay house and dove house. None of
these features can now be traced. The area which they would have occupied to
the immediate north of the moated site has been considerably disturbed and it
is not, therefore, included in the scheduling.

All fences, fence posts and the pheasant pen and its accessories are excluded
from the scheduling, 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.

Bruce's Castle is a well preserved and impressive moated site. The water-
filled moat will contain valuable evidence in the form of artefacts and
environmental deposits illustrating the lifestyle of the occupants and the
nature of the landscape in which the monument was set. Little disturbance has
taken place within the island and this will retain buried evidence in the form
of foundations and foundation trenches, surfaces, and building debris for the
hall, gatehouse and other structures.

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 fishpond at Bruce's Castle survives as a distinctive feature and is
clearly identifiable with the fishpond detailed in 13th century documents.
Although partly infilled, the lower silts will contain waterlogged artefacts
and environmental deposits relating both to its own use and to the site in

The existence of detailed documentary records from the period of the site's
occupation in the 13th century, together with a high level of archaeological
preservation, combine to make Bruce's Castle an outstanding example of this
class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W, Proby, G , The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1936), 145
Page, W, Proby, G , The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1936), 145
Source Date: 1595
plan of Conington and district

Source: Historic England

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