Ancient Monuments

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Moated site 215m south of Chancel Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Wicken, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.3078 / 52°18'28"N

Longitude: 0.3119 / 0°18'42"E

OS Eastings: 557710.425565

OS Northings: 270263.692662

OS Grid: TL577702

Mapcode National: GBR N91.7PC

Mapcode Global: VHHJT.C874

Entry Name: Moated site 215m south of Chancel Farm

Scheduled Date: 20 October 1971

Last Amended: 29 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017845

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29711

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Wicken

Built-Up Area: Wicken

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Wicken St Laurence

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval moated site situated 215m south of Chancel
Farm, in a copse on the northern edge of Little Fen.

The island, which is rectangular in plan, measures approximately 23.1m north
to south and 53.6m east to west. It is defined by a water-filled moat
averaging 3.6m wide and up to 1.2m deep. Traces of leats to the north east and
south west indicate the remains of inlet and overflow channels which are now
incorporated into the modern drainage system.

A slight bank, increasing in height from west to east, is visible along the
outer edge of the northern arm of the moat. A dip towards the centre of this
bank corresponds with a causeway across the moat. These features are believed
to be remnants of the original entrance to the island which would have given
access to the small medieval settlement, which is not included in the
scheduling, thought to have been located in the area now occupied by Hall Farm
and Chancel Farm.

The island is edged by a low bank up to 5m in width which is most apparent to
the north where it is also broken at the point of the causeway. To the south
of the causeway, approximately at the centre of the island, there is a
slightly raised rectangular area some 20m north-south and 10m wide which is
thought to represent the platform of the principal building.

The western area of the island contains three roughly rectangular fishponds.
The largest, to the north, is orientated east-west and is about 20m long by 8m
wide. The two smaller ponds are situated to the south, lying at right angles
to the larger pond, and are of similar size to each other, being approximately
8m long by 4m wide. All the ponds retain water and are some 2m deep. No trace
of connecting leats can now be seen on the ground, but evidence for these
channels may survive as buried features.

The moated site may have been associated with the medieval manor of Wicken, or
Wykes, and was, perhaps, the location of an early manor house which was
subsequently replaced by another dwelling further to the north. However, its
size and proximity to the Monks Lode, a waterway to the south, suggest
that it may have been attached to Spinney Abbey. The abbey, some 2.5km to the
north west, was united with that of Ely in the 15th century after it had
failed as an Augustinian foundation. The moated site may represent an
outlying monastic grange associated with agricultural or fish-rearing

All fences and fenceposts 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.

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 215m south of Chancel Farm survives largely undisturbed and
represents one of the best preserved monuments of its kind in Cambridgeshire.
Situated to the south of the site of the presumed location of the original
village, the monument is, apart from the parish church, the only visual
surviving feature of the medieval period.

The island will contain evidence for buildings in the form of buried
foundations and the impressions of timber structures, as well as other buried
features related to the period of occupation such as yard surfaces and refuse
pits. The ditches will provide detailed information concerning the water
management system, and will contain waterlogged deposits from which both
artefacts and environmental evidence can be retrieved, illustrating 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 this moated site form an integral part of the settlement, and
represent an important component of the medieval landscape perhaps created to
support the economy of Spinney Abbey. The ponds are well preserved as visible,
waterlogged features which may retain further environmental evidence relating
both to their use and to the site in general.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cambs., (1851), 396
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948), 45
ammunition dump said to be on site, James, R, Moated site at Wicken: military activities in area, (1997)
oblique monochrome print, BFH 28, (1971)
search for the Masquerade golden hare, James, R, Moated site at Wicken: digging on the moated island, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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