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Moated site in Toseland Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Toseland, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.2536 / 52°15'12"N

Longitude: -0.188 / 0°11'16"W

OS Eastings: 523783.534805

OS Northings: 263257.134534

OS Grid: TL237632

Mapcode National: GBR J3N.M9C

Mapcode Global: VHGM8.PMG8

Entry Name: Moated site in Toseland Wood

Scheduled Date: 22 October 1954

Last Amended: 10 June 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017881

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27925

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Toseland

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Toseland

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval moated site situated in Toseland Wood, 600m
north of Green Farm. The site is prominently located on a ridge of high
ground north of the village of Toseland, in countryside which is generally
The island is roughly rectangular, measuring some 80m by 54m, and is defined
by a substantial moat which, although partly silted, is still seasonally
water-filled and is thought to be fed by springs or surface water. The moat
measures up to 3m deep and 3.5m wide, with a low external bank following most
of its circuit except to the south and the south western corner. No traces of
structures can be seen on the island which is generally level. The access
bridges across the eastern and western arms are of modern date and are not
included in the scheduling. However, the eastern access point, which is
aligned with a break in the external bank, is considered to reflect the
original entrance to the island.
An extension of the moat's southern arm, runs eastwards towards the eastern
boundary of Toseland Wood: a distance of about 80m. The first 16m, which is
also seasonally water-filled, is particularly well defined and the extension
is believed to have turned to the north at this point to form a small
secondary enclosure. A narrow, water-filled tongue 34m long by 6m wide,
situated some 8m to the north, is considered to represent the remains of this
return, which curves in towards the eastern access point and which would have
been intended to enhance the setting of the entrance way. It is thought that
the subsequent infilling which detached this section from the southern
extension was carried out to create a fishpond during a later period of
occupation. The remaining 64m of the southern extension are less distinct and
dry as a result of accumulated silting, but this section of the ditch,
following a gentle slope, would once have carried excess water away from the
moat system.
An oval fishpond 33m long by 10m wide is connected by a leat approximately 20m
long running from its northern edge to the south western angle of the moat. A
second leat at the western end of the pond curves to the north to join a
straight ditch running westward from the western arm of the moat just north of
the south western corner. This ditch is between 0.5m and 2m deep with slight
banks on both sides. It is about 6m wide where it joins the moat, gradually
narrowing to about 2m as it continues to the west.
A further fishpond, known as Lordship Pond, is situated some 70m to the south.
Lordship Pond is oval in shape, measuring about 20m long by 8m wide. Midway
between the two ponds is a roughly circular shallow depression about 7m in
diameter. This is thought to be a third pond which has been largely infilled.
There are traces of an outflow leat on the southern edge of Lordship Pond, and
a leat to the east is now infilled and buried, while ground surface
irregularities in the field to the north indicate the courses of further
buried leats connecting the three ponds.
The system of ditches, ponds and leats would have been designed both to
regulate the water level around the island and, taking advantage of the hill
slope, to provide a gravity-induced water flow suitable for the keeping and
rearing of fish.
The ditch running from the western arm of the moat, together with the upper
pond and its leats, now forms part of the modern drainage system within
Toseland Wood, having been extended and elaborated to the west where
additional drains run north to south. These modern extensions and additions
are not included in the scheduling.
Toseland - Toli's lundre (grove) - takes its name from Toli, an earl of this
district who died at the battle of Tempsford in 921, and Toseland itself was a
secondary moot for the Hundred in which it is situated. There is, however, no
evidence to connect Earl Toli with the moated site, which would probably have
been constructed after the Norman Conquest. The moated site's size,
elaboration and prominent location all imply a prestigious manorial complex,
and this is, perhaps, supported by the Domesday Survey of 1086 which records
that the manor of Toseland was in the Honour of Huntingdon and tenanted by
Robert Taillebois, a kinsman of William the Conqueror.
All fences, fence posts, stiles, bridges and pheasant rearing equipment are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

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 in Toseland Wood survives as a largely undisturbed and well
preserved example. The island and the secondary enclosure will contain buried
evidence for former buildings as well as other 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 to illustrate 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 the Toseland Wood moated site form an integral part of the
settlement and represent an important component of the medieval landscape.
This system of fishponds and leats, preserved as visible and buried features,
is one of the most complete examples in the region. The upper pond and
Lordship Pond are particularly well-preserved and may retain further
waterlogged deposits relating to their use and to the site in general.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1932), 374
Meaney, A L, 'Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society' in Hundreds and Wapentake Meeting Places of the Cambridgeshire Region, , Vol. LXXXII, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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