Ancient Monuments

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Gesyns: moated site 600m south east of Elms Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Ashley, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.2234 / 52°13'24"N

Longitude: 0.4963 / 0°29'46"E

OS Eastings: 570604.332239

OS Northings: 261287.490493

OS Grid: TL706612

Mapcode National: GBR PCL.D9V

Mapcode Global: VHJGR.KC7X

Entry Name: Gesyns: moated site 600m south east of Elms Farm

Scheduled Date: 13 October 1980

Last Amended: 12 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017885

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29710

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Ashley

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Ashley St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes the medieval moated site known as Gesyns, situated in
woodland some 600m south east of Elms Farm.

The island is roughly kidney shaped in plan, measuring about 70m long by 50m
wide. No features can be traced on the island other than a slight linear
depression running east to west across the interior, which was probably
intended to separate former buildings from an area of garden or herbary. The
eastern end of this depression corresponds with traces of a causeway across
the moat. This is thought to be the original entrance way, that to the south
east being a modern construction.

The moat itself is substantial, measuring some 16m wide and up to 3m deep.
Only the straight, northern arm is damp and it is thought that the moat was
never intended to retain water. A low bank 1.3m high and varying between 2m
and 6m in width follows the outer edge of the moat on all sides except the
north. To the east the bank dips, again at a point level with the causeway.

The moated site takes its name from the de Guisnes family who held the manor
of Ashley between 1166 and 1303. By 1338 the manor was held by the Knights
Hospitallers under Roger de Dalton, a formar Templar. However, in 1356 a Roger
de Guisnes witnessed a local land grant, implying that the de Guisnes family
was still active in the area at this time.

A second moated site known as Sylhall is situated about 500m to the south west
of Gesyns. No physical or documentary evidence can be traced to suggest a
connection between the two sites, which were formerly in separate parishes and
apparently attached to different manors. The moated site in Sylhall Plantation
is the subject of a separate scheduling.

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.

Gesyns is a well preserved and largely undisturbed moated site of unusual
form. The simple layout implies that it was constructed for a specific
function. The exceptionally substantial ditch with its outer bank may
indicate that the site originated early in the post-Conquest period. At this
time there was a need both for defence and for strong visual statements of the
intended permanence of the new Norman regime. Gesyns would seem to fulfill
both requirements, particularly when considered with a second, similar site
500m to the south west.

The island will retain archaeological deposits relating to the dating, period
of occupation and use of the site, such as building remains, yard surfaces,
refuse pits and wells. The moat will contain environmental evidence to
illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Fischer, S R, The Ashley Manuscripts, (1986)
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948), 261

Source: Historic England

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