Ancient Monuments

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Sylhall: moated site 520m south of Elms Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Ashley, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.2218 / 52°13'18"N

Longitude: 0.4895 / 0°29'22"E

OS Eastings: 570146.789346

OS Northings: 261095.915866

OS Grid: TL701610

Mapcode National: GBR PCK.QL3

Mapcode Global: VHJGR.FFM4

Entry Name: Sylhall: moated site 520m south of Elms Farm

Scheduled Date: 12 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017886

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29721

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Ashley

Built-Up Area: Ashley

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Ashley St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval moated site situated 520m south of Elms Farm
in Sylhall Plantation.

The island is roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 80m east to west and
70m north to south, and defined by a substantial `V'-shaped dry moat averaging
11m in width and 3m deep. The outer edges of both the island and the moat are
embanked to a height of about 1m.

The northern and eastern arms of the moat display traces of central causeways
which correspond with dips in both the internal and external banks and are
considered to be original. The northern causeway would have given access to a
trackway running between the village of Ashley and St Mary's Church (the
remains of the church are the subject of a separate scheduling), while the
eastern causeway would have probably connected with the road between Ashley
and Silverley. This road was known as The Stool Way in the 14th century and is
now the B1063. Slight causeways near the southern corner are thought to be
later additions. There are no visible structures on the island but three
raised areas in the western half are considered to indicate the probable sites
of former buildings.

The name Sylhall is thought to be a corruption of Silverley Hall and, as such,
may refer to the manor of Silverley. The manor was held under the Veres by
the Arsick family in the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) and documentary
evidence suggests that the Arsicks were tenants until at least 1340. In time,
the manor of Silverley passed, together with the manor of Ashley, to Sir
Edward North, and by about 1800 it was owned by the Earl of Guildford.

A second moated site known as Gesyns is situated about 500m to the north east.
There is no evidence to suggest that the two sites were interrelated. During
the medieval period they were in separate parishes and apparently associated
with different manors. The Gesyns moated site is the subject of a separate

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 Sylhall Plantation is a well preserved and largely
undisturbed example of this monument class. The moat's unusual form,
simplicity of plan and substantial nature suggest that it was intended for a
particular purpose, perhaps reflecting construction in the early post-Conquest
period when there was a need both for defence and a strong visual statement of
the intended permanence of the new Norman regime. Sylhall would seem to fulfil
these requirements, the latter being particularly apparent when considered
with a second, similar site 500m to the north east.

The island will contain archaeological deposits relating to the construction,
period of use and lifestyle of the occupants. Such buried evidence will
include the remains of buildings, yard surfaces, refuse pits and wells. The
moat will retain environmental evidence which will illustrate the landscape in
which the monument was set.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Fischer, S R, The Ashley Manuscripts, (1986)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1979)
derivation of name Sylhall, Parish file correspondence and notes,

Source: Historic England

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