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The Abbot of Ramsey's manor: moated site immediately north east of Illing's Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Broughton, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.3871 / 52°23'13"N

Longitude: -0.1135 / 0°6'48"W

OS Eastings: 528482.16659

OS Northings: 278233.801196

OS Grid: TL284782

Mapcode National: GBR K3J.840

Mapcode Global: VHGLQ.Z8CF

Entry Name: The Abbot of Ramsey's manor: moated site immediately north east of Illing's Farm

Scheduled Date: 3 November 1954

Last Amended: 27 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018341

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27922

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Broughton

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Broughton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes the medieval moated site known as the Abbot of Ramsey's
manor situated immediately to the north east of Illing's Farm on the northern
outskirts of Broughton village. The site includes a moated outer precinct, an
inner moated island and associated fishponds. The greater part of the site is
within a field where the earthwork remains of this substantial manorial
complex are clearly visible. A smaller portion to the north is believed to
contain further buried evidence of the outbuildings which would have been
associated with this large and prestigious holding, which was closely
associated with the Barony of Broughton.

The outer boundary encloses a roughly triangular area 290m long by a maximum
width of 244m. This precinct is defined by an inner bank on all sides and a
partly infilled dry moat to the north, south and west. To the east the site
is bounded by a brook. Although the western arm of the moat is no longer
visible at surface level it is considered to survive beneath the adjacent
trackway known as Illings Lane and therefore included in the scheduling.

Towards the eastern area of the enclosure a broad inner moat surrounds a
rhomboid shaped island measuring some 90m by 70m. On the eastern part of the
island two adjacent rectilinear depressions suggest the sites of the
principal buildings, whilst further surface irregularities within the north
east corner indicate the sites of other structures.

There are two points of access, marked by depressions in the ground surface,
on the northern and southern edges of the island. These are matched by
similar, though offset, depressions in the outer banks of the surrounding

The inner moat is thought to have been spring fed. It is now only seasonally
wet, although a leat, or channel, from the south eastern corner leads
eastwards to the brook, and was probably constructed to regulate the water
level around the island.

South of the inner moated island a roughly rectangular fishpond, 33m by
15m, is similarly connected to the brook and traces of a leat to the west
imply that the pond was integrated with the water management system of the
inner moat.

Beyond the western arm of the inner moat there are four further fishponds. The
largest lies alongside the bank of the outer enclosure and measures about 35m
by 10m. The remaining three ponds are situated about 20m to the north, and
arranged in a line from east to west. No connecting leats can be discerned
and it is thought that these ponds were also spring fed. The broken alignment
of the ponds may have served to form a second enclosure abutting the inner
island perhaps developed from a single ditch.

The earliest grant of land in Broughton, which formed the basis of the
manorial holding, was made by King Edward the Martyr (975-979) to the Abbey
of Ramsey. This grant was augmented with further land by Edward's successor,
Aethelred the Unready (979-1016) and by Aethelric, Bishop of Dorchester, who
was buried at Ramsey in 1034. These gifts were confirmed by Edward the
Confessor (1042-1066), and there was a further confirmation by William I in

Although the manor was generally on lease to a variety of tenants, the hall
situated within the moated site was the venue for the general courts of the
Barony of Broughton which were held every three weeks, for the two magnae
curiae (great courts) of Easter and Michaelmas presided over by the abbot or
his steward, and for the annual court leet. That the moated site was also the
scene of some turbulence during the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign (1135-54)
is suggested by a reference in the Chronicles of Ramsey Abbey to the building
of a tower here by Daniel, `the evil-disposed monk of Ramsey'.

The Barony courts were in decline by the 14th century, but courts continued to
be held in Broughton until about 1800. By that date the manor had passed,
after the Dissolution, through a succession of owners including the Cromwell
family in the 16th and 17th centuries and Lord St John of Bletsoe in the 18th
century. It was subsequently sold to the Pinfold family and passed to the
Beaumonts in the early years of the 20th century.

All fences, fence posts, gates and stiles, together with the modern surface
of Illings Lane, 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 known as the Abbot of Ramsey's manor is one of the most
substantial and prestigious monuments of this class in the region. It survives
as a very well preserved area of earthwork features representing the outer
enclosure and inner moated island which will contain evidence of buildings in
the form of buried foundations and the impressions of timber structures as
well as other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, 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

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 Abbot of Ramsey's manor are well preserved both as
visible and partly infilled features. They form an integral part of the
settlement and represent an important component of the medieval landscape
created to support the economy and, perhaps, to provide a visual demonstration
of the manor's status.

The descent of the Abbot of Ramsey's manor, and the history of the Barony of
Broughton, with which it is closely associated, are well documented. The site
itself, with its high degree of preservation, is clearly visible from adjacent
footpaths, providing an unusually sharp appreciation of the extent and layout
of a manorial complex which reflects its significance to the region in the
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Huntington159-161
The Victoria History of the County of Huntington159-161
text, Archaeological record no 01057,

Source: Historic England

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