Ancient Monuments

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Moated site of Holton House and its associated ice house

A Scheduled Monument in Holton, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.7528 / 51°45'10"N

Longitude: -1.1339 / 1°8'2"W

OS Eastings: 459882.070093

OS Northings: 206371.55059

OS Grid: SP598063

Mapcode National: GBR 8Z9.24Q

Mapcode Global: VHCXX.96DL

Entry Name: Moated site of Holton House and its associated ice house

Scheduled Date: 9 April 1976

Last Amended: 23 October 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018424

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30823

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Holton

Built-Up Area: Holton

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Holton

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the moated site of Holton House and its associated ice
house and larders. It lies within the former grounds of Holton Park.
The moat is believed to have been built in the late medieval period to provide
a more impressive setting for the manor house which had previously occupied a
smaller moated site 280m to the south east which is the subject of a separate
scheduling. The later moat surrounded a large island measuring 50m by 54m
across, with stone revetted sides. In the south west corner of the island
stood a succession of houses while the remainder of the space was occupied by
associated buildings and gardens. The island is aligned roughly south east to
north west and has a level surface.
There were two points of access to the island; from the north west corner of
the north west side, and from the south east side, roughly centrally, via
wooden bridges built on stone supports. A series of steps in the south west
corner formerly connected the original house with a jetty.
The moat around the island measures up to 23m wide on its north west side, 15m
wide to the south east and approximately 7.5m wide on its south west side.
Its most impressive side was that facing a man-made dam to the north east. The
exact width of the side may have been altered during the lifetime of the moat
but it measured up to 25m. Beyond the dam, the ground level drops steeply to
the north east down a natural slope which has been enhanced by the profile of
the dam. On the lower-lying ground below it is a deer house associated
with the late 18th century house and not included in the scheduling. This
would have been seen along with the deer run beyond it from the upper windows
of the house.
Immediately outside the moat on its north west corner lie the remains of a
Grade II Listed ice house and two larders which face south east towards the
entrance to the island. During the winter ice would have been taken from the
moat across a flat bank at this point and stored in the stone-built chambers
for use both in food storage and for when ice itself was required to cool food
and drink, for ice cream and as an expression of wealth and social status. The
ice house consists of three chambers with arched bays forming their entrances,
and these each measure approximately 6m back into the slope and 2.5m wide. The
original doors are no longer present but otherwise the chambers survive very
well. The ice house chamber itself lies at the southern end of the row with
the two adjacent chambers functioning as larders.
The exact date of the first house on the island is not known precisely, but
could have been as early as the 1450s. At this time it was the residence of
the Brome family, and in 1461 it was called Halle Place. When the earlier
manor was held by Richard of Cornwall it is likely that the manor moat was not
on this site but on that to the south east.
The house is known in 1665 to have had 18 hearths and to have been the home of
the Whorwood family. It had two wings which faced north and west. The
remainder of the island was at that time described as a courtyard. There are a
number of sketches and paintings of the house which show it with a late 18th
century Gothic facade of three storeys and a pent house roof. Evidence of 15th
century features incorporated in the house can be seen in these sketches, and
this would support the 1450s date of its construction. Like many similar
medieval manor houses it appears to have undergone a complicated series of
part demolitions, rebuildings and extensions as the fashions, needs and
fortunes of the owning families changed.
The house was demolished in 1805 when the present Grade II Listed Holton House
was built outside the moat to the south east.
A 17th century dovecote and 18th century stables (both Listed Grade II) still
survive in use among the buildings of the school to the west, but these are
not included in the scheduling.
Excluded from the scheduling are the wooden bridges and all path surfaces,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 of Holton House in Holton Park is believed to be the late
medieval successor of a smaller moated manor house which lies 280m to the
south east. It is associated with the former Holton House, and a number of
Listed Buildings and the landscaped park which lie outside the moat.
The remains include a series of building foundations, situated in the south
west corner of the moat. These represent a number of phases of building
alterations dating from about 1450 through to 1805. It is known from part
archaeological investigations that there are buried remains relating to these
structures beneath the present ground level and there are also likely to be
environmental and archaeological remains within the silt deposits in the
bottoms of the moat ditches. Together these remains will tell us much about
the social standing and life of the families who lived at Holton Park as well
as providing evidence relating to the building techniques used at various
The combination of these later remains, taken as a group along with the
earlier manor site to the south east, form an excellent example of the
changing design and economy of successful manorial sites.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire , (1907), 329
PRN 1771 Detailed File, SMRO, HOLTON HOUSE, (1987)
PRN 1771, SMRO, HOLTON HOUSE, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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