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Moated site 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Little Horwood, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.9711 / 51°58'16"N

Longitude: -0.8477 / 0°50'51"W

OS Eastings: 479254.042806

OS Northings: 230922.237023

OS Grid: SP792309

Mapcode National: GBR BZM.8JF

Mapcode Global: VHDTC.8Q69

Entry Name: Moated site 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018668

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32108

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Little Horwood

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Little Horwood

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a medieval moated site and the remains of a
post-medieval water mill, about 200m to the north east of St Nicholas's

The moated site includes a rectangular island, which measures approximately
44m from north east to south west by a maximum of 52m from north west to south
east and is raised by about 0.4m above the surrounding ground level. The
island is approached by a broad causeway across the south eastern arm of the
surrounding ditch. This ditch, the moat, averages 11m in width and 1m in
depth, and is normally waterlogged - fed by a narrow channel which enters the
circuit at the northern corner. A short section of this inlet channel is
included in the scheduling together with an upcast bank, some 5m wide and 0.4m
high, which surrounds the outer edge of the moat. The much altered medieval
manor house, or more probably a later replacement, still stood on the island
in the mid-19th century when it served as the residence of Moat Farm.
Described as a `decayed mansion' by the local antiquarian JJ Sheahan in 1861,
the house is thought to have been finally demolished around the turn of the

Within the lifetime of the farm the moat was converted for use as a mill pond,
with a series of sluices retaining a head of water above the adjacent water
mill and diverting the excess supply along the meandering stream course (not
included in the scheduling) which flanks the eastern arm. Traces of the
stone-lined shute which carried water to the mill are still visible linking
the southern corner of the moat to the eastern side of the wheel housing some
4m further south. The remains of this structure, a circular brick-lined
chamber some 7m in diameter and 2m in height, indicated that the mill operated
a horizontal wheel - a relatively straightforward device which required
minimal gearing to turn the grindstones. After turning the wheel, the water
issued from the south side of the wheel house and flowed through a straight
artificial cutting (or tailrace) which rejoins the stream course some 140m to
the south west. The tailrace is flanked to either side by parallel banks, each
approximately 78m in length, 1m high and 8m wide. These are thought to reflect
upcast from the initial construction of the channel and subsequent episodes of
cleaning and dredging. These banks are included in the scheduling along with
the adjacent area between the tailrace and the stream which is likely to
contain the buried remains of trackways, yard surfaces and ancillary
structures associated with the operation of the mill.

A 13th century document refers to a mill at Little Horwood, and a Little
Horwood miller (W Goodman) is also mentioned in the 1798 document `Posse
Comitatus'. Bryant's 1825 map of Buckinghamshire, however, provides the first
conclusive documentary evidence for a mill in this particular location. The
mill is known to have fallen into disuse, along with Moat Farm House, towards
the end of the 19th century.

The fences and stiles around the monument and the brick bridge across the
brook on the north of the moat are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these items 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 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church survives well. It
is largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for structures and
other features relating to the period of occupation. The buried silts in the
base of the ditch will contain both artefacts relating to the period of
occupation and environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in
which the monument was set.

The monument lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous, and
is situated in close proximity to one such site, about 3.5km to the south east
at Mursley. Comparisons between these sites will provide valuable insights
into developments in the nature of settlement and society in the medieval

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to a turn a paddled wheel,
the energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of
various kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream,
with a simple `shut' to control water flow, or may be spring fed. More
usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted from the main
watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. The spent water
returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be straightened to
increase efficiency. Where the natural flow of water is inadequate, a millpond
may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow) behind
the wheel.

During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were a sign
of status, and an important source of income to the lord of the manor who
usually leased the wheel and its land to the miller. With technological
improvements, an increasing range of equipment could be powered by watermills,
and they became increasingly important to urban and rural life and industry.
With the advent of steam power and the introduction of iron gears in the 18th
century, water power eventually became obsolete for major industry, although
many smaller rural mills continued in use.

The watermill 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church is known to date to the
19th century, which is of particular interest due to the reuse of the moat
ditch as a mill pond. There is also the possibility that there was a mill on
the site prior to the 19th century. The area of land immediately to the south
west of the mill site, between the tailrace and the brook is likely to contain
the remains of buildings and other features associated with the mill.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1969), 377
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1969), 376
Sheahan, J J, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, (1861), 692
'Buckingham Express' in Notes on News, (1899)
BRO ref: L/P/15 and 16, Posse Comitatus, (1798)
Title: Map of Buckinghamshire
Source Date: 1825

Title: Map of Buckinghamshire
Source Date: 1825

Source: Historic England

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