Ancient Monuments

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Bury Yard moated site adjacent to Milldyke

A Scheduled Monument in Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.0799 / 52°4'47"N

Longitude: -0.0622 / 0°3'44"W

OS Eastings: 532884.938118

OS Northings: 244166.669095

OS Grid: TL328441

Mapcode National: GBR K78.H36

Mapcode Global: VHGN3.VZYF

Entry Name: Bury Yard moated site adjacent to Milldyke

Scheduled Date: 16 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019040

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33602

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth

Built-Up Area: Bassingbourn

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Bassingbourn St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The medieval moated site is situated immediately to the south and west of Mill
Lane in a close formerly known as Bury Yard, in the village of Bassingbourn.
The monument includes a roughly D-shaped outer ditched enclosure within which
is situated a rectangular moat. A small housing complex developed from the
former vicarage and its outbuildings overlies part of the northern outer moat
arm and outer enclosure and extends across the north eastern corner of the
inner moat and island. Building works and landscape gardening in the 19th and
20th centuries have caused significant disturbance over most of this area and
survival of underlying archaeological features and deposits is considered to
be poor. The majority of this area is, therefore, not included in the

The moated site is associated with the manor of Richmonds which, before the
Norman Conquest, belonged to Eddeva the Fair (Edith Swanneck), widow of Edward
the Confessor. By the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 the land had passed
to Count Alan, Lord of Richmond, and it is thought that he, or more probably
his successor, Count Conan, constructed the inner moat some time before 1171
on that portion of the manor's land known as Bury Yard. This inner moat
surrounds a raised island measuring approximately 70m NNE to SSW and 55m ENE
to WSW. There are no visible traces of buildings on the moat island but
documents of 1280 record a house on the site, and its buried remains will be
preserved. To the north, south and west the substantial moat ditch is largely
infilled by natural silting. These moat arms are generally waterlogged and
seasonally wet. The eastern arm is open and dry. The form of the moat - in
particular the substantial nature of the ditches - implies a defensive
purpose, perhaps associated with the period of civil war between Stephen and
Matilda known as the Anarchy. If so, this would date the construction of the
moat and house to between about 1130 and 1140. An extension of the south
western arm, now completely infilled, runs from the north western corner for a
distance of about 10m into a relatively undisturbed part of the garden of the
property known as Milldyke. This extension ditch will survive well and is
included in the scheduling. It is thought that this ditch continued further
north and formed part of the original water management system both of the moat
and the former mill, being truncated when the system was altered by the
construction of the outer ditch. There is no causeway across the moat and
access to the island was probably via a bridge.

By the early 13th century the manor was in the hands of the Crown, being held
during the 14th century by John of Gaunt who is believed to have lived at the
former Richmonds manor house some time before 1372. In 1455 Bury Yard was
granted to John Lynne, a London merchant. His son, Richard, replaced the
original house, which is known to have been in ruins by 1436. Remains of
Richard's house were still visible in the early 19th century and evidence for
the structure will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. It is
thought that the D-shaped outer moat was also constructed by Richard Lynne. By
the 15th century moats had ceased to have a defensive purpose. Drainage and
water management were always prime concerns but moats dug at this period also
served as landscape features designed to enhance the setting of the house and
emphasise the status of the occupant. The greater part of Richard Lynne's
outer moat survives as a wide, water-filled feature enclosing an area
measuring about 200m east to west by 150m north to south, banked along the
western edge. The western arm, formed by the mill stream, has been scoured out
and altered and is not included in the scheduling. Construction of the 19th
century vicarage and outbuildings involved infilling of the western half of
the northern arm. To the east of the entrance to the grounds of the vicarage
the water was diverted through a culvert. This is thought to pass diagonally
beneath the coach house (rebuilt as a dwelling in the 1970s) and Mill Lane to
flow into an open channel behind the houses on the west side of The
Fillance north of Mill Lane. The line of the western end of the northern moat
arm lies within the garden of the Coach House. In view of severe disturbance
in this area it is now impossible to trace this section of the moat on the
ground and its survival is in doubt. This section of the moat, from the mill
stream to the open ditch east of the entrance, is, therefore, not included in
the scheduling.

The southern arm of the outer moat has been detached from the south western
and south eastern corners both by deliberate infilling and silting, and the
south eastern corner has been adapted, joining the eastern arm to a 19th
century drain known as the horse pond. There is no visible causeway or bridge
site across the moat, and it is thought that the point of access would have
been on the northern arm within the area of the housing complex.

It is known that Richard Lynne created fishponds when his new moat was dug.
The Enclosure Map of 1806 provides a clear depiction of the whole moated site
but no fishponds are shown. These are, therefore, thought to have been
infilled before the 19th century and their location is unknown, but is
expected to be within the outer enclosure.

Buried evidence for a range of ancillary structures will be preserved both on
the inner moat island and in the outer enclosure. Typically these would
include stables, stores and a bakehouse and might also include a dovecote,
rabbit warren and gatehouses.

Bury Yard was recovered by the Crown in about 1520 and was known to be
unoccupied a century later at which time, together with the rest of the manor
of Richmonds, it was annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1628 the manor
passed to the Corporation of London in settlement of royal debts. A series of
sales brought the manor into the hands of the Hatton family and, at enclosure
in 1804, Bury Yard itself passed by exchange to the then vicar of
Bassingbourn, and to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1869.

All fences, fence posts and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath them 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.

Bury Yard moated site survives as a very well preserved and largely
undisturbed example of this monument class. Its form and layout - supported by
a wealth of historical records - demonstrate its evolution from a defensive
dwelling to a high status residence.

The inner moat island and outer enclosure will retain buried archaeological
deposits, including structural remains and artefacts, relating both to the
original manor house and outbuildings and to their 15th century replacements
and additions. These will provide valuable evidence for the phases of
construction and occupation and for the lifestyles of the inhabitants.

The ditches of the two moats will retain, as well as further artifacts,
waterlogged organic and environmental material providing dietary information
and illustrating the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Salzman, L F, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, (1982), 14-16
reference to moated site features, Oosthuizen S, letter to tenant, (1999)
reference to pigsties on moated site, discussion with Mr R Clarke, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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