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Moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor

A Scheduled Monument in Histon, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.2541 / 52°15'14"N

Longitude: 0.101 / 0°6'3"E

OS Eastings: 543509.530333

OS Northings: 263852.837482

OS Grid: TL435638

Mapcode National: GBR L6P.NCC

Mapcode Global: VHHJW.PLRV

Entry Name: Moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor

Scheduled Date: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019181

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33279

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Histon

Built-Up Area: Histon

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Histon St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a medieval moated site located 140m to the south west of
Histon Manor and 170m to the south west of the parish church of St Andrew.

The moated site includes a sub-rectangular island measuring approximately 84m
east-west by up to 44m north-south. The island is enclosed by a water-filled
moat which measures an average of 10m wide and between 1.5m and 2m deep. The
modern bridge across the north arm of the moat occupies the site of an earlier
bridge, believed to be the original access point. The remains of steps are
visible on both sides of the moat towards the south eastern corner, and the
north eastern corner is revetted with bricks and concrete. Modern brick
sluices are visible in the north west and north east corners of the moat.

Extending eastwards from the northern arm of the moat, on the same alignment,
are the buried remains of two linear fishponds. By the late 19th century they
had been joined together to create a single extension to the north arm of the
moat, 58m in length, which was later filled in. The remains of the ponds,
however, will survive as a buried feature.

The moated site is believed to represent the manor of Histon Denny, later
called Histon St Andrew, which was owned by the bishops of Lincoln from the
11th century until 1392 when it was sold to Denny Abbey. The Abbey retained
the manor until the Dissolution. In 1539 the manor was sold by the Crown to
Edward Elrington who sold it on to William Bowyer in 1541, and it continued in
the possession of the Bowyer family until 1655. Documentary sources record a
manor house in this area in 1560 and it is thought to have been succeeded in
the 17th century by the present Histon Manor which is situated 120m to the
north, outside the area of the scheduling. Landscaping of the grounds of
Histon Manor, which included the moated site, took place in the 18th century.

The bridge across the north arm, the fences, the steps, the brick and concrete
revetting and the 19th century water pump on the island are all excluded from
the scheduling 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.

A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater
constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to
provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They may be dug into the
ground, embanked above ground level, or formed by placing a dam across a
narrow valley. Groups of up to twelve ponds variously arranged in a single
line or in a cluster and joined by leats have been recorded. The ponds may be
of the same size or of several different sizes with each pond being stocked
with different species or ages of fish. The size of the pond was related to
function, with large ponds thought to have had a storage capability whilst
smaller, shallower ponds were used for fish cultivation and breeding.
Fishponds were maintained by a water management system which included inlet
and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices
set into the bottom of the dam and along the channels and leats, and an
overflow leat which controlled fluctuations in water flow and prevented
Buildings for use by fishermen or for the storage of equipment, and islands
possibly used for fishing, wildfowl management or as shallow spawing areas,
are also recorded.
The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the
medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. They were largely built by
the wealthy sectors of society with monastic institutions and royal residences
often having large and complex fishponds. The difficulties of obtaining fresh
meat in the winter and the value placed on fish as a food source and for
status may have been factors which favoured the development of fishponds and
which made them so valuable. The practice of constructing fishponds declined
after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century although in some
areas it continued into the 17th century. Most fishponds fell out of use
during the post-medieval period although some were re-used as ornamental
features in 19th and early 20th century landscape parks or gardens, or as
watercress beds.
Documentary sources provide a wealth of information about the way fishponds
were stocked and managed. The main species of fish kept were eel, tench,
pickerel, bream, perch, and roach. Large quantities of fish could be supplied
at a time. Once a year, probably in the spring, ponds were drained and
Fishponds are widely scattered throughout England and extend into Scotland and
Wales. The majority are found in central, eastern and southern parts and in
areas with heavy clay soils. Fewer fishponds are found in coastal areas and
parts of the country rich in natural lakes and streams where other sources of
fresh fish were available. Although 17th century manuals suggest that areas
of waste ground were suitable for fishponds, in practice it appears that most
fishponds were located close to villages, manors or monasteries or within
parks so that a watch could be kept on them to prevent poaching. Although
approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be
only a small proportion of those in existence in medieval times. Despite
being relatively common, fishponds are important for their associations with
other classes of medieval monument and in providing evidence of site economy.

The moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor survives well. The
island remains largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for
structures and other features relating to the period of occupation.

The fishponds, adjacent to the moat, would have formed an integral part of the
manorial site providing a valuable source of income and food all year-
round, and will retain sealed deposits from the medieval and post-medieval

Comparison between this site, and others both locally and more widely, will
provide valuable insights into the nature of settlement and society in the
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire90-97
The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire96
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date: 1886
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date: 1886
Title: Enclosure map of Histon
Source Date: 1801
CRO: Q/RDc 8

Source: Historic England

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