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Bradley Hall fortified house and underground passages, moated site, pillow mound and fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in Wolsingham, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.7207 / 54°43'14"N

Longitude: -1.8334 / 1°50'0"W

OS Eastings: 410827.366066

OS Northings: 536203.061545

OS Grid: NZ108362

Mapcode National: GBR HFMV.WJ

Mapcode Global: WHC4S.TL4W

Entry Name: Bradley Hall fortified house and underground passages, moated site, pillow mound and fishponds

Scheduled Date: 7 June 1967

Last Amended: 5 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019821

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28599

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Wolsingham

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Thornley

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes the remains of a moated site, the ruins and remains of a
fortified house, a pillow mound and a series of fishponds of medieval date,
situated on the left bank of the Bradley Burn, a tributary of the River Wear.
The fortified house is a Listed Building Grade II. In 1183 the estate was
mentioned in the Bolden Book, when it was held by the Bradley family. In
Bishop Hatfield's 14th century survey it was held by Roger Eure of Witton. The
son of the latter was granted licence to crenellate the house in 1431 by
Bishop Langley. The estate later passed to the Tempest family and after the
Rebellion of 1580 Elizabeth I granted it to the Bowes family, with whom it
remained until 1844.
The moated site, trapezoidal in shape, measures a maximum of 110m east to west
by 125m north to south within a broad ditch up to 7m wide and a maximum of
1.8m deep. On the west, north and north eastern side, the moat is a prominent
steep sided feature. The remainder of the eastern side has been infilled but
it survives below ground level as a buried feature. The south side of the moat
has also been infilled but it is visible as a shallow depression for part of
its course. A regular inner bank of stone and earth, which is between 1.2m and
1.6m high and between 6m and 9m wide, flanks the moat for most of its course.
A more discontinuous outer bank is also visible measuring between 6m and 10m
wide and standing up to 1.6m high. The original entrance into the island of
the moat is thought to have been at the north western corner.
The island of the moated site contains slight earthworks of uncertain nature
and the north western part shows a pronounced rise in level; the latter is
thought to reflect the greater number of structures within the moated site
placed near the original entrance in the north west corner. A drainage ditch
which was cut across the moated site in 1951 revealed the existence of a
cobbled area interpreted as a courtyard.
At the south eastern corner of the island of the moated site there are the
standing and earthwork remains of a fortified manor house thought to be of
14th century date, re-modelled in the late 16th or early 17th century. The
medieval fortified house is thought to have been of courtyard plan in which at
least three ranges were placed around a central yard. The east range houses
the present farmhouse. The south range is visible as a rectangular ruin of
large undressed sandstone measuring 30m east to west by 11m north to south and
standing 5m high. The remains of a chamfered plinth are visible on the south,
east and west faces. This range includes four barrel vaulted compartments. The
interior west wall of the south range contains an original fireplace. A
pointed medieval doorway with a square window above is visible in the north
wall of the building and to the west there is another, now blocked, opening.
Also in the north wall are at least two further pointed doorways, all blocked.
The west range of the fortified house is visible as a pronounced but spread
bank, 0.3m high, running north from the west end of the south range. A bank of
slighter proportions at right angles to the latter is thought to represent the
north range of the fortified house.
The remains of an underground passage with two branches survive, and entry is
gained through a rectangular opening situated outside the south eastern corner
of the moat. From here a semi-circular passage faced in sandstone blocks, 1.4m
high and 0.7m wide, runs north east for approximately 22m before it is blocked
by fallen masonry. Some 3m before the blockage, a second passage, 0.7m wide
and 1.1m high and roofed with sandstone slabs, branches off in a westerly
direction for approximately 48m when it ends near to the north east corner of
the east range of the building. Some 31m along the course of this passage a
third passage joins from the north; this passage, which is 0.7m wide and only
0.5m high, can be followed for some 6.5m before it becomes blocked by fallen
masonry. The lower passages are thought to be an integral part of the water
management system associated with the late 16th or early 17th century re-
modelling of the fortified house. They are clearly later in date than the
filling in of the eastern arm of the moat and the subsequent construction of
the garden. The main east-west passage is thought to have served as a drain
for the house which was flushed with water from the northern branch. The
purpose of the higher arched passage and its destination are uncertain.
Some 25m north of the northern side of the moated site there is a linear mound
8m long by 2.5m wide and standing up to 1m high. This has been interpreted as
a medieval pillow mound.
Immediately to the south of the moated site there is a row of at least three
enclosures, each one 40m square, bounded by low banks spread to an average of
8m wide and standing to a maximum of 0.5m high. These enclosures are thought
to be the remains of a series of fishponds which were fed with water from the
south side of the moat. Each enclosure contains the remains of broad ridge and
furrow cultivation between 4m to 5m wide which runs parallel with the
enclosures. The ridge and furrow represents ploughing of what at certain times
of the year were dry ponds.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the present
farmhouse housed in the eastern wing of the fortified house, the associated
stone garage, all stone walls, fences, gate posts and electricity supply
posts, the surfaces of all hard-standing areas and all stone or wooden sheds;
the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic
and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic
additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military
aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with
individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture
often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification
varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers,
gunports and crenellated parapets.
Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic
and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later
houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often
receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some
fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables,
brew houses, granaries and barns were located.
Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between
the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as
the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I
and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further
back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland
areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses
which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with
fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Around 6000 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 signeurial 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. 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 fresh water
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 12 ponds variously arranged in a single 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 tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England
began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. The
difficulties of obtaining fresh meat in the winter and the value put on fish
as a source of food 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. Most fishponds fell out of use during the post-medieval
period. 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. 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
monuments and in providing evidence of site economy.
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction
of rabbits from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of
purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries. The
mounds vary in design, although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. The mounds
are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are
situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound
may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the
underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and 40
pillow mounds and occupy an area up to approximately 600ha. Early warrens
were mostly associated with the higher levels of society. However, they
gradually spread in popularity, so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they
were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the country.
Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the
19th and 20th centuries.
Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with
other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement. They may
also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical
estates. All well-preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of
protection. A sample of well-preserved sites of later date will also merit
The moated site and fortified house at Bradley Hall are well-preserved and
retain significant archaeological deposits. They will contribute greatly to
our knowledge and understanding of medieval settlement in the region. Their
association with a set of fishponds and a pillow mound will add to our
knowledge of the economic basis of such settlements.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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