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Moated site at Low Laithes Farm, Whitby Laithes

A Scheduled Monument in Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4729 / 54°28'22"N

Longitude: -0.5815 / 0°34'53"W

OS Eastings: 492018.679087

OS Northings: 509544.670907

OS Grid: NZ920095

Mapcode National: GBR SJCQ.WB

Mapcode Global: WHG9Z.1TCV

Entry Name: Moated site at Low Laithes Farm, Whitby Laithes

Scheduled Date: 7 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020402

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34822

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Hawsker cum Stainsacre All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval moated site
and parts of the surrounding medieval agricultural system. The monument is
located 3km to the south east of Whitby and occupies fields to the east and
south of Manor House Farm and to the west of Low Laithes Farm.
Little is currently known of the history of the moated site. It lies within
the manor of Hawsker and was part of the Liberty of Whitby, which was held by
the Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. After this the
manor passed to the Cholmley family. Moated sites such as these were usually
occupied by high status families and probably supported one of the more
prestigious dwellings in the area.
The moated site lies in the eastern part of the monument. It has a steep sided
ditch enclosing three sides of a central platform. The fourth, western side of
the moat has been infilled and now lies beneath the current farm buildings.
The encircling ditch is 2.5m deep and 4m wide along the sides widening out
at the corners. The central platform measures at least 50m across. Access to
the central area would have been via a causeway but the location of this is
not currently known. Water was fed into the ditch at the north eastern corner
from a stream which passes along the northern side of the moat.
To the west of Low Laithes Farm there are remains of further earthworks. These
have been interpreted as the remains of gardens including features such as
ponds. Aerial photographs taken in 1968 show clearly the detail of these
remains. Subsequent landscaping has reduced these earthworks but traces can
still be seen and taken with the aerial photographs demonstrate how the land
was used in the medieval period. To the south west of the moated site there is
a substantial linear bank with an adjacent ditch on the northern side. The
bank is 5m wide and up to 1.75m high. The ditch is 5m wide and has been partly
infilled and now survives as a depression up to 0.5m deep. The bank and ditch
extends westwards for 90m. It is not currently clear what the function of this
feature was although it may be a linear fishpond taking water from the moat to
the east. To the south of this bank are clear remains of the medieval field
system in the form of ridge and furrow earthworks. These include a broad area
of rounded parallel ridges up to 4m wide and 0.30m high which are separated by
furrows up to 3m wide. The ridge and furrow is orientated east to west.
A number of features are excluded from the monument. These are; all fences,
gates, walls, the surface of tracks, the caravan park facilities and the
garden pond, although the ground beneath these features 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.

In the medieval period settlements were supported by a communal system of
agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields
were subdivided into strips (known as landes) which were allocated to
individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled
by oxen-teams produced long, wide ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow'
where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field
system. Individual strips or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs
defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass
balks. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved
ridge and furrow, is both an important source of information about medieval
agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic
Fishponds are also commonly found at moated sites. These were artificial pools
of slow moving water in which fish were bred and stored in order to provide a
constant supply of fresh fish for consumption and trade. Fishponds were
maintained by a water management system to regulate water flow. In addition
to the ponds there would be buildings for use by fishermen for storing
equipment or fish curing. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in
England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. Large
and complex systems were often associated with the wealthy sectors of society
such as monastic institutions and the aristocracy. Small and simple examples
are commonly found at villages throughout England.
The remains at Whitby Laithes survive well and significant evidence of the
moated site and associated features will be preserved. Much of the surrounding
countryside has been improved in recent years and the level of survival of
remains from the medieval period preserved at Whitby Laithes is rare in the
area. The site offers important scope for the study of social and economic
practices in the area during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


CUC ANJ 18, (1968)

Source: Historic England

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