Reasons for Designation
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 medieval moated manor house at Rotherhithe is a good example, which survives remarkably well. The remains of the Inner Court of the manor house are well preserved. The survival of the north wall up to window sill level is unusual in London for a 14th century building of such significance. The site is of major historic interest as a high status royal residence of Edward III, visited by the King on numerous occasions. Only part of the site has been excavated and it retains a high degree of potential for further investigation. It will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the moated manor and the landscape in which it was constructed.
The monument includes the remains of a medieval moated manor house and royal residence, surviving as upstanding remains, earthworks and below-ground remains. It is situated on a flood plain at the south bank of the River Thames at Rotherhithe.
The remains of the manor house include the walls and foundations of the Inner Court building and further remains, probably of an Outer Court, to the south. The Inner Court is rectangular in plan and orientated broadly north-south. It is 30.5m long and 19.5m wide with the foundations of a rectangular projection, probably a tower or gatehouse, in the north-west corner. The walls are constructed of ashlar blocks to plinth level with a coursed rubble superstructure and vary between 0.8 and 1.2m thick. Part of the north, east and west walls survive as exposed upstanding remains but the rest of the structure has been reburied following excavation. The north wall survives to 3.9m high which is the level of the ground floor window sills, and the east wall survives to about 3.8m and includes the remains of a corbelled window support and fireplace. The reburied south wall is 2.7m high and includes the remains of a possible staircase whilst the west wall is up to 2.8m high and includes a small arch, probably an outlet for the drainage system. The buried remains of a revetted moat, surrounding the inner court, have been recorded to the south and east. It has been back-filled following partial excavation and is visible as a slight earthwork denoted by a depression around the Inner Court. An Outer Court is thought to have originally been located to the south of the moat and is likely to survive as below-ground remains. Three medieval stone-lined cesspits, pathways and possible traces of scaffolding have been found in this location and have been preserved in-situ beneath a modern housing development.
The first reliable reference to a manor at Rotherhithe is recorded in 1127 when Henry I granted half of the manor to the monks of Bermondsey. The present moated manor house on the site was built between 1349 and 1356 as a royal residence for Edward III. Documentary sources show that it included a hall, kitchen, chapel and a chamber for the King. There were already existing buildings on or near the site and Edward III resided at the manor on numerous occasions between 1348 and 1370. After his death it was conveyed to the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces by the Tower. In 1399, St Mary's granted the manor to the abbey of Bermondsey. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and confiscation of the abbey's land in about 1538, 'le Mote place' as it was then known was sold to Robert Lawerde, alias Lord. It passed to a number of owners and in the 17th century was leased to two potters: Joseph Muston and Thomas Barnebowe. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a range of industrial buildings were built on the site including granaries and warehouses. In 1907, redevelopment resulted in the discovery of the medieval walls of the manor house. These survived up to 6m high at that time, including four arched window openings on the ground floor and above, but were subsequently demolished.
Partial excavation was carried out on the site in 1985-7 and 1989-1991, with further archaeological briefs in 1993 and 1994, revealing the buried remains of the medieval moated manor house. A Late Bronze Age ditch and series of stakeholes, two Roman pits and medieval enclosure ditches, beamslots, stakeholes and postholes, were also uncovered with associated pottery. In the 17th century, a pottery was situated on or in the vicinity of the site. Several pits containing pottery waste were found relating to pot disposal during this period.
The monument excludes all modern buildings, the surfaces of all modern roadways and pavements, all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts. However the ground beneath all these features is included.
Sources: Greater London SMR 090592/00/00 - MLO7738, 091482/00/00, 091238/00/00, 091480/00/00, 092163/00/00, 091239/00/00 - MLO902, 090823/00/00, 091485/00/00, 091371/00/00. NMR TQ37NW74. PastScape 918320.
Blatherwick, S and Bluer, R, Great houses, moats and mills on the south bank of the Thames: Medieval and Tudor Southwark and Rotherhithe, MOLA Monograph 47 (2009), 1-48