Moated site at Grove Farm, Ashley Green
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1006946
Date first listed: 24-Jun-1938
Date of most recent amendment: 16-Aug-2017
Statutory Address: Ashley Green, Chiltern, Buckinghamshire, HP5 3QN
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Statutory Address: Ashley Green, Chiltern, Buckinghamshire, HP5 3QN
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Chiltern (District Authority)
Parish: Ashley Green
National Grid Reference: SP9862804248
Medieval moated manor site.
Reasons for Designation
The moated site at Grove Farm, Grove Lane, Ashley Green, Chesham, Buckinghamshire is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: the earthworks of the outer and inner moat banks and ditches survive very well and the medieval structures, particularly the curtain wall and gate-towers, are rare and significant survivals; * Potential: there is considerable potential for important archaeological information on the arrangement of this medieval manor complex, and other buildings which formed part of it, and artefacts and ecofacts which will inform on its economy and social context; * Documentation: a good level of documentary research informs our understanding of the site’s development and the nationally and locally important historic figures associated with it; * Group value: with the listed buildings on the site, including Grove Farm which is directly associated with the medieval occupation of the site; * Diversity: in addition to the earthworks of the moat and bank, buildings and structures associated with the manor survive above and below ground; * Rarity: moats are not rare site types, but the monument probably dates to the C12 or earlier, the initial phase in the development of moats, and thus has a greater rarity and historic importance.
Historic England's Introduction to Heritage Assets on Medieval Settlements (May 2011) states that moats are one of the most recognisable features of dispersed medieval settlements, and that while villages were probably formed by the 9th and 10th centuries, some isolated farmsteads may have more ancient origins.
The history of the site was researched by the late owner, Tony Harman, and his family, who uncovered documentary evidence on the ownership of the manor. Baines in Harman (1999, p26) suggests that the moat at Grove Farm was already present by 1000 AD. There are parallels with other moated manor sites such as Bygrave in Hertfordshire (not scheduled) where at least one of the moats was present in 973 AD. Documentary evidence indicates that in 1128 Walter de la Grave (de la Grave meaning ‘of the ditch’ implying the presence of the moat by that time) was granted manorial rights over two virgates of land likely to be centred upon Grove. Walter’s family name was probably de Broc, an influential family in the Chesham area, who also owned Hundridge Manor. A further reference to a Walter de Broc at Grove dates to the mid-C12; it may be that by this time not only the outer moat, but also the inner moat, its curtain wall and gate-towers were already built. His grandson, Laurence, an active lawyer in Buckinghamshire from at least 1236 until his death in 1274/5, held Grove. The manor was forfeit to the crown in 1290, Edward I then bestowing Grove on Walter de Langton, the King’s treasurer, later Bishop of Coventry; it seems likely that owing to Langton’s high status Grove was probably tenanted. By 1347, Grove was back in the possession of the Crown, who granted the manor to the Cheynes family; they held it until 1578 when much of the manor, including the manor house and area around it, was sold to Thomas Southen, becoming known as Grove Park. By 1629, the manor was sold to the Bunn family, passing to William Lowndes in 1692. Lowndes was appointed Secretary to the Treasury in 1695, was involved with founding the Bank of England and served as an MP. Although the manor was tenanted for much of this period, Lowndes descendants held and increased the size of the farm in the late C18, retaining it until the early C20; Grove Farmhouse was presumably built during their tenure. In 1918, Grove was sold to Sydney Harman, whose descendants own it to this day.
The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME) volume on Buckinghamshire, published in 1912, provides a plan of the moat, describing the site and the barn as C15 in date. The barn, originally thought to be the chapel and marked as such on some historic mapping, had its walls heightened in the C17, probably by either Thomas Southen or William Lowndes. Dendrochronological analysis of the roof timbers gave a date of 1499/1500, presenting a contradiction in the dating evidence. The plan shows the medieval dwelling, converted to Grove Farm in 1961, on a platform within an inner enclosure defined by the principal moat and banks to the north and west, and a curtain wall with an inner moat to the south and east. The current drive to the house crosses the eastern arm of the inner moat in the position of the original medieval entrance, and is flanked by the partially standing remains of two polygonal towers or gatehouses, which the owner believes may be C12 in date (D Harman, pers comm). In the Buildings of England volume for the county (Pevsner et al 1994, p144) Grove Farm is described as being a fragment of the former manor house first recorded in the C13, when other buildings on the site included the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.
Historic mapping from the late C19 onwards illustrates the development of the steading. The Buckinghamshire OS map of 1878 shows the small outbuilding to the east of Grove Farm and a yard with outbuildings to the east of Grove Farm House, the converted listed barn of the later steading forms the south arm of an enclosed yard with other outbuildings around the perimeter. On the east side of the site no buildings are shown, but a possible pit or pond is located to the north-east. The map has the word ‘camp’ in the centre of the site, and to the west of the moat the site is annotated ‘The Banks’. The OS map of 1898 titles Grove Farm as ‘Chapel, rems of’ and shows the kitchen garden at the south-east corner of the inner enclosure. The 1925 OS map appears to show the swimming pool to the west of Grove Farm and a possible shelter shed at the south-east side of the site. The large agricultural buildings on the east side of the site were constructed in the post-war period, and shown on the OS map of 1972. Although the yard walls east of Grove Farm House are extant on this map, most of the buildings apart from the barn are gone.
There has been no formal archaeological survey or investigation of the site but fragments of Belgic and Romano-British pottery have been found in or near to the ditch of the moat (Baines in Harman, 1999, p30). Harman (1999, p2) records that as a boy he dug out the interior of the northern gate-tower and found four steps leading to a dirt floor. At the base of the southern gate-tower was a small well with knapped-flint walling. When the barn was converted to Grove Farm, analysis of the stone revealed that it came from Tisbury in Wiltshire. The garden was cleared of rubbish at the time, Harman stating that ‘everywhere you went you found stone foundations and walls’ (1999, p6).
Erosion of the monument includes: two entrances cut through the banks and over the moat ditch on the southern arm; a drainage channel diagonally cut through the north-west corner; a swimming pool excavated in the inner enclosure; a concrete footbridge (collapsed) erected over the west moat ditch.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the site includes the earthworks, ruinous standing structures and buried archaeological deposits of a moated manor site, established probably by 1000 AD, located at NGR SP 9862 0424 (centre) located about 1.3km to the south-east of Ashley Green, near Chesham in Buckinghamshire. The land, on chalk bedrock, falls gently from north to south at approximately 155m above Ordnance Datum.
DESCRIPTION: the rectangular moated enclosure to the homestead measures overall about 190m east-west by 165m north-south. The north entrance to the site, approximately 10m in width, appears to be in its original position, as the terminal of the outer bank at the west side of the entrance appears complete, but the banks to the east are modified to accommodate a modern concrete track which overlays the earlier causeway. The entrance to the north-east quadrant is shown on historic mapping and may also be of an early date. The two entrances through the south arm are more recent serving as the main vehicular entrance into the site, and another to Grove Farm House and Chalkyfold.
The site is enclosed by a prominent outer bank or rampart to the north, south, east and west, measuring between 5 and 6m wide, with rounded corners, and a moat about 5m wide at the base with a lower inner bank to all sides. Secondary outer boundary banks, about 1m wide and high to the north, east and south sides survive as fragments. The north secondary boundary bank and the outer bank of the moat curve sharply at the north entrance to form a bulwark to an overgrown curvilinear feature, defined at its base by fragmentary flint walls covered with vegetation, with an opening, possibly an entrance, to the west. At the time of the inspection in April 2017 the outer moat retained water at the south-east and was waterlogged at the north-west quadrant, but it is understood that the moat circuit is periodically watered. On the north side, where the land is higher, the outer bank is 3.75m high, the inner bank approximately 3m high, and the moat approximately 5-6m deep. This varies throughout the monument’s circuit where the height of the banks are either lightly eroded or obscured by vegetation and the depth of the moat is uncertain owing to the presence of water or sediment.
An inner enclosure defines the north-west quadrant, within which the buried remains of the medieval manor and its associated buildings, probably including the chapel of St Mary Magdalene, and the barn converted into Grove Farm (listed and not included in the monument) are located. The inner enclosure measures approximately 55m east-west by 65m north-south. It has a secondary moat at the south and east, approximately 5m wide but widening considerably towards the south-east corner, which is connected to the main moat at the north and west. The eastern moat arm of the inner enclosure is partially infilled. The building platform is defined and retained to the south and east by the flint rubble, inner-core of a curtain wall about 2-3m high and approximately 40m long to the south and approximately 55m long to the east, with a central gap for the current access drive to Grove Farm. The ruins of two gate-towers standing 0.5m high at the south and 2m high to the north, also constructed from flint rubble, are set on either side of a causeway at the centre of the east side over the moat’s eastern arm, suggesting that the existing drive is the location of the medieval entrance to the inner enclosure. The curtain wall masonry wraps around the north-east corner of the inner enclosure, but appears to stop at this point, the central platform retained by the moat’s inner bank on the north and west sides. There is some debate as to the date of the curtain wall and gate-towers, the earliest suggested date being C12, but they could be as late as C15. There are no other standing historic features in the inner enclosure, apart from the house, and the later brick and flint walls of the garden to the south-east. A small swimming pool lies to the west of the house. The modern OS map shows a bridge over the inner south moat, but this is not extant. To the east of the north gate-tower is a late-C19 building, possibly agricultural in origin, but converted into a residence, and not included in the monument.
Grove Farm House and Chalkyfold in the south-west quadrant of the site are surrounded by gardens and have separate modern drives from the track immediately to the south of the monument. A small stretch of moat and bank approximately 12 m wide lies to the south of Chalkyfold. The garden to Grove Farm House is defined to the south and west by the moat and bank, and by the south arm of inner enclosure’s moat to the north. Apart from the listed buildings, no historic structures appear to be standing here. The east half of the site comprises post-war agricultural buildings and concrete-covered trackways and bases.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduled area takes in the entire moated site, as defined by the outer earthworks of the banks as shown on the map, including the interior of the site where upstanding and buried archaeological deposits are known to remain, and where there is the potential for further important archaeological features to survive below ground. A 1m buffer zone is included for the preservation and protection of the monument.
There are a number of important exclusions as follows: all domestic buildings whether listed or not: all upstanding or ruinous C19 and C20 buildings or structures, including walls and ancillary buildings associated with the residences, industries or agricultural functions on the site: all modern gates, fences and fence posts, hedges, verges, drive and track coverings and building slabs. The ground beneath these aforementioned structures is included in the scheduled monument, however.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: BU 50
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Aberg, FA (Editor), Le Patourel, HE Jean, Roberts, BK, CBA Research Report no 17 Medieval Moated Sites, (1978), 46-56
Harman et al, Tony , A Thousand Years on a Chiltern Farm: the Story of Grove Farm, Chesham, (1999)
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, (1994), 144
'Ashley Green', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Buckinghamshire, Volume 1, South (London, 1912), accessed 24/4/17 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/bucks/vol1/pp16-18
Information on Dendro analysis of Grove Farm roof, accessed 24th April 2017 from http://www.oxford-dendrolab.com/buckinghamshire.asp
Summary of site history, accessed 1st June 2017 from http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/83.html
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing