Moated site and formal garden remains at Moat Hall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 31208 59906

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 moated site of Moat Hall displays a wide variety of features and survives as a very good example of an important later medieval and early post-medieval moated mansion. In addition to the standing structure of Moat Hall, extensive buried remains of late 15th and early 16th-century building survive on the central island, together with deposits which will retain important archaeological information relating to earlier occupation. The associated garden earthworks are particularly well preserved and add greatly to the interest of the site. Evidence concerning earlier land use will be contained in soils buried beneath the earthen banks, and water-logged deposits in the moat and pond will preserve organic remains. The well documented historical association of the site with the Willoughby family is also of great value.


The monument is located approximately 500m south-east of Parham village on a south-east facing slope and includes the moated site of Moat Hall, a second, contiguous moat which encloses the remains of a formal garden and an ornamental pond with associated earthworks. The moated site occupied by Moat Hall, formerly known as Parham Hall, is terraced into the hill slope and comprises a sub-rectangular island with maximum internal dimensions of 108m north-south by 70m east-west, surrounded by a broad, water-filled moat. The moat ditch is approximately 18m wide on the north-west side, widening to a maximum of 50m on the opposite side, downslope, where it is crossed by a central causeway. A second causeway, across the northern end of the western arm, gives access from the Hall to the second moated enclosure. The northern range of Moat Hall, rising out of the moat in the north-western angle of the central island, is of late 15th or early 16th-century date and part of a larger mansion which once occupied the site. Evidence of this more extensive building is visible on the inner face of the moat to the east of the Hall, where the footings of two projecting brick structures can be seen, and at the north-eastern corner, where the footings of a polygonal structure, probably a turret, project into the moat. Brick revetting survives also on the inner face of the moat on the other three sides and is particularly prominent on the east side. Here the central causeway fronts a gateway with four-centred arch and crenellated parapet, built of brick with stone jambs and dated to the early 16th century. To either side of the gate are niches containing carved stone wood-woses (heraldic 'green man' figures), the supporters of the arms of the Willoughby family. A contemporary brick wall extends northwards from it for a distance of approximately 40m, and to the south of it is a short length of later walling, differently constructed of brick, flint and random, re-used stone. From the inner, eastern face of the gate, a cross wall of brick with traces of diaper work extends westwards for a distance of 30m, dividing the interior, and there are indications that it once continued northward. Against the northern face of this wall is a small outbuilding, dated to the early 19th century but incorporating stone architectural fragments, and also moulded terra cotta panels, set face inward. One of the stone fragments is carved with the motto of the Willoughby family. The gateway and associated walling to north and west, with the length of wall to the south and the above-mentioned outbuilding, which together are Listed Grade II, are included in the scheduling, together with the walls and structures revetting the inner face of the moat. In addition to the visible and upstanding remains, various flint and stone foundations have been located beneath the turf of the interior. They include the footings of a flint wall running approximately parallel to the edge of the moat on the east side and stone blocks or paving to the south-east of the Hall. A gateway of brick and stone, decorated with shields with armorial devices and quarterings of the Willoughbys, opening on to the northern part of the interior, was dismantled and shipped to America in 1926. Adjoining the western arm of the moat, and in parallel alignment, is a rectangular, sloping terrace, raised up to 1m above the prevailing ground level at the southern end and defined on the north, west and south sides by a dry ditch and flat-topped internal bank, with the western boundary following the crest of the hill slope. The ditch measures up to 1.5m in depth and approximately 6m in width, widening to 10m on the north side, and the bank is approximately 5m wide with a height of 0.5m but mounded higher at the north- western and south-western corners. The enclosure has overall dimensions of approximately 160m north-south by 90m east-west. The flat-topped bank and dry ditch represent a terrace within a canal and such features are characteristic of 16th and 17th-century formal gardens. The mounded corners of the bank probably represent prospect mounds, vantage points from which the house and gardens might be viewed. Other garden features survive within the enclosure as slight earthworks. In the north-eastern quarter, facing the causeway across the western arm of the wet moat, is a low bank and an L-shaped hollow approximately 4m wide and 55m in length, the long arm of which lies north-east/south-west. At the southern end of this hollow is a mound approximately 0.5m high, which is another component in the garden layout. A rectangular pond on the south side of the enclosure is also likely to have originated as an ornamental feature. In Stewponds Wood, approximately 50m north-east of Moat Hall, is a large sub-rectangular pond measuring approximately 45m north-south by a maximum of 29m east-west. This is surrounded by a bank 2m wide at the top and by a broad outer ditch, approximately 10m wide and up to 3m deep, with traces of a second outer bank on the western side, beyond the ditch. A wide inlet on the north side connects the ditch to a pond, now mainly dry, and a field drain. At the south-eastern corner is a culverted outlet which issues into the north- eastern corner of the adjacent moat. Despite the name of the wood, the character and scale of the pond and surrounding earthworks indicate that they were constructed originally as further ornamental garden features, although they may have had a secondary use in managing fish stocks. The manor of Parham was held in the 14th century by the de Uffords, Earls of Suffolk. In the early 15th century it passed to Robert, 6th Lord Willoughby of Eresby in Lincolnshire, and it remained in the possession of the Willoughby family until 1649. Some of the buildings may have been begun by Sir Christopher Willoughby (died 1488-9) but what remains visible is more likely to have been the work of his successors, William (died 1526), Christopher (died 1538-40) or William, 1st Lord Willoughby of Parham (died 1570). Moat Hall, which is Listed Grade II*, is excluded from the scheduling, as are associated outbuildings and upstanding garden walls, other than those described above; also excluded are the driveway and paths, all service pipes and inspection chambers, the modern concrete reinforcement of the southern face of the causeway and all field boundary fences and gates, but the ground beneath all these buildings and features is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Copinger, W A, History of the Manors of Suffolk: Volume V, (1909), 151-157
Sandon, E, A Study of Domestic Architecture, (1977), 281
Martin, E, Easton, T, 'Proc Suff Inst Archaeol' in Moats In The Landscape: Parham And Letheringham, , Vol. 27, (1992), 399-401
Gray, J W, (1992)


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

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