Medieval moated manorial site of Low Dinsdale at the Manor House


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Darlington (Unitary Authority)
Low Dinsdale
National Grid Reference:
NZ 34598 11016

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.

Although a large number of moated sites survive in England, relatively few are known in the northern counties, including County Durham. The moated site at the Manor House is of unusual form with the existence of the outer enclosure and related earthworks, all of which survive in an excellent state of preservation. The circular form of the inner moat suggests a very early date of construction. This form of moat is also rare north of the Humber estuary. This monument, together with other medieval sites of similar and different form which survive in the region, will greatly contribute to our understanding of medieval rural life and economy in Durham.


The monument includes a medieval manorial site and related earthworks situated within a double moated enclosure on flat land which rises gently to the west and slopes down to the River Tees on the north. The inner enclosure is roughly circular in shape and is defined by a prominent ditch 15m across and 1m deep. It encloses a flat island which measures 50m east-west by 40m north-south. An entrance way, via a Listed Grade II late medieval bridge on the south-east side of the moat, may represent the position of an original causeway or drawbridge giving access to the island. The site of the medieval manor house is located at the southern end of the island. Although encased and extended, the medieval core of the main block survives in the fabric of the present house, a Listed Grade II* building. Excavations in the late 19th century uncovered the foundations and lower vaulted storey of a gatehouse to the south-east of the present house. The outer enclosure, an irregular polygon in shape, is formed by a second ditch, shallow on the east side but varying between 1.2m and 2.5m deep on the west and north sides and measuring 8m across. Immediately inside this ditch is a prominent bank measuring 7m across and surviving in places to a height of 1.5m. An original entrance is visible in the south-east which survives as a deep hollowed path breaching the bank and ditch of the outer enclosure. In total, the area enclosed by the outer ditch and bank measures a maximum of 225m east-west by 240m north-south. The area between the outer and inner enclosures is occupied by numerous earthworks, remains of banks, ditches and hollow tracks, some of which appear to be earlier than the moated site as they are truncated by it. Several others are, however, contemporary with, or later than, the moated site and have the appearance of enclosures for holding stock or other agricultural purposes. Immediately north of the inner moat are the remains of an ornamental fishpond, the present form of which is the result of Victorian and later alterations but which may have had a medieval precursor. A large square bowling or croquet green immediately south of the inner moat, which survives as an earthwork feature, is also of relatively recent date. The moated site was the manorial seat of the Surtees family from the 12th century until the 19th century.

Excluded from the scheduling are all buildings, the listed bridge across the inner moat, the septic tanks to the north of the outbuildings of Manor House Farm, all fences, power lines and lamp posts and the surface of the access drive to the manor house but the ground beneath all these features is included.

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


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Gould, I C, The Victoria History of the County of Durham: Volume I, (1905)
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983)
III, Vyner, B E, Low Dinsdale, earthworks of the manorial establishment, Medieval Rural Settlement in North-East England, (1991)
Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle,
Title: Survey at 1:2500 Source Date: 1991 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Topping, P (RCAME),


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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