The Pleasance moated site


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.

Warwick (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 26755 72500

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 Pleasance is a rare and untypical example of this class of monument and its history is directly linked with the kings of 15th century England. Partial excavation has indicated that the moated island retains structural evidence and deposits which relate to the site's unusual function as a pleasure garden and retreat, exclusively for the highest orders of medieval society. Additionally, environmental deposits will survive within the waterlogged sections of the moat ditches and the harbour. Documents survive relating not only to the construction and later abandonment of the site, but also the costs and dates of repairs which occurred at the site throughout the 15th century.


The monument is situated 200m south west of Pleasance Farm and approximately 0.8 km north west of Kenilworth Castle and includes The Pleasance moated site. The moated site was constructed at the north west edge of the mere, an artificial lake which formed part of the defences of Kenilworth Castle. The mere was drained in 1649. A documentary reference from the 15th century indicates that the moated site was laid out in an area of reclaimed waste ground, from which the site derives its name: 'le plesans en marais' (the pleasance in the marsh). The Pleasance was constructed by Henry V in c.1414, primarily as a pleasure garden and as a place of entertainment, and was used in preference to the state apartments at Kenilworth Castle by a restricted circle of medieval aristocrats including the king himself. The moated site has external dimensions of 200m north west-south east and 180m north east-south west and includes an inner and outer moat. The outer moat measures up to 10m wide and its north west arm is partly waterfilled. There is an external bank along the north west and south west arms of the moat and, also, along part of the south east arm. A break in the western corner of the external bank is thought to mark the site of an inlet channel, providing water for the two moats. Towards the centre of the north east side of the site, the outer edge of the outer moat has been cut by a small ditch. The relationship between the moated site and this ditch is unclear but it is included in the scheduling. The inner moat averages 14m wide and is now dry. The area between the two moats has a levelled surface and would have originally functioned as a terraced walkway around the inner moat. At the southern corner of the walkway is a small, raised rectangular platform and at the western and northern corners there are slight depressions in the ground surface. The Pleasance was originally approached by boat from Kenilworth Castle across the mere. At the south east edge of the site are the earthwork remains of a 28m wide waterlogged channel, on either side of which is a raised platform. These features are thought to be remains of a harbour or basin, originally used for mooring boats, and of landing stages to provide access to the site. A narrow channel is visible at the eastern corner of the outer moat; it can be traced along the ground surface, curving southwards and cutting through the eastern landing stage, terminating at the edge of the harbour. There is no surface evidence for an original entrance to the moated island from the surrounding land, and the causeway across the north east arms of the inner and outer moats is considered to be modern. The original access onto the moated island itself is thought to have been across the central part of the north east arm. In this area, the terraced walkway is much narrower than its other three sides and its surface rises towards a point near the south east corner until it is the same height as the island. This is thought to mark the site of a bridge across the inner moat. The moated island contains an area of 1.2ha. In 1923 an excavation at the eastern corner of the moated island uncovered the remains of a stone wall which is thought to have enclosed the island. The excavation also located the the base of a spiral staircase and the floor and lower courses of a square tower built within the eastern angle of the enclosing wall. Shallow depressions at the other three corners of the island indicate that each corner was originally the site of a similar structure. The remains of these towers and the enclosing wall will survive as buried features. Documentary records indicate that the moated island was originally occupied by timber-framed buildings, including a timber banqueting hall. The Pleasance was abandoned during the reign of Henry VIII and the buildings at the site were dismantled and re-erected within Kenilworth Castle. The fence posts on the site are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Smith, E T, Leland's Itinerary, (1908), 109
Wylie, J H, The Reign of King Henry the Fifth, 1415-16, (1919), 77-88
Harvey, J H, 'Archaeology Journal' in Sidelights at Kenilworth Castle, , Vol. CL, (1944), 97
Phelps, W, 'Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society' in The Pleasance, , Vol. 49, (1923), 61-2


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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