Marston Magna moated site and associated earthworks


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.

South Somerset (District Authority)
Marston Magna
National Grid Reference:
ST 59489 22189

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 moat at Marston Magna survives as a good example of its class, and is associated with contemporary fishponds and with surrounding earthworks of deserted buildings, enclosures and ridge and furrow cultivation. This is one of few areas where ridge and furrow, once a widespread feature in the landscape of this area, survives as upstanding earthworks. Because of its topographical association with the moated site and associated earthworks, it is considered to provide a setting for the settlement site as well as containing archaeological deposits relating to the occupation of the moated site.


The monument includes a medieval moated site, fishpond and associated earthworks, including an area of contemporary ridge and furrow cultivation, lying to the south of the village church. The site was the subject of a detailed study by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England in 1989. The moat, which is up to 2.2m deep and 9m-17m wide, surrounds four sides of an island, 49m by 40m, which would have been reached by a bridge. A second island may be present adjoining this to the north, defined by the continuation of a west side and east side of the moat - this is uncertain as the north has been disturbed by later building and gardens. On the main island are hollows, which are probably tree holes, while the area on the north contains earthworks of a building and ancillary structures around a yard. An area of infill across the moat is modern. To the east of the moat along the line of the southern side is an oblong fishpond, 84m by 12.8m and 1.2m deep. Where this runs into the moat a neck of land constricts it suggesting that it was regulated by a sluice. The western side of the possible north island may have been a second fishpond. The moat system would have been fed with water from the direction of the mill stream on the east, running out to the village stream on the north, but this is now dry for most of the year. On the land around the moated site are earthwork remains of enclosures and buildings, orientated on the village street and Garston Lane. It is not clear whether these are of the same period as the moat or later. In the field to the south are the well preserved earthworks of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation, a feature once widespread in the area. The ridges, which may originally have been divided into two fields, exhibit the slight reverse S-curve formed as a result of turning plough teams at the head of the field. Lying on the east of this is an unploughed enclosure, defined on three sides by a bank and on the east by the mill stream bank. This is perhaps the end of a paddock cut off by the mill stream. It is interesting to note that the ridge and furrow is lower than the ground surface in this paddock and in the moat area, indicating continued cultivation for a long period. The Domesday survey refers to two manors at `Merstone' held by the Count of Mortain, a man of high status as a landowner in the west. By 1327 it had passed to the Beauchamp family, and probably ceased to be inhabited by the end of that century. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, telegraph poles and an interpretation board, although 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
RCHME, , Marston Magna, Somerset, (1989)


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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