Kensbury moated site, fishpond and fragment of a medieval field system


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.

North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 57548 37370

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.

Medieval moated sites often lay at the centre of a wider agricultural complex. The wider remains may include a range of associated agricultural features adjacent to the moat such as fishponds and field systems. A fishpond was an artificially created pool of slow moving fresh water constructed to cultivate, breed and store fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system which included inlet and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices and an overflow channel to prevent flooding. The most common form of field system of the medieval period was known as ridge and furrow. This took the form of parallel rounded ridges separated by furrows. The ridges provided rich well drained land for planting crops. The earthworks of such field systems tended to adopt a characteristic `s' shape to accommodate the turning circle of a plough team. In small or steep areas where the use of a plough team was impractical ridge and furrow would be dug by hand. Although remains of ridge and furrow are common in some areas of central and southern England it is becoming rare in the north. Although cultivated for a short period, the moated island at Kensbury remains undeveloped and retains buried remains of medieval buildings, one of which was still standing until the 1960s and is recorded on maps and photographs. Over the years, part of the circuit of the ditch has been infilled but survives as a buried feature; because of the monument's low-lying situation, the ditch silts will contain environmental evidence. The remains of the ridge and furrow cultivation are all that survive in the area of this form of medieval agriculture. Important evidence of earlier land use will be preserved beneath these remains and they offer important scope for understanding the wider economy of the moated site. Kensbury Hall has been identified as the seat of the de Cawood family, who owned a manor separate from the estate of the archbishops of York; the moated site is thus an important feature relating to the medieval history of the town of Cawood and its remains may be contrasted with the nearby archiepiscopal residence at Cawood Castle.


The monument includes a moated site and an adjacent area containing remains of a fishpond and medieval ridge and furrow. The moated site is known as Kensbury or Keesbury Hall and is situated on low-lying level ground to the south east of Cawood village. Although the medieval archbishops of York had a residence at Cawood Castle and retained major landholdings in the area, Kensbury Hall has been identified as the seat of the de Cawood family, who held a manor in the town independently of the archiepiscopal estate. The fishpond is located in the corner of the field 65m to the south of the moat. It survives as a rectangular depression 40m long by 18m wide. It was connected to the moat by a channel which still survives a shallow earthwork. The ridge and furrow earthworks lie to the south east of the moat and include low ridges up to 4m wide and 0.75m high. This evidence of medieval agriculture is considered to be contemporary with the moated site. It is the only surviving fragment of what would originally have been an extensive field system. The moated island is roughly oval in plan, measuring 50m by 40m across, with a slight mound at its north side where buildings once stood. A rectangular building, measuring 8m long by 4m wide and having a small porch to its north- east elevation, still occupied the site in the 1960s and is depicted on previous OS map editions. A photograph taken in circa 1910 shows a single storey structure built of handmade bricks resembling those used in the construction of Cawood Castle. Two thirds of the circuit of the moat is visible as a ditch, 8m wide and 1m deep. Part of the northern arm of the ditch was infilled in the 19th century but it survives as a buried feature and is visible as an 8m wide swathe of lush vegetation. More recently, the north western arm has also been infilled; it will also survive beneath the gardens of properties fronting onto Broad Lane. As early as AD 975, part of Cawood was specified as not belonging to the archbishops. Cawood is not mentioned at Domesday but it is likely that the Cawoods had received the manor as a royal grant soon after the Norman Conquest and it was certainly in their hands by 1201. The family then held the manor until 1454. By 1425 the manor had passed to Thomas Aunger and was later leased from the Crown by Richard Acclam, after which the manor was apparently broken up and sold off. There is evidence that the moated site was abandoned some time previously as, in 1390, 1403 and 1450, the Cawoods' messuage was described as worthless. All fences and the garden wall of 9 Broad Lane are excluded from the scheduling, although 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Blood, N, Taylor, C, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Cawood: an Archiepiscopal Landscape (Volume 64), , Vol. 64, (1992), 83-102
1:2500 Series,
Photograph in possession of Mrs Payne (the present owner),
SMR Officer N Yorks Co Council, L Smith, Kensbury,
Title: 25" Series Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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