Maxey Castle: a moated site with associated enclosures and a fishpond


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.

City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 12911 08821

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 the moat has been partially damaged by infilling and clearance, Maxey Castle remains a well preserved example of a single-island moated site, with surviving features related to water management and an associated fishpond. The area to the north of the moated enclosure contains a rare example of an outer courtyard surrounded by flood defences, the importance of which is enhanced by the evidence contained in a 16th century map held in the Public Record Office. The history of Maxey Castle is well documented and shows that occupation was of a relatively limited duration. The monument is therefore of considerable significance for the study of moated sites since it represents a particular stage in their development. The silts within the ditches, the fishpond and the undisturbed section of the moat will contain environmental and artefactual evidence related to the occupation of the site. The island and courtyard will retain buried remains including the foundations of buildings.


Maxey Castle is situated at Castle End on the north edge of the village of Maxey. The castle is a later medieval moated site with outworks to the north and north east and an associated fishpond to the south east. The moated site includes a square central island, measuring 50m across, which is surrounded by a wet moat on the south west, north west and north east sides. The remaining side, the south east, has been largely infilled to the level of the external ground surface although the moat ditch will survive as a buried feature. Where the moat is open it is about 16m wide. The ditches have been cleared of silt recently using a machine, and the upcast material dumped on the island; as a result the ditches are now permanently wet. Two duck houses, reached from the island, have been constructed in the moat. There is a counterscarp bank, between 6m and 10m wide, on the north west and north east sides of the moat. On the north east side there is a broad, level terrace, 6m wide, beyond the outer bank. A 10m wide gully leads almost directly north east from the south east corner of the moat. This is thought to be an internal boundary feature. A 5m wide and 0.4m deep leat leads from the south east corner of the moat to a small rectangular fishpond lying adjacent to Mill Road. The pond, which is dry, measures 45m along the north east/south west axis, and 15m acoss the north west-south east axis. It is about 1.5m deep and both the north east end and the north west side are slightly embanked. There is a 5m wide outlet channel at the eastern end of the south east side which drains into the boundary ditch flanking the road. This ditch forms part of the southern boundary ditch of the group of enclosures to the north and north east of the moated site. It is for the most part 4m wide and flanked by an internal bank, 4m wide and 0.6m high. The ditch returns along the east side, abutting the boundary fence, for approximately 160m before terminating abruptly. At a point some 20m to the south of the ditch terminal the bank and ditch divides with a branch of the bank projecting westwards for approximately 90m before turning north again. To the north and east of the moat a second bank, approximately 0.5m high and 4m-6m wide, runs parallel to the outer flood defences, some 8m within the outer bank. The second bank is also flanked by an external ditch, approximately 0.4m deep and 3m-4m wide. This feature continues parallel to the north west arm of the moated enclosure. These two ditch systems, which define a group of enclosures to the north east and north of the moated site, probably served to define paddocks and courtyards associated with the moated site, although their primary purpose seems to have been as flood defences. The history of Maxey Castle is well documented and indicates that occupation was relatively short-lived. A licence to crenellate (fortify) the moated manor was granted in 1374-75. By the mid-16th century, however, Leland observed that parts of the site were already ruinous. A 16th century illustration of the castle shows it to have had a tall central tower or keep and a number of earthwork banks, the outer flanked by a ditch parallel to the north east angle of the moat. All modern fences, the two duck-houses in the moat and the modern timber building outside the north west arm of the moat are excluded from the scheduling, 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
Peers, C, The Victoria History of the County of Northamptonshire, (1906), 502
Leland, J, 'Leland's Itinerary' in Leland's Itinerary, , Vol. Fol 5, (1964), 32
16th century illustration of site, P.R.O. MP 1 251,


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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