A moated site, three fishponds, two trackways and field systems at Moat Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of A moated site, three fishponds, two trackways and field systems at Moat Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 96622 43277

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 moated site at Moat Farm is set within a medieval toft or enclosed field system associated with a single farmstead. Tofts may have contained both pasture and arable fields, the latter often exhibiting traces of ridge-and-furrow, parallel earthworks created by a method of ploughing peculiar to the period. During the medieval period land was generally divided up between members of the community, with individual peasants holding small dispersed parcels of land located in large open fields; but by the 15th century a widespread process of enclosure had begun, in which the open fields were apportioned into cohesive units, often centred on an individual farm or manor house. Documentary research has identified that Moat Farm was enclosed at a relatively early date and that it has comprised a single coherent landholding from the medieval period to the present day. The monument includes a well-preserved moated site, which is thought to contain the below-ground remains of the medieval farm house, and well-defined ridge-and-furrow demonstrating the extent and layout of a substantial part of the associated field system. Waterlogged silts, accumulated in the fills of the moat and various ponds, provide conditions favouring the preservation of organic remains from which the environment and agricultural economy of the medieval farm may be reconstructed. Additional surviving earthworks are evidence of a system of fields pre-dating the Enclosure; the site therefore has potential for the study of changes in land-use and tenure through time.


The monument includes a moated site with cultivation earthworks representing an associated field system, three ponds, two trackways and an earlier medieval field system surrounding the moat. Moat Farm is situated 1.6km north of Cranfield church on a Greensand plateau. Documentary research has shown that Moat Farm was enclosed at a comparatively early date and the monument thus represents the surviving remains of a single unified landholding which originated in the medieval period.

The moated site, located at the northern end of the monument, has maximum dimensions of 120m north-south by 70m east-west and is irregular in plan, having five sides of unequal length. The profile of the ditch on the southern arm has been slightly altered as a result of gardening at the front of Moat Farm house but the remainder is thought to be largely unaltered. The ditch varies between 5m and 10m in width and while the southern arm is up to 1.5m deep, the north-eastern arm is only about 0.3m deep, due to accumulated silt. The island is flat and level with the surrounding land and measures 100m north-south by 50m east-west. Standing buildings on the island, Moat Farm house and outbuildings, were built in the 19th century or later and the house has a cellar. However its precursor, which was demolished in the early 1800's, stood in front of the present building and its below-ground remains are thought to be well preserved. Two wells to the north of the house are now capped and, although in use until recent times, the shafts are potentially medieval in origin. There are two causeways giving access to the island from the east; one now serves Moat Farm house and a second now leads to the barns and outbuildings. Next to the northern causeway is a fishpond, internal to the island and connected to the north-eastern arm of the moat. The pond, which contains standing water, is 10m long, 5m wide and at least 0.3m deep. North of the moat and linked to its apex by a short leat is a waterfilled pond measuring 12m long by up to 4m wide.

The moated site is approached by a medieval trackway, marked by a green lane 10-12m wide which lies slightly to the west of the modern metalled drive. North of Moat Farm the track is diverted slightly to the east and continues beyond the area of the monument, giving access to modern fields. A second trackway branches from the main track and runs just outside the north-eastern arm of the moat. This track is less well preserved; a part north of the moat survives as a hollow way about 1m deep but adjacent to the north-eastern arm the hollow is infilled and the location of the pond shows that the track went out of use at a comparatively early date.

Parallel to and at either side of the track leading to Moat Farm are lines of ridge-and-furrow. The ridges are up to 0.3m high and are about 180m (or one furlong) in length and are thus complete; the modern fields are thought to respect the original medieval field boundaries. A recent Parish Survey of Cranfield has shed light on the medieval landholdings in the locality. This research has demonstrated that the two fields described above were part of a single landholding, or `toft', associated with Moat Farm and that fields to the west, also containing ridge-and-furrow, were held by occupants of the neighbouring moated site at Broad Green farm. The Moat Farm holding also included four fields to the north and east of the monument but these have been ploughed in recent years and do not retain features relating to medieval cultivation of the land.

To the south and west of the moated site is a ditch which is thought to be an earlier enclosure boundary, representing a different pattern of land-use because it lies partly outside the western boundary of the historically documented landholding. The ditch is about 1m deep and there is a slight bank less than 0.3m high on the inner (western and northern) edges. The outer edge of the western arm lies 40m from the edge of the moat, on a line approximating to that projected south from an existing field boundary, although the northern end of the ditch and bank curves slightly eastwards off that line. There has been some recent disturbance of the ground at the southern end, where a dried-up stream bed approaches the ditch from the north-west and the enclosure abuts the northern headland of an adjacent area of ridge-and-furrow earthworks; some of these are included in the scheduling to enable their relationship with the enclosure to be demonstrated. The enclosure ditch then continues the line of the stream south of the moated site; the outer edge of the ditch lies up to 30m from the southern edge of the moat. At the edge of the modern track leading to the moat the ditch is largely infilled and is observed only as a slight hollow which extends east of the track where it flows into a pond; this measures 10m across and 0.3m deep and is seasonally water-logged. It is thought that the eastern boundary of the enclosure corresponded with the existing field boundary north of the pond and, although infilled over most of its length, the enclosure ditch survives as an irregularly shaped water-filled pond at its northern end. The northern arm of the enclosure is thought to follow the line of the existing field drainage ditches.

Three separate fishponds are located within the scheduling. The first lies at the south-east of the earlier enclosure and is thought to be contemporary with it; the pond is described above. A second pond, which lies at the north eastern boundary of the monument, is thought to be a later modification of the ditch of the outer enclosure; it is water-filled, having an irregular lobed shape in plan, and measures up to 30m long by 14m wide. The third pond is located to the north of the moated site and is thought to be cut into an infilled part of the hollow way. This pond is oval in plan, measuring 14m long by 6m wide, and is linked to the moat by a short leat. The area of the cellared house on the moat island is excluded from the scheduling but the associated farm buildings are thought to have shallow foundations and, while the buildings themselves are excluded, the ground beneath them is included. The derelict World War II RAF station at the extreme east is also excluded from the scheduling, as are the fences and the metalled surfaces of the modern track; although the ground beneath 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
Coleman, SR, 'Bedfordshire Parish Surveys' in Cranfield, (1986), 31-33
Coleman, SR, 'Bedfordshire Parish Surveys' in Cranfield, (1986), map 1
Gadsden G R, (1991)


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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