Upbury moated site and associated fishponds


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


Ordnance survey map of Upbury moated site and associated fishponds
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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:
TL 07376 34353

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 monument known as Upbury is one of the most elaborate and best preserved moated sites in Bedfordshire. The monument illustrates a sequence of development from a small moated site to a large complex of interconnected enclosures which indicates both the importance of the manor within the district and the social standing of the inhabitants. The complex of ditches surrounding the various enclosures retains detailed evidence of the water management system and includes a series of fishponds which cast light on the economy of the settlement. The interiors of the islands contain evidence of buried structures relating to the medieval and post medieval occupation of the site, and retain a number of earthworks providing evidence for contemporary cultivation practices. Despite some infilling, the ditches will retain both artefactual and environmental evidence relating to the occupation of the site and the landscape in which it was set. The importance of the site is further enhanced by the existence of historical documents which refer to the medieval and post medieval use of the site, and by the possibilty suggested by the placename of an earlier, Anglo-Saxon predecessor to the moated manor. Upbury lies within an area where moated sites are relatively numerous thereby enabling social and chronological variations to be explored.


Upbury moated site is situated on relatively level ground some 150m to the north of Gagmansbury Farm and 400m to the north west of a steep knoll surmounted by the village of Pulloxhill. The monument consists of the remains of the manor of Upbury, which comprise a central moated enclosure located within a complex of ditches defining outer wards and including a series of fishponds. The central moated enclosure is rectangular in plan, measuring 55m north east to south west by 38m north west to south east, and is surrounded by a water filled ditch generally about 2m deep and 10m wide. A 4m wide causeway which spans the centre of the south eastern arm is thought to be the original entrance to the island. A second entrance has been provided in recent years by partially infilling a 16m wide section of the north eastern arm. The interior of the island shows a slight increase in height towards the centre and contains a series of minor undulations which are considered to represent the locations of earlier buildings. An estate map dated 1768 depicts a rectangular building adjacent to the inner edge of the north eastern arm of the moat. Further buildings are shown within the northern corner and in the vicinity of the original entrance on an Enclosure Award Map dated 1820. This small moated site is considered to be the earliest component of the complex, probably dating to the 12th century. A larger moated enclosure, thought to date from the 13th or 14th century, extends to the north, east and south surrounding the earlier site. This irregular enclosure measures approximately 200m north east to south west and 120m north west to south east, and is defined by a series of partially water filled ditches of similar size to those surrounding the smaller moated site. The north western side of this enclosure is completed by the north western arm of the earlier moat and by the broad, 40m long, supply channel which forms an extension to the south west. The 1768 estate map shows this outer moated enclosure sub-divided into two parts. Access to the northern half (termed `The Grove') was provided by a causeway separating the ditches which converge at the northern corner, and by a second causeway located between the two, off-set ditches which comprise the north eastern arm of the moat. The ditches surrounding this northern section of the enclosure are flanked by internal banks which vary between 4m and 9m in width and average 1m in height. The area is further divided by a 0.5m high bank which leads from the the eastern corner of the inner enclosure to the causeway across the north eastern arm of the outer ditch. This feature forms a division between an area of cultivation earthworks (ridge and furrow) to the north west and a series of low earthworks to the south east, thought to indicate further building platforms and yards. The south eastern arm of the outer moat terminates at a distance of about 100m from the eastern corner of the enclosure. The intervening gap which separates this section from the continuation of the arm some 60m further south, contains no evidence of an infilled ditch, and is considered to be the principal entrance to the outer enclosure. A series of buildings is shown in this area on the 1768 map, situated on the alignment of the ditches and extending towards the south western arm of the inner moat. A small pond situated adjacent to the eastern corner of the inner moat is also depicted. The section of the outer enclosure to the south of these structures, termed `The Green', contains further raised areas and hollows. Some of these features correspond to the locations of buildings shown on the 1820 Enclosure Map, although others are thought to relate to buildings and activities associated with the earlier occupation of the site. The south western arm of the outer moat becomes more narrow towards the west reaching a minimum width of about 4m. This ditch is separated from the main supply channel (which extends for a further 80m on the same alignment) by a narrow causeway. The main channel, which also supplies the north western arm of the inner moat, measures approximately 12m wide and 1.5m deep, and is flanked on the southern side by a bank, 5m wide and 0.6m high. The channel contains a narrow central gully formed by the passage of water, and defines the south western edge of a further rectangular enclosure to the west of the central moated site. The north western and north eastern arms of this subsidiary enclosure, which measures 100m north east to south west by 50m transversely, are similarly marked by a partially water filled ditch, 10m in width and 1.5m in depth. The eastern end of the north western ditch is approximatley 1m higher than the adjacent supply channel, and is separated by a 1.2m high bank which retains evidence of an overflow leat. The interior of the enclosure (named as `The Great Orchard' on the 1768 map) retains traces of settlement or cultivation earthworks, and the remains of a 3m wide bank which survives to a height of 0.4m-1m around all but the south eastern perimeter. Access to this island was provided by a 6m wide gap between the terminal of the north eastern arm of the ditch and the northern corner of the central moat. A linear pond, 50m in length and 12m in width, flanks the southern side of the south western arm of the larger outer enclosure (the `Green'). Material from the moat and/or the pond has been used to raise the surface of an 8m wide island which separates these features, so that it now stands about 1m above the surrounding ground level. A narrow ditch has been cut between the moat and the northern corner of the pond to provide a supply of water. This, however, is a recent alteration superseding an earlier c.8m wide ditch (now infilled) which surrounded a rectangular extension to the north west of the present island. The pond, together with the connecting channels and the adjacent arm of the moat (which is some 14m wide) forms a complex of ponds which would have served for breeding fish. The outflow channels from the southern end of the pond and the moat converge to supply a second pond situated some 20m to the west. This pond is shown on the 1768 map forming the western corner of a square moated enclosure called `The Little Orchard', which measures approximately 35m across. The pond has recently been extended to the north, and the upcast material used to fill the ditches which surround all but the north western side of the enclosure. The ditches, however, remain visible as slight depressions measuring some 8m in width. The name of the manor is thought to derive from the Anglo Saxon personal name `Hutta' and the term `burh': meaning a defended settlement or enclosure. The earliest recorded versions of the name, such as `Hutteberia, Hubberia and Upbiri' occur in documents dating from the late 12th and early 13th centuries; and coincide with the period during which the central moated enclosure is considered to have been constructed, perhaps on the site of an earlier settlement. The manor was held by Roger de Hucburi in the early 13th century and is recorded in the possession of Hugo Blundel de Ubbury in 1333. A monument in Pulloxhill church commemorates George Fitz Esq. lord of the manor of Beeches and Upbury who died in 1603. Fitz was succeeded by Sir William Briars who acquired the property by marriage. The manor was occupied by the Day Family in the early years of the 18th century and passed to the De Greys of Wrest Park shortly thereafter. All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1806), 126
Mawer, A, Stenton, F, The Place Names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, (1926)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1908), 376
Wadmore, B, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, (1920), 217-9
'Bedfordshire Notes and Queries' in Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, , Vol. 3, (), 61
'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Bedfordshire Magazine, , Vol. 9, (1963), 11-12
1919, Transcriptions
Cookson, A, Upbury Moat, (1980)
dicussion of alterations, Sanders, J, Upbury Moated Site, (1993)
discussion during site visit, Sanders, J, Upbury Moated Site, (1993)
Enclosure Award Map, CRO MA 56 /1/1, (1820)
Entries for Day Family, Bedfordshire Parish Registers, Pulloxhill, (1700)
Estate Map for the De Grey Family, CRO L33/32, (1768)
Estate Map, CRO L33/32, (1768)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Source Date: 1974 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Revised Survey TL 03 SE 8 (Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series) Source Date: 1973 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Transcriptions, (1926)
Transcriptions, BHRS (Quarto), (1929)


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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