Moated site and two fishponds at The Rectory
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1009588
Date first listed: 03-Jul-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Houghton Conquest
National Grid Reference: TL 04423 40950, TL 04514 40889
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 island has considerable potential for the preservation of below-ground remains of the buildings that originally occupied it. The moat and the fishponds, although partially altered by infilling and garden landscaping, retain deposits from which environmental evidence pertaining to the economy of the inhabitants may be recovered. In contrast to the majority of moated sites in the locality, the site at The Rectory is historically documented as having an ecclesiastical rather than seigniorial status.
The monument, which consists of two discrete areas, includes a moated site
with two outlying fishponds and is situated about 500m from the foot of the
Greensand ridge on land which falls gently to the north.
The moated site is roughly rectangular. The western and eastern arms of the
moat or ditch are both about 60m long, but the northern and southern arms are
80m and 50m long respectively. Three arms are straight but the northern arm
has a slight kink in the middle so that it joins the side arms at
right-angles. The ditch is about 8m wide and 2.5m deep and is completely dry,
although there is a seasonally active stream bed feeding into the south-west
corner. A drainage sump has been inserted into the bottom of the ditch in the
north-west corner. The north-east corner of the moat has been infilled and
slightly altered by a 19th century extension to The Rectory. Despite this,
the line of the ditch can be observed as a slight depression and
archaeologically important silts are considered to be well preserved beneath
the infilling. The moat is surrounded by an outer bank which, although
largely obscured by garden landscaping in the Rectory grounds, is well
preserved in the paddock to the west. Here the bank is 5m wide and 0.5m high.
Traces of the bank are apparent along the northern arm where there is a slight
raised area, about 10m wide, along the lip of the ditch. Surrounded by the
moat is an island which measures 50m north-south by up to 60m east-west. The
interior is flat and level with the surrounding natural ground surface.
Contained within the north-east corner is a Grade II Listed, 18th century
rectory, extended in the 19th century.
The fishponds are situated some 40m to the north of the moat and lie parallel
to each other against the northern boundary of the property. The southern
pond is dry, measuring about 50m long by 10m wide and is 1.5m deep. The
northern pond holds standing water and is about 8m wide, at its eastern end,
and at least 1m deep. The pond narrows to the west, gradually becoming a
drainage channel about 2m wide. The pond is at least 80m long.
The moat at The Rectory is not associated with any of the known medieval
manors of Houghton Conquest and is considered to have originated as a medieval
rectory. A 1625 Terrier of Parsonages in the parish describes in detail the
accommodation of a building predating the present house.
The Grade II Listed rectory, the adjacent garden wall and the metalled surface
of the driveway are excluded from the scheduling as is the boundary fence on
the western arm of the moat. The ground beneath them 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: 20430
Legacy System: RSM
Beds CRO: P11/2/1 Terrier of Parsonages of Houghton Conq. (1625), (1760)
Beds. 3236: 'Houghton Conquest' draft leaflet,
Mrs E Dorman, Quoting Rev. Zackery Grey, (1991)
Taylor, A., Beds 3236: Notes of site visit, (1973)
Title: Enclosure map of Houghton Conquest Source Date: 1808 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