Moated site and formal garden remains at Aylmer Hall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009985

Date first listed: 21-Dec-1994


Ordnance survey map of Moated site and formal garden remains at Aylmer Hall
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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 19:47:24.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Tilney St. Lawrence

National Grid Reference: TF 55172 14652


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 manorial site at Aylmer Hall survives well and is one of the best preserved examples of its class in the marshland area of the Fens of west Norfolk, south of the Wash. It will retain important archaeological information concerning the construction and use of the site during the medieval and early post-medieval periods, and evidence of earlier land use will be preserved in soils buried beneath the raised surface of the central platform in the southern enclosure. The location of the monument alongside a medieval drove road, and also the remains of early post-medieval formal garden features within the southern of the two enclosures, make it of additional interest.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument, which lies on the east side of a medieval drove road and 220m south east of St Lawrence's Church, is situated on fenland marine silt deposited after the Roman period. It includes two joined, rectangular, ditched enclosures on a line north-south, the southern of which contains raised terraces and two ornamental ponds. Also included are linear hollows which run close and parallel to the western side of the two enclosures, on the eastern boundary of the drove. These moats and associated earthworks are on the site identified as Broughton's Manor in a survey dated 1685 and on an inclosure map of 1798, and the manor is recorded in the later 15th century as being held by the Broughton family from the Abbot of St Edmundsbury.

The overall dimensions of the southern enclosure are c.120m east-west by 108m north-south, and the northern enclosure measures c.108m east-west, with an estimated overall length north-south of 100m. The ditch which defines the western boundary of the two enclosures is visible as a relatively slight linear depression up to 0.5m deep and between 8m and 9m wide, with a possible causeway c.10m wide opposite the north western angle of the southern enclosure. The east-west ditch which divides the northern from the southern enclosure is more substantial, measuring c.1m in depth and 16m in width. The outer part of the ditch on the south side of the southern enclosure has been recut and is in use as a modern field drain, as is the outer part of the ditch which defines its eastern boundary, so that only the inner edges of the original feature remain visible. The modern drain continues along the southern part of the east side of the northern enclosure, where there are also traces of the original ditch, and it is probable that the eastern moat ditch extends as a buried feature to the north of the modern drain, opposite the visible ditch on the western side. The line of the northern boundary of the northern enclosure is indicated by anomalies in the modern field boundaries at either end.

The surface of the southern enclosure is raised between 0.5m and 1m above the prevailing ground surface level, in a series of terraces and platforms. A rectangular platform, measuring c.78m north-south by 70m east-west, occupies the greater part of the area. On the west side of this is a slightly lower terrace, c.18m wide, to the north of which, in the north western angle of the enclosure, is an isolated rectangular platform, measuring c.18m east-west by 9m north-south, separated from the rest by irregular hollows and projections from the adjacent ditches. On the south western part of the higher platform is a flat-topped rectangular mound, up to 0.4m high and measuring c.34m north-south by 14m east-west, with a slightly lower, semicircular mound adjoining it on the east side. In the middle of the southern side of the platform there is also a well head. Immediately to the south of all these features are two rectangular ponds, aligned east-west and parallel to the southern ditch of the enclosure; and between the ponds and the southern ditch is a flat-topped bank c.5m wide. The ponds are between 1.6m and 2m in depth below the level of the adjacent platform and are linked by a shallower depression. The eastern pond, which measures c.12m by 42m, now opens into the eastern ditch of the enclosure. The western pond is of similar width and measures c.40m in length. The ponds and the terraces and mounds to the north of them appear to be the remains of ornamental water features, raised walkways, platforms and prospect mounds characteristic of 16th and 17th century formal garden landscaping, and a survey dated 1685 refers to `a cappitall mansion' on or adjacent to the site, to which such gardens might have been attached.

All boundary fences and also the farm buildings and yard surfaces in the northern part of the north enclosure 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: 20822

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Leah, M, Mathews, M, Fenland Evaluation Project: Norfolk, (1990), 3
Silverster, R J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 3: Norfolk Survey, Marshland and Nar Valley, (), 60
Silverster, R J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 3: Norfolk Survey, Marshland and Nar Valley, (), 60
Dossier for H B M C, Davison, A, Fenland Evaluation Project, Norfolk, (1990)
Dossier for H B M C, Davison, A, Fenland Evaluation Project, Norfolk, (1990)

End of official listing