Freen's Court magnate's residence, moat and fishponds, Sutton St Michael


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010392

Date first listed: 03-Feb-1992


Ordnance survey map of Freen's Court magnate's residence, moat and fishponds, Sutton St Michael
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Sutton

National Grid Reference: SO 51936 45901


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

Reasons for Designation

A magnate's residence is a very high status residence of domestic rather than military character. Such dwellings were the houses or palaces of the highest ranks of society, acting both as luxury residences for the elite and their large retinues, and as settings for meetings. These monuments were formed as a complex of buildings, usually of stone, and in general comprised a great hall or halls, chambers, chapels, kitchens, service rooms, lodgings and a gatehouse, usually arranged around a single or double courtyard. Magnate's residences were in use throughout the whole of the medieval period from the Norman Conquest and due to their connection with highest ranks of society and their comparative rarity, surviving examples are considered to be of national importance. Freen's Court acted as a magnate's residence from the early medieval period until it was replaced by another prestigious residence, surrounded by a moat, in the later medieval period. Moats also form a significant class of medieval monument, important for understanding the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the preservation of organic remains. The magnate's residence and moated site at Freen's Court are both well preserved examples and with the fishponds will retain considerable potential for the survival of archaeological and environmental evidence. The magnate's residence is possibly also the location of the palace of the Anglo-Saxon king, Offa.


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


The monument lies on the south side of Sutton St Michael, just to the west of St Michael's church. The magnate's residence has been identified from aerial photographs and by a detailed geophysical survey of the area. The survey evidence shows the buried walls of a substantial building orientated north east, south west, and measuring approximately 25m x 8m. An internal wall at the north east end divides an end chamber from the large hall. There are smaller adjacent rooms on the south west end of the residence. On the north east side, there is a large rectangular ante chamber orientated along the same axis as the main building and measuring 11m x 4.5m. To the south east a double row of post holes or post support pads of a second large building has been identified. This structure is orientated north west, south east and measures 30m x 10m. Both medieval and post medieval metalwork, including a coin of Edward I dated to 1280, were recovered in the area of the first building in April 1991. To the east and north of the residence lie the remains of Freen's Court, a medieval moated site, which covers an area measuring approximately 90m x 80m. The sub-rectangular moat, shown on a map of 1720, is infilled except for the south arm and part of the east arm, and a ditch extending south west from the east arm. The flat bottomed ditch on the south side of the moat is 12m wide and 2.5m deep; the ditch extension from the east arm is 10m wide and 2m deep. The moat island, which is raised 0.5m above the surrounding land level, was the location of a 16th century manor house which is believed to have been constructed on the site of a medieval building. To the west of the moated site, within an area measuring approximately 120m x 135m, lies a marshy depression which was the location of six rectangular fishponds. The moat and ponds are naturally waterlogged and in the past were connected to the River Lugg which runs just south of the site. Around the site, a ditch 0.5m deep with a wide, shallow outer bank, forms a five sided enclosure which encompasses the moat, the large buried buildings and the fishponds. Maps and place-name evidence strongly suggest that this area was also the location of a substantial Anglo-Saxon dwelling and it is recorded that St Ethelbert was murdered by King Offa of Mercia whilst a guest at his royal palace in Sutton. The plan of the stone buildings may indicate continuing use from the early medieval period and it is considered possible that this is the site of the hitherto unlocated Anglo-Saxon palace of Offa. The enclosure ditch may also be associated with early medieval occupation. The drainage ditch on the south of the site which follows the line of the outer enclosure ditch is excluded from the scheduling.

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: 13693

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Sheppard, JA, 'Occasional Papers, Dept of Geog, Queen Mary Coll, Univ London' in The Orig and Evol of fld sett patt in the Herefds manor of Marden, , Vol. 15, ()
Metalwork finds reported 21/4/91, White, H, A suggested Mercian Palace at Sutton, Herefordshire, (1991)
Sent with letter of 27 June 1991, Payne, A. & Linford, N. - AML, Geophysical survey of site at Freens Court Ref: Sutton03/NTL, (1991)

End of official listing