Rolleston manor: three moats, eight fishponds with sluices, ridge and furrow and a leat
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1011134
Date first listed: 11-Dec-1951
Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jul-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Newark and Sherwood (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SK7423552735
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 complexity and extent of the earthworks at Rolleston indicate a manorial centre of considerable importance. The three moats exhibit well the diversity of form and function of this class of monument, while the associated leat, fishponds and ridge and furrow demonstrate the sophistication of the medieval manorial economy. As the site has suffered only minimal disturbance since it was abandoned, building foundations and other features will survive extensively on the islands. In addition, organic and environmental remains will have been well-preserved in the wet areas of the moats and fishponds.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of three moats, a group of eight fishponds
with sluices, an area of ridge and furrow and a water channel or leat, all of
which are associated with the medieval and post-medieval manor of Rolleston.
Originally, the leat and fishpond complex extended further north but have been
covered by a railway embankment. Although further remains are likely to
survive under the embankment, they have not been included in the scheduling as
their extent and state of preservation are insufficiently understood.
The west moat is a rectangular feature with its long-axis orientated south-
west to north-east. It consists of two islands, each roughly 30m square,
divided by a 3m wide ditch and surrounded by a 12m wide moat. The latter,
which still contains water on the north-west side and is boggy elsewhere, has
gradually become silted up and is now c.1m deep. It is revetted on the outside
by a flat, 3m wide bank which stands c.0.5m above the surrounding ridge and
furrow. A narrow channel or sluice runs eastward from the east corner of this
moat into a 3m wide leat or water course which extends to the north-west and
south-east for a total of 220m. The ends of this leat are truncated by the
railway embankment and by the houses and gardens along the west side of
Staythorpe Road. There is a 1m high bank between the west moat and the leat
and a similar bank between the leat and the central moat which lies to the
north-east. This moat, the largest of the three, is sub-rectangular and has
its long axis orientated north-west to south-east, parallel with the leat. Its
single island measures roughly 100m by between 50m at the north-west end and
75m at the south-east end. It is likely to have been this island on which the
main domestic and ancillary buildings were built, and records indicate that a
manor house was still standing on the site in 1820. The island is surrounded
by a 3m deep moat measuring c.16m wide on all but the north-east side where it
is 12.5m wide. This moat is now dry and the south-west arm contains the modern
field boundary. A bank extending round the edges of the island indicates that
it too was walled. This bank is especially prominent where it rounds the west
corner of the island and extends down the south-west side. Approximately half-
way down this side there is a break where the bank starts to turn inwards.
Brick showing through the soil at this point is believed to indicate the site
of a gate or gatehouse and, therefore, a bridging point over the moat. To the
south-east of this, enclosing the south corner of the island, is a slight
right-angled bank indicating the position of a building or other walled
feature. The east angle of the moat is now filled in but is well-preserved
beneath the wooden sheds that over-lie it. At this point it also merges with
the south-east arm of the north moat. This arm of the moat has also been
filled in but survives beneath the modern farmyard where it has been largely
kept clear of buildings and structures. The north moat lies parallel to the
central moat and includes an island measuring c.90m by c.70m orientated north-
west to south-east. The north-east arm has been filled in and re-dug as a
boundary ditch and planted with a hedge. The original moat will, however,
partially survive as a buried feature. This moat too bears signs of having a
wall-enclosed island. It has been levelled in the past and faint linear
earthworks, like very slight ridge and furrow, run along its length. These are
interpreted as spade-dug horticultural beds and indicate that the island was
the site of a kitchen garden. On the north-west side, the island is separated
from an elaborate system of fishponds by an 8m wide stretch of moat which
itself probably served as a fishpond. This extends westward for 33m then is
blocked by a causeway which joins the area of the fishponds to the north
island. Beyond the causeway the moat continues westward and becomes the north-
west arm of the central moat, which is then connected via a narrow channel at
its west corner to the leat described above. Rolleston manor was part of the
Neville estate during the Middle Ages and may also have had connections with
Thurgarton Priory. The manorial and monastic economy of the period relied not
only on grain-production and animal husbandry, but also on gardening and the
active management of food resources such as rabbits and fish. Monastic
establishments in particular relied heavily on fish since they were not
permitted meat, and elaborate fishpond complexes were often created. Including
the north-west arm of the northern moat (Fishpond A), there are eight distinct
ponds in the group at Rolleston. In the following description they are
labelled A to H. All are rectangular and are interconnected by narrow channels
containing sluices which controlled the movement of water and fish. Fishpond A
is connected by a sluice leading from its north-east end to Fishpond B. This
extends at 90 degrees to 'A' along the north-east edge of the group and
measures 30m by 6m. Fishpond A is also connected via a sluice to Fishpond C
which lies parallel with it to the north-west and measures 70m by 8.5m.
Fishpond B is connected to Fishpond D which lies parallel and to the north-
west of fishponds A and C, measures 62m by 10m and is waterlogged. Fishpond D
is in turn connected at its west end to Fishpond E, which also lies in
parallel to the north-west and is truncated by the railway embankment. An area
measuring 50m by 8m is still visible. To the north-west of 'E' is Fishpond F
which, although in parallel, is offset and is also partially buried by the
railway embankment. This pond is connected to 'E' approximately mid-way along
its length, is also waterlogged and measures 70m by 12m. Extending from the
western end of its south-east side are two more sluices which connect it to
Fishponds G and H. These are parallel with each other and Fishpond B but lie
at 90 degrees to the others in the group. Fishpond H, the westernmost of the
group, measures 30m by 6.5m while Fishpond G measures 41m by 12m and is
connected via a sluice to the moat round the central island. All the fishponds
are between 5m and 8m apart except for 'G' and 'H' which are 15m apart. This,
and faint traces of what may be another sluice emerging westward from 'G',
suggest there was possibly once a ninth fishpond which was filled in while the
others stayed in use.
In addition to the above features, pronounced earthworks left by ridge and
furrow cultivation survive, running south-west to north-east on the west side
of the manorial complex and at right-angles to this on the south-side.
Formerly these areas lay within the manor's arable fields and were once part
of a wider open-field system. Ridge and furrow ploughing was carried out
throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods and the plough-ridges at
Rolleston cannot be precisely dated without evidence from documents or
excavation. However, they clearly respect the west and central moats and so
will be broadly contemporary.
A number of features are excluded from the area of scheduling. These include
all boundary fencing, the surface of the farmyard and the farm-buildings and
structures that partially over-lie the moat on the south-east side. The ground
beneath these features is, however, 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: 13387
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908)
St Joseph, J K,
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