Park Farm moated site, deer park and fishponds


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011713

Date first listed: 23-Apr-1958

Date of most recent amendment: 01-Nov-1995


Ordnance survey map of Park Farm moated site, deer park and fishponds
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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: Eaton Bray

National Grid Reference: SP 95517 21103, SP 95637 21275, SP 95815 20646, SP 96053 20988, SP 96177 20752, SP 96199 20952


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 site at Park Farm is an exceptionally well preserved example of a large, double island type. The islands retain the foundations of numerous structures, related to both the period of its original construction, and to the later development of the manor house. Despite the recent cleaning of the moat, the silts remaining within the lower parts of the ditches will contain both artefactual and environmental evidence pertaining to the period of occupation; and the western part of the moat surrounding the inner island remains undisturbed. The history of the site is well documented providing details of the date of construction, the original and subsequent owners, and inventories listing the various buildings located on the islands.

The moated site is associated with the surrounding medieval deer park, and contemporary fishponds.

Deer parks were areas of land set aside for the management and hunting of deer and other animals. Such parks frequently surrounded major houses, castles or palaces, and normally comprised areas of woodland and pasture provided a mixture of cover and grazing for the deer. Parks could contain a number of features including fishponds and warrens, and were usually surrounded by a park pale: a massive fenced or hedged boundary often accompanied by ditches. Although a small number of parks may have been established in the Anglo-Saxon period, it was the Norman aristocracy's taste for hunting which led to the majority being constructed. The peak period of construction, between AD 1200 and 1350, coincided with a time of considerable prosperity amongst the nobility. However, the popularity of the deer park waned in the 15th century, and by the end of the 17th century most were abandoned. The original number of deer parks constructed in England is unknown, but probably exceeded 3000. Deer parks were long lived, and those which now survive illustrate important aspects of the activities of the nobility. Where examples are well documented, and retain significant remains, the principal features are normally identified as nationally important.

The deer park surrounding the moated site at Park Farm is mentioned in documentary sources dating from the 13th century, and retains several well preserved sections of the park pale which illustrate its former extent. The sections of the bank retain evidence for the process of construction and the accumulated silts within the ditches provide conditions suitable for the preservation of artefacts related to the period of use. The deer park reflects the status of the associated moated site and provides information concerning the activities and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Furthermore, the construction of the deer park reflects a major change in land use, which may have involved the displacement of existing farming communities, evidence for which may survive in the buried land surfaces beneath the banks.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds began during the medieval period and reached a peak in the 12th century. Fishponds were often grouped together, either clustered or in line, and joined by leats; each pond being stocked with a different age or species of fish. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of society, and are considered particularly important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions.

The fishponds constructed adjacent to the park pale surrounding Park Farm moated site remain well preserved, and retain many features related to the separation of the stock and systems of water management. The silts within the ponds (particularly the waterlogged deposits in the western example) will retain artefactual and environmental evidence relating to the period of use. The ponds represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support and enhance the moated site, and are important evidence for the domestic economy of the household.


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


The moated site at Park Farm lies on level ground some 4km to the north of the Chiltern Hills, and approximately 800m to the west of the village of Eaton Bray. The monument includes a large rectangular moated enclosure, containing a smaller circular moated island, located within the eastern part of a contemporary deer park defined by sections of the boundary earthworks. The monument also includes two fishponds, associated with the construction of the deer park and the occupation of the moated site, which lie on the eastern and north western perimeter of the park. It is protected in six separate areas.

The outer moated enclosure measures 160m north east to south west by 120m north west to south east, surrounded by a water filled ditch which varies between 10m and 16m in width. The interior of the island is relatively level, although slight traces of former buildings are evident, particularly in the north eastern corner. Access to the island, which stands about 1m above the level of its surroundings, is provided by a 40m wide causeway spanning the northern end of the south eastern arm of the moat. The causeway overlies a T-shaped arrangement of ditches, noted in 1911, which were interpreted as the remains of an elaborate entrance structure. The second, circular enclosure occupies the north western quarter of the larger island, and measures about 60m in diameter. This island stands about 0.7m above the level of the outer enclosure and is surrounded by a ditch measuring between 20m and 35m in width, the western part of which is incorporated within the arm of the outer moat forming a pronounced bulge. The south eastern part of the inner ditch circuit has been reduced to a depth of about 1m by the gradual accumulation of silt, and is only partially wet. The circular moat is broken in two places. To the north a concrete dam and sluice has been constructed to regulate the level of the water, which is lower in the northern arm. The outlet channel (now a buried pipe) extends northwards from this point and joins with the adjacent brook. The eastern part of the inner moat, which was originally spanned by a drawbridge, has subsequently been infilled to provide a causeway. The surface of the inner island retains numerous minor undulations indicating the foundations of former structures, and fragments of brick are visible in the outward facing scarp around the western side.

The construction of the moated site by William de Cantilowe is recorded in the Annals of Dunstable Priory for 1221. Although frequently referred to as a `castle' the moated site is best described as a fortified manor, although sufficiently imposing to have been considered a threat both to Dunstable and the surrounding countryside. The Inquisition Post Mortem at the death of William's successor in 1274 provides an inventory of the structures located on the islands, within the moats, which at the time were strengthened by walls and crossed by two drawbridges. The inner island contained an elaborate hall and a granary. The outer ward supported numerous outbuildings including stables for 60 horses. This document also mentions a `new chapel', which may represent the final fulfillment of a grant by Merton priory in 1211. The manor was rebuilt by the Bray family during the reign of Henry VIII, and the earlier hall on the inner island replaced by a building of three ranges. By 1675, when the then owner, Sir John Huxley, died, the manor was described as empty and in a considerable state of disrepair. Huxley's son undertook to repair the damage, and a trust deed dated c.1692 refers to a manor, now known as `Eaton Park House', surrounded by barns, stables and other outbuildings including a `stone dovehouse' and a malthouse. The manor is depicted within the moat on Jeffrey's map of Bedfordshire in 1765, although it was finally demolished in 1794. By 1849 the site had been cleared of all standing remains, and the tithe map of that year records the moated enclosure as an area of pasture, termed `Park Gardens'.

In 1911, the earthworks within the moated enclosures were investigated by F Gurney who identified the outline of the Tudor hall within the eastern part of the round island. Further undulations adjacent to the inner edge of the east part of the moat, noted in 1911, and still just visible, are thought to indicate the location of the inner drawbridge.

The earliest reference to the deer park occurs in the Close Rolls for 1241. In 1274, the documents of the Inquisition Post Mortem refer to 28 acres of woodland contained within a park, and the Hundred Rolls for the same year records a charge against Richard Clifford the king's officer, who took venison from the park whilst he held control of the estate following the death of George de Cantilowe. In 1911, the boundary earthworks (or pale) remained plainly visible around most of the park's perimeter, and enclosed an area of approximately 40ha. The park pale consisted of a bank flanked by two ditches, the outer of which is maintained by the line of the brook on the northern side of the moated site. The boundary continued for about 800m to the west of the farm buildings before turning to the south toward the line of the River Ouzel. It then flanked the northern side of the river for about 700m, then turning northwards and passing within 100m to the east of the outer moat. Only four sections of the park pale are now well preserved and clearly visible; the remainder of the circuit has been denuded by subsequent ploughing. These sections which are situated on each of the main sides of the park, allow the complete circuit to be inferred, and are included in the scheduling.

A section of the northern boundary bank, 110m in length and 1.5m high, is located some 360m to the north east of the moated site. The bank has a flat surface, supporting an avenue of trees, and measures about 7m across. A narrow channel cut through the western part of the bank formed an outlet from an adjacent series of fishponds, the northernmost of which replaces the inner ditch. These ponds are described below. The outer ditch is now part of the brook which divides the modern fields. The western boundary is represented by a short section located within a copse some 420m west of the moated site.

At this point the bank is about 7m wide and 0.5m high, flanked by both inner and outer ditches, which measure some 1.5m across and between 0.3m and 0.5m in depth. The line of the earthworks is resumed further to the south, extending for about 270m along the side of the River Ouzel some 350m to the south west of the moated site. The bank, 10m in width and 1.3m high, describes a long, sinuous curve, reflecting the earlier, meandering course of the river, depicted on Jeffrey's map of 1765. The boundary is rendered more imposing by the artificial truncation of the slope leading towards the river, extending the inner ditch, which measures between 2m and 7m in width. Towards the eastern end of this section, the outer ditch which measures about 2m across and O.5m deep, has been superseded by the subsequent alterations to the river. A 10m wide causeway spans the ditches about 100m from the eastern end of the earthworks, and corresponds to a break in bank which is thought to represent an original entrance to the park. The eastern boundary remains clearly visible over a length of about 100m near the eastern side of a post-medieval pond situated some 130m to the south east of the moated site. The bank here measures about 6m across and 0.8m high, flanked by the two ditches each measuring between 2m and 3m in width and averaging 0.4m in depth. The line of the park pale remains just discernible extending for about 80m across the pasture to the north. This section, however, has been reduced by later ploughing to a maximum height of c.0.1m, and is therefore not included in the scheduling.

There are several ponds located around the perimeter of the park, two of which are considered to be medieval fishponds, contemporary with occupation of the manor. The fishpond which lies 40m to the east of the moated site was recorded as containing water on the 1847 tithe map. However, it had been largely infilled by the time of Gurney's investigations in 1911, and now remains visible as a series of shallow depressions which mark the extent of the buried features. It consists of a rectangular pond measuring 28m north to south by 18m east to west, the south western corner of which is connected to a second, linear pond which extends some 40m to the east. A narrow spur which extends about half way across this junction is considered to represent the remains of a dam or sluice. This linear pond has a maximum width of approximately 7m and gradually tapers to a width of 3m at the eastern end where it abuts a series of minor earthworks marking the position of the park pale.

A series of connected channels and ponds which lies adjacent to the surviving section of the boundary earthworks on the northern part of the park's perimeter, was first identified as a fishpond complex in 1911. It consists of three ponds arranged within a triangular area, contained by a low bank around all but the northern side. The northern pond is approximately 5m wide and 88m in length. It flanks the inner edge of the park pale bank and was formerly supplied with water via a narrow channel which extends for about 12m from the eastern end. A 6m wide, flat topped bank separates this pond from the central pond in the complex, located immediately to the south. This central pond is roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 40m in length, and with a maximum width of 16m. The southern side of the central pond is defined by a similar bank, c.1.2m in height, which extends around the western edge of the feature allowing a 3m wide supply channel linked to the northern pond. The third pond, which is about 31m in length and 7m wide, flanks the southern edge of this bank and is connected at the western end to a rectangular extension, 25m in width, which extends to the south of the northern pond. The water levels in the ponds were originally regulated by a narrow outlet channel cut through the boundary bank at the western corner of the complex. The ponds are now about 1m deep and contain deep deposits of waterlogged silt.

The following items are excluded from the scheduling: the wooden platforms around the edge of the moat and the concrete dam, all fences and fence posts, and the wooden structures built on the line of the park pale to the west of the moated site, and on the banks separating the western fishponds; although the ground beneath 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: 24418

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Godber, J, History of Bedfordshire, (1969), 129
Rickards, V, Thunder, C, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1912)
Williams, S, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1912), 370
'BHRS Transcripts' in Bedford Historic Record Society Transcripts, , Vol. 19, (1937), 116-7
Gurney, F G, 'Eaton Bray' in The Frederick Gurney Collection, (1912), 149
Gurney, F G, 'Eaton Bray' in The Frederick Gurney Collection, (1912), 185
Held by Bucks Museum Service, Gurney, F G, The Notebooks of Frederick Gurney, (1912)
Parish of Eaton Bray Tithe Map, Heard, W, CRO MAT 13, (1849)
Parish of Eaton Bray, Tithe Map, Heard, W, CRO MAT 13, (1849)
Sketch in Gurney's notebook, Gurney, F G, CRO X325/146 & 137, (1911)
Title: Map of Bedfordshire (1765) Source Date: 1765 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: MAT 13 Tithe Map: Eaton Bray Source Date: 1849 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Map and Award
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series Source Date: 1902 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series Source Date: 1925 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series Source Date: 1925 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Trust Deed, CRO AD 3880, (1692)

End of official listing