Yarl's Wood hermitage and moated site


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012057

Date first listed: 05-Jan-1993


Ordnance survey map of Yarl's Wood hermitage and moated site
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Milton Ernest

National Grid Reference: TL 03808 56040


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 Yarl's Wood is identified historically as the site of a hermitage, the home of a religious individual or group seeking solitude and isolation. Although one of many types of ecclesiastical monument characteristic of the medieval period, positively identified hermitage sites are comparatively rare. Such monuments are representative of a very particular and exceptional way of life adopted by a small minority of people throughout the medieval period. Yarl's Wood Hermitage moated site is largely well preserved and partial excavation has revealed the form of buildings on the island. The fishponds and parts of the moat contain waterlogged silts from which information relating to the medieval environment and the economy of the site may be recovered.


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


The monument includes a moated site and hermitage situated on fairly level ground at the head of the valley of a small stream which feeds the moat and thence flows south to the River Great Ouse. The moated site is roughly rectangular in plan, measuring a maximum of 65m by 75m, and is defined by a ditch up to 8m wide and 1.5m deep. The southern arm of the ditch carries the stream which enters the moat at the north-west; a diversion of the stream runs around the north-eastern side of the moat in a channel or outer ditch 3m wide by 0.5m deep which is parallel to the moat ditch. Where the stream flows into the moat the ditch is shallower and opens into a marshy depression about 20m long by 15m wide; this is thought to be a fishpond, or series of ponds, integral with the moat which has become silted up over the years. Sluices, whose remains are thought to survive buried in the silts, will have controlled the flow of water from the stream into the moat, fishponds and outer channel. On the south-eastern arm of the moat there is an outer bank 0.5m high and 3m wide. Contained within the moat is an island which, excluding the depression containing the fishponds, measures about 40m by 40m and has remains of a stone building upstanding to about 0.5m in height at the centre. This building, exposed by partial excavation in 1961, comprises the dry-bonded foundations of a rectangular hall measuring at least 10m long by 6m wide; finds of pottery and ironwork showed that the building was occupied from the 12th century and was destroyed by fire in the 16th century. Remains of walling have also been observed 10m to the north-west of the main building. The moated site is documented as the site of a hermitage associated with Cauldwell Priory and the name `Yarl's Wood' survives as a field name: The island later became the site of a manor house; one John Fitzjeffrey is recorded as the tenant of the `Armytage' in 1536, shortly before the archaeologically attested fire.

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: 20457

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hutchings, J B, Milton Ernest - A Field Survey, (1969), 69-78
Beds 912,
P.A.S., Ordnance Survey Record, (1974)
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Ward, M W, Conversation with Farm Manager, (1991)

End of official listing