Moated site in Cobb's Wood
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TL 34691 51590
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 monument in Cobb's Wood is a well preserved example of a double island moated site. Despite some damage caused by tree roots and the drainage work which followed the clearance of the woodland, the site remains largely undisturbed allowing a clear picture of the site's defences and water- management system. The ditches will contain artefacts related to the period of occupation, and environmental evidence which will illustrate the landscape in which it was set. The islands retain evidence of the former structures including the location of the main hall and the foundations of the bridge. The importance of the site is enhanced by the existence of historical documents which record the owners and occupants of the site during the medieval and post-medieval periods, and the changing use of the surrounding landscape; the site is related to the documented settlement and manor of Wratsworth, and to the visible remains of the medieval villages located further to the west within Wimpole Park. Cobb's Wood lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous thereby enabling social and chronological variations to be explored. The site is accessible to the public.
The monument includes a medieval moated site located within a clearing in the
northern part of Cobb's Wood, on the edge of Wimpole Park, some 1.2km to the
north east of Wimpole Hall. The moated site, formerly known as Cobb's Manor,
lies near the spring line at the base of a prominent south facing slope of the
chalk hills, and includes two adjoining moated enclosures.
The larger, north western enclosure is roughly rectangular in plan measuring
about 100m north east to south west and 70m north west to south east. The
surrounding ditch varies between 5m and 12m in width. The north western arm of
the moat has silted up and is generally about 0.6m in depth. The western and
south western arms descend to between 1.5m and 1.8m, and the south western
arm, in particular, remains wet. The south eastern arm is divided into two
parts by a 5m wide causeway leading to the second enclosure. To the north of
this causeway the moat has largely been infilled, yet it remains visible as a
shallow linear depression, 0.4m deep and about 20m in length.
The original entrance to the main enclosure is indicated by a raised approach
which leads towards and joins a broad external bank flanking the south western
arm of the moat. A short section of internal bank located in a corresponding
position on the edge of the island is thought to represent the foundation
platform for a timber bridge or drawbridge. Two further causeways give access
directly to the principal island. A section of the south western arm,
approximately 4m in width, has been infilled near the western angle, and a
second narrower causeway spans the western end of the north eastern arm. Both
are considered to be comparatively recent alterations.
The western arm of the moat is flanked by an external bank, although its
height (c.1.2m) may have been enhanced by later upcast from a field boundary
ditch which runs parallel to this arm and continues along the edge of the wood
to the east. This ditch is considered to have formed part of the original
water management system for the moat, forming a supply channel from the spring
located to the north east of the site.
The surface of the main island slopes gently to the south east and is marked
by numerous low earthworks which indicate the foundations of structures and
other buried features related to the period of occupation. A slightly raised
rectangular platform measuring c.25m by 40m extends towards the centre of the
island from the north eastern arm of the moat. The platform is surrounded by a
low bank, 0.5m-0.7m in height which is connected to a similar bank flanking
the inner edge of the north eastern arm. This internal enclosure is thought to
represent the location of the main hall or residence. A rectangular
depression, 10m in width and 0.4m deep, separates the eastern side of the
platform from the surrounding bank and is thought to indicate a lowered floor
surface within part of the former structure. The location of a well is marked
by a small circular depression to the west of the platform.
The smaller moated enclosure to the south east is also roughly rectangular,
measuring c.60m north east to south west and c.38m north west to south east.
The south western arm is approximately 1.2m deep and 8m wide and forms a
continuation of the south western arm of the larger enclosure. The opposing
arm which is about 0.6m deep and 4m wide, also follows the orientation of the
corresponding side of the main enclosure ditch. However, the alignment has
been broken by a inward dog-leg, thought to indicate later reuse of the ditch
as the southern boundary of a series of wooded enclosures shown on a map of
the Wimpole Estate dated 1638, surrounded by open fields. The south eastern
arm of the moat measures some 6m in width and between 0.4m and 0.9m in depth,
and contains a narrow drainage gully cut into the earlier silts. Remnants of
an internal bank remain visible along the north eastern arm and the eastern
angle. A larger internal bank flanks the southern half of the north western
arm (which divides the two islands). This feature measures approximately 12m
in width and survives to a height of 1m-1.5m. The bank is connected to an 8m
wide ridge which extends for about 10m towards the centre of the island where
it joins a low, oval mound considered to be a platform for a structure. The
surface of this island also slopes gently to the south east, and also contains
undulations thought to indicate the buried remains of outbuildings and other
features, including a shallow pond, associated with the occupation of the main
A detailed survey of the site was undertaken by the Cambridge Archaeology
Field Group in the mid 1980's following the clearance of the woodland
necessitated by the onset of Dutch Elm disease. The ground disturbance caused
by the felling also enabled the Field Group to collect a range of pottery
fragments dating from the 11th to the 13th century.
The moated site is thought to have been associated with the medieval
settlement of Wratsworth, which had 32 inhabitants at the time of the Domesday
Survey in 1086. Unlike the settlements of Bennells End and Thresham End,
located approximately 1km to the west, Wratsworth was not abandoned as a
result of the landscaping and emparkment surrounding Wimpole Hall, but had
ceased to exist far earlier, in 1279, subsumed by the parishes of Wimpole and
Orwell. The precise location of the settlement and of its principal manor
(both of which were named after the incumbent family in the reign of Edward I)
remain unknown. However, the name of the settlement survived into the 17th
century as Ratford, a term used on Benjamin Hare's map of the Wimpole Estate
in 1638 to describe an area of woodland to the south of Cobb's Wood. Wratworth
manor outlived the settlement and in the first half of the 16th century was
held by the Walters family. The Cage family, which succeeded the Walters, sold
the manor to Sir Thomas Chicheley of Wimpole Hall in 1686.
The moated site in Cobb's Wood is thought to have been a subsidiary holding of
Wratsworth Manor, and was known in the late 14th century as Francys Manor,
after the family which then held both estates. In the latter half of the 14th
century Francys Manor passed to the Norwich family, which was connected by
marriage to Robert de Ufford, 1st Earl of Suffolk. In 1376 it passed by
marriage to Geoffrey Cobbe, from whom the later name derives. Cobbe was
charged with treason for his part in the leadership of the Peasants' Revolt in
1381 but granted a royal pardon by Richard II. The manor later passed to the
Standen family. The Hare Map of 1638 shows the area of the manor as woodland
(Cobb's Wood), although the title of `Lord of the Manor' survived into the
late 17th century when Sir William Porter conveyed both Cobb's and
Bassingbourn manors to the Chicheleys.
The moated site lies just beyond the extent of Wimpole Park which was
successively enlarged and altered by Bridgeman, Sanderson-Miller, Brown and
Repton between the early 18th and late 19th centuries. The only intrusion into
this otherwise undisturbed area of woodland is Repton's curving carriageway
which approaches the hall from Orwell, passing to the south of the moated
The metal water trough within the principal enclosure and all fences and
fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Elrington, C R , The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, (1973), 263
Thomson, J A F, The Transformation of Medieval England, (1983), 31
Lysons, S, 'Part 1: Cambridgeshire' in Magna Brittania, , Vol. Vol II, (1808), 243
May, S C, 'Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society for 1992' in Three Earthwork Surveys: Cambridge Archaeology Field Group, , Vol. LXXXI, (1993), 40-43
Palmer, W M, 'Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society (Octavo)' in John Layer 1640: A 17th Century Local Historian, , Vol. liii, (1935)
Inspector's Report: SAM Cambs 278, Bi-focal Deserted Medieval Settlement Earthworks, Wimpole, (1988)
Notice board in St. Andrew's, Wimpole, Powell, JC, The Chicheley Chapel North Window, (1903)
RCHME, The Monuments of West Cambridgeshire, (1968)
The past management of the site, Dammant, G, Cobb's Wood, (1994)
Title: Wimpole Hall Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Bejamin Hare's 1638 map of the estate
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