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 The importance of the site is enhanced by the existence of historical documents which record the owners and occupants of the site during the medieval and post-medieval periods, and the changing use of the surrounding landscape; the site is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 enclosure. 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 site. 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.

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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.

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