Moated site known as `The Camps' and associated fishponds


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013874

Date first listed: 10-Jun-1992

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Dec-1995


Ordnance survey map of Moated site known as `The Camps' and associated fishponds
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Staploe

National Grid Reference: TL 11788 60257


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.

Despite some superficial damage `The Camps' is largely undisturbed, and remains one of the best preserved moated sites in Bedfordshire. The islands will contain evidence of buildings in the form of buried foundations and the impressions of timber structures, and other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, yard surfaces and refuse pits. The ditches will provide detailed information concerning the water management system and contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and environmental evidence can be retrieved to illustrate the development of the site and the landscape in which it was set. The sections of the ditches within the ploughed field to the south of the main enclosure survive as buried features and form an important part of the system which regulated the adjacent fishponds.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of breeding and storing fish in order to provide a consistent and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds began in the medieval period and reached a peak of popularity 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 important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions. The fishponds adjacent to The Camps form an integral part of the settlement, and represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support the economy and enhance the surroundings of the moated site. The ponds are well preserved, both as visible and partially buried features, retaining the complex of ditches used to control the water levels within.

The proximity of The Camps to the priory at Bushmead, and the historical association between the two monuments, is of particular interest in the study of the relationship between religious and secular life in rural medieval England. The monument lies within an area where moated sites are relatively numerous, with at least six known examples within a 4km radius. Comparisons between these sites will enable valuable insights into the development of medieval settlement in the region.


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


The moated site known as `The Camps' lies some 160m to the north of the Eaton Socon to Bushmead road, on the south side of the valley of the Duloe Brook. The monument includes a large medieval moated enclosure containing a smaller moated island and a series of leats leading to the south which formerly regulated the supply of water to a pair of contemporary fishponds.

The outer enclosure is roughly square in plan. Both the southern and eastern sides measure approximately 100m in length, whilst the western side is some 20m longer. The northern arm, which curves outward slightly in the centre, is about 130m long. The surrounding ditch varies between 5m and 10m in width, being both steeper and narrower to the north although the depth is fairly consistent at c.2m. The base of the ditch is partially waterlogged, retaining standing water in the south eastern corner, and contains deep deposits of dark organic silt. A low bank, c.5m wide and 0.5m high, flanks the outer edge of the eastern arm, slight traces of which continue along the southern arm. The surface of the enclosure is fairly level except near the north western corner where there is a small oval pond, 10m by 15m, now largely infilled. The rectangular inner island measures 65m by 40m and is aligned within the north east corner of the outer enclosure. This island is surrounded by a steep- sided ditch, on average 8m wide and 1.8m deep, which is similarly wet near the southern corner and contains waterlogged silts. A narrow, partly buried, channel at the north eastern corner originally connected this ditch to the outer moat. The inner and outer ditches are separated by an interval of approximately 8m-10m which is raised by about 0.5m, indicating the former presence of a substantial bank. A further section of bank, measuring c.3m wide and 0.4m high, survives along the outer edge of the western arm of the inner ditch. The northern edge of the island is marked by a slight bank, perhaps the base of a palisade or wall, which terminates in a low mound at the north western corner. Traces of a similar bank and mound are visible near the south eastern corner. The inner island is thought to be the site of the main hall or residence, and there are fragments of building stone scattered across the surface. The remains of medieval structures are also suggested by three irregular mounds, measuring up to 10m across and 1.5m high, located in the centre of the island. Ancillary buildings, perhaps kitchens, barns and futher accommodation, would have covered the outer enclosure, as is known to have been the case on comparable sites in the region. Fragments of building material have also been found in this area and on the surface of the ploughed field immediately to the south.

The complex of leats leading southwards from the main enclosure survives partly as earthworks and partly as buried features within the ploughed field. It was constructed to provide drainage from the moats and to regulate the supply of running water to two fishponds located within an area of scrub woodland approximately 100m to the south of the main enclosure. A shallow channel, c.3m wide and 0.7m deep, extends southwards for about 150m from the south west corner of the outer moat, on the same alignment as the western arm. Near the southern end this channel is joined by a narrow leat which served as the outflow from the larger of the two fishponds, located some 50m to the north east. This eastern pond is about 60m long by 20m wide, orientated east to west. It is water-filled and at least 1.5m deep, with low banks flanking the northern and southern sides. A second leat, connected to the north side of the outflow channel, survives as an earthwork for c.50m, running parallel to, and 8m from, the western ditch. Further north this ditch can be traced as a line of dark soil extending across the ploughed field towards the moats. A third channel, also connected to the northern side of the outflow channel, lies some 5m to the east. This leat provided the outflow channel for the second (western) fishpond, located some 25m to the north. The western fishpond, which is depicted on an estate map dated 1799, is orientated north to south, the northern end protruding from the copse and visible as a depression in the ploughed field. It measures 30m in length and 15m across and, although largely infilled, descends to a depth of c.0.8m. A further channel is visible as a dark band of soil extending from the north eastern corner of the western pond towards the south eastern corner of the outer moat, where a short projection from the outer bank indicates the position of the junction. This ditch is flanked by a broad bank, 6m in width, which appears as a spread of light chalky clay and survives to a height of c.0.15m. The ditch continues southwards as a shallow earthwork between the two fishponds and is thought to have provided the main source of water for each, since it leads from the lowest section of the moat which would have retained the most consistent water level. The buried remains of dams or sluices are thought to survive at the various junctions within the complex of leats.

The leats and the eastern pond are recorded on a map dated 1624, by which time they had been incorporated within a wider drainage system for the surrounding fields and woods. The map also shows entrances in the centre of the southern arms of the moats, indicating that the main approach to the site may have been from the road to the south through the enclosures formed by the leats. A scatter of flint rubble in the ploughed field near the centre of the southern arm may indicate the location of a gate house or bridge. The present entrance, a narrow causeway across the outer western arm, is not considered to be an original entrance since it was formed by infilling, rather than by leaving a gap during the excavation of the ditch. Several hollows in the northern bank separating the inner and outer moat ditches have formerly been interpreted as entrances, but are now considered to be the result of amateur excavations earlier this century.

The 1624 survey refers to the site as `Bellocamps' and records it as the site of `Bellocampos house in ancient and former times'. Popular tradition attributes the construction of the site to the Romans, no doubt prompted by the Latin word `bello' in the placename. The site is, in fact, a moated residence of a type commonly built for influential individuals in the Middle Ages. The term `Bellocamps' is a rough Latin translation of the name Beauchamp, meaning beautiful field (bellus-campus), and refers to the family which held land in the parish in the 12th and 13th centuries. Hugh de Beauchamp is thought to have died during the Third Crusade. His grandson, also Hugh, endowed the foundation of Bushmead Priory in c.1195, which lies some 350m to the north west.

The pheasant coop located within the angle formed by the southern arm of the outer moat and the western leat is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 20403

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (transcriptions)' in The Cartulary of Bushmead Priory, , Vol. 22, (1947)
'Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (transcriptions)' in Inquisition Post Mortem: Geo. Cantilupe. 1274, , Vol. 19, (1937), 116-7
4/1 Estate Map & 4/2 Survey Book, CRO GY 4/1 & 4/2, (1624)
Beds SMR 494: text, Simco, A, The Camps, Bushmead, (1985)
Estate Map, CRO MA 20, (1799)
Inspector's Report, Oetgen, J, 20403 The Camps moats and fishponds, (1992)
Taylor, CC & Brown, AE, Bushmead, 1986, Unpublished earthwork survey
Text in SMR, Simco, A, 492 Bushmead Priory, (1978)
Wade-Gery, W A, The Camps, (1994)

End of official listing