Butler's Manor moated site
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1013961
Date first listed: 12-Dec-1995
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SP 95478 19095
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.
Butler's Manor is a good example of a double island moated site. Although the southern island has been overlain by later buildings, these demonstrate the continuity of occupation from the medieval and early post-medieval periods; overlying the buried foundations of the original timber structures which are indicated by slight earthworks elsewhere on this island, and on the island to the north. Other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, yard surfaces and refuse pits will also survive well, buried below the surface, together with the causeways, bridge foundations and trackways which can be seen or inferred from surface evidence. The ditches, both open and infilled, will provide detailed information concerning the water management system, and contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and enviromental evidence can be retrieved to illustrate the development of the site and the landscape in which it was set. The monument lies within an area where moated sites are relatively numerous, with at least four known examples within a 4km radius. Comparisons between these sites, some of which are linked by historical records, will provide a valuable insight into the development of medieval settlement in the region.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Butler's Manor, a Grade II Listed Building, lies on level ground to the south
of the village of Northall within clear view of Edlesborough church, which
stands on a prominent chalk knoll some 1.5km to the east.
The monument includes a rectangular moated enclosure measuring c.150m north
east to south west and 90m north west to south east, which contains two
roughly square islands separated by a further ditch extending across the
centre between the two longer arms of the moat. An L-shaped house, believed to
have been constructed in the early 17th century and subsequently extended in
the early 18th and 19th centuries, stands on the southern island, together
with an 18th century stable block and other, more recent, outbuildings. A new
house (developed in part around an earlier outbuilding) now occupies the
northern corner of the island immediately to the north of the main house,
while the tennis court, which lies about 10m to the south, covers an area
which contained further outbuildings in the late 19th century. The lawn to the
west of this retains slight sub-rectangular undulations which are thought to
represent building platforms related to the original, medieval occupation of
A shallow hollow, some 7m across and 0.4m deep, survives within a grassed area to the north of the main house, which is thought to have been worn by passage to and from a bridge spanning the ditch between the two islands. The moat surrounding the southern island was largely infilled by the occupier in 1861, who believed it to be a hazard for his children. His nephew, the local antiquarian F Gurney, recorded that the south eastern arm had already long been infilled for the sake of free access. This section, and the eastern half of the south western arm, are now only visible as slight depressions. The open lengths of the south western and north western arms surrounding the southern island still retain water on a seasonal basis and measure 8m to 10m in width and 1m deep, with considerable deposits of accumulated silts and leaf mould along the base. Surface water, perhaps augmented by seasonal springs supply the moats and the outflow is provided by a small channel linking the southern corner to an adjacent brook. In the centre of the south western arm the open section is retained by a stone dam and parapet, to the east of which a cement-lined swimming pool has been inserted on the line of the moat. Further to the south east, a small pool house has been built over the buried ditch. The northern part of the north western arm, to the rear of the new house, has also been infilled and levelled to provide a garden area.
The northern island lies under rough pasture with no standing buildings, although buried structural remains are indicated by slight undulations on the surface. The moat remains open to the north west and about half way along the adjoining sections of the north eastern arm and the arm separating the two islands. These sections vary between 10m and 14m across and between 0.4m and 0.8m deep, the base largely covered with grass which is partially or completely submerged for much of the year. The island itself is slightly raised. The inner scarp of the moat is some 0.5m higher than the outer edge to the north, and also remains visible above the present ground surface to the south west where the moat has been infilled. There is a concave causeway across the north eastern arm which may be comparatively modern although, given the site's orientation towards Northall, the original approach to the manor is likely to have entered on this side. The northern island, in common with similar sites in the area, is thought to have served as an outer courtyard containing stables, stores, and paddocks, which it would have been necessary to cross in order to enter the principal residential island to the south. There are numerous large pieces of dressed Totternhoe stone lying partially buried in the centre of the dividing arm of the moat. These are thought to have originated as the piers of a bridge, which would have stood at the northern end of the sunken trackway on the southern island.
The manor is first mentioned in 1302 when it was held by Philip le Botiller, (from whom the name derives), probably as a tenant of the Rector of Ashridge College to whom it certainly belonged by the middle of the century when Philip's son Thomas held the tenancy. Shortly after 1439 the manor passed by purchase or marriage to Robert Rufford, the great grandson of Thomas Rufford the bell founder, who had arrived in the area in the 1390s and whose son (also Thomas) subsequently married into the local landed gentry. A Crown document dated 1465 accords Thomas the title `imprimis' or squire; a title which did not belong to his father. Thomas Rufford was also an official of the wool customs at London and adjacent wool ports; and appears, from the outcome of a dispute involving the murder of his servant, to have held considerable sway in matters of local justice.
The manor remained in the hands of the Rufford family until 1611, when the property was conveyed to Edmund Brudenell. It later passed to John Langford, and on his death in 1624, to his son Robert. In 1659 the manor was sold to John Kidgel whose son conveyed it to Peter Ward in 1669. Samuel Brewster acquired the manor in 1699, and by 1720 it was held in moeity by Brewster's two daughters Mrs Bernard and Mrs Moyer; passing to Katherine Moyer (presumably the daughter of the above) by 1813. It was later purchased by the Dagnall family and the title subsequently descended with that of Dagnell Manor.
All standing buildings, together with all walls, fences and made surfaces are excluded from the scheduling. The cattle grid on the approach to the southern island, the swimming pool and the brick piers in the southern arm of the moat are similarly excluded, as well as the array of solar panels near the pool house and the telephone poles on the northern island. The ground beneath all these features is thought to retain evidence of earlier occupation and is therefore included in the scheduling. Totally excluded from the scheduling is the buried tank in the lawn to the south of the main house.
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: 27144
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Page, F (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1914), 355
Gurney, F G, 'Records of Bucks' in Two 15th Century Neighbours in Edlesborough, , Vol. 10, (1914), 283-98
conversation with landowner, Bigmore, G, The new buildings at Butler's Manor, (1995)
RCHM, The Monuments of Buckinghamshire, (1912)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Source Date: 1885 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1st
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