The earthworks and buried remains of a medieval ringwork known as the Round Moat and the buried remains of a medieval building associated with the site's water management system.
Reasons for Designation
The earthworks and buried remains of a medieval ringwork known as the Round Moat are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: with perhaps only 200 examples of ringworks identified nationally, it is a rare surviving example;
* Period: as one of a restricted range of Anglo-Saxon fortifications it is of particular significance to our understanding of the period;
* Survival: as a well preserved and significant earthwork, with little loss or erosion despite some minor antiquarian investigation to the interior;
* Potential: previous excavations have demonstrated the survival of archaeological features on the site. The surrounding moat provides favourable conditions, within the accumulated silts, for the preservation of important waterlogged organic deposits including both environmental and artefactual evidence;
* Documentation: although the history of the castle is not particularly well-documented and there are few contemporary records, the significance of the monument is enhanced by recent archaeological investigations that form a resource of great importance;
* Diversity: the ringwork earthworks, the surrounding moat, the buried remains of the medieval building and infilled stream channel associated with the water management system, provide a rich diversity of features which collectively have the potential to enhance our understanding of the wider evolution of the site;
* Group value: for the strong spatial group value that the ringwork holds with the medieval parish church of St Mary (listed Grade I) to the north-west and a small moated site known as Crow's Parlour (scheduled) to the south east. Collectively they represent changing phases and ranks of medieval society and hold a wealth of information relating to the early history of the Fowlmere.
Ringworks are substantial but simple earthwork enclosures measuring about 20m to 50m across and roughly circular in plan. They were the earliest Norman castles in England, being built immediately after the Norman Conquest, and were usually defined by an outer ditch, the soil from which was used to form a large inner bank. As such, many ringworks have more of a prehistoric quality than a medieval one. It is often only the scale and the relative sharpness of the earthworks that distinguishes these castles from their prehistoric predecessors.
Ringworks can be divided into two basic forms: a full ring, broken only by a single entrance; and the ‘partial ringwork’ for which the ditch was cut – and the bank thrown up – across a promontory, the angle of a river terrace, or a narrow neck of land, so as to make best use of the natural defences. Ringworks were economical in construction and were often adapted from earlier structures such as Iron Age hillforts, and even from Roman amphitheatres. Their simplicity was a factor that enabled the fashion for castles to spread so quickly across Britain. Excavation has revealed that some of the encircling banks were revetted with timber posts: these were also used along the passage to the gate, or along the rampart so as to construct a fighting platform. Domestic buildings, also of timber, stood within the enclosure.
In many instances, as at Fowlmere, the earthwork castle survives next to a medieval parish church, a combination that symbolises the patronage, power and centralising influences of local magnates, and which provided for the security of those same landowners in this life and the next. Villages and towns grew up, or were deliberately developed beside the castle, benefiting from the wealth and power of the lord. This, in turn, supported the church which continued to develop long after the small earthwork castle beside it had been abandoned.
The ringwork at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, more commonly referred to as the Round Moat, lies within the historic core of the village, to the south of the High Street, on the west bank of Fowlmere Brook, and some 175m to the south-east of the Church of St Mary (listed Grade I) and around 230m to the north-west of a small, medieval moated site known as Crow’s Parlour (Scheduled). The village is believed to have been a relatively prosperous medieval settlement, growing from 36 households in the Domesday Book (when it is recorded as Fuglemaere and Fugelesmara; meaning ‘wild bird’s mere’), to about 100 households by 1279. By 1207, this growth, although not meteoric, was sufficient to warrant a Market Charter.
The layout of the settlement suggests that the village was originally centred on the ringwork, parish church and High Street. However, the location of the manor at the west end of the High Street from the early C14, associated with the increase in commercial activity along this thoroughfare, is believed to have resulted in shift to the north-west, away from the ringwork.
The earliest known archaeological investigation of the Round Moat was undertaken in 1906 by the Reverend AC Yorke , and subsequently reported upon in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in 1909 (see SOURCES). In general terms, Yorke informed us that the ringwork is recorded on the Parish Enclosure Map of 1848 as 'White's Close', and that a Robert White had earlier appeared on the Rent Roll of 1447. He also states that in 1887, when the then owner of the moat, Edward Wedd of Great Wakering, planted around 40 trees on the central platform to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, a cobblestone surface and a well containing a large amount of ‘broken drain pipes’ were discovered. Yorke himself found more cobbled surfaces when he cut trenches between the ringwork’s two entrances (in the north-west and south sides of the rampart) and in the northern part of the interior. The ditch adjacent to the southern entrance was also found to have originally been some 3m in depth, with silts having accumulated to a depth of 1.8m. A small, dry pond lying 15m to the east of the southern entranceway, within the interior of the ringwork, was also investigated by Yorke and found to contain silts to a depth of about 0.6m overlying a bed of broken flints. Trenches dug in the centre of the interior revealed deposits of organic material to a depth of about 1m, containing fragments of animal bone and medieval pottery. Yorke also reported that at the turn of the C20 the moat was cleaned out on its northern side so that it could be used as a fishpond. While this reference is not specific, it has been taken to refer to the embanked area to the north-east of the moat.
In 1975 the area between the ringwork and the Church of St Mary, termed Church Close on the Tithe Map of 1850, was the subject of a small rescue excavation prior to the land being developed for housing. A large quantity of medieval pottery dating from between the C11 and C14 was subsequently recovered, with most sherds attributed to the C13. Also found were some residual Roman buff and grey-ware bases, together with some sherds of Samian ware. This area is now overlain by housing and is not included in the scheduling.
In 1993 outline planning permission was sought to build houses on land to the north, north-east and east of the ringwork. A subsequent archaeological evaluation of the site by Cambridgeshire County Council's Archaeological Field Unit produced evidence for the Early Saxon origins of Fowlmere with the discovery of the buried remains of a grubenhaus (sunken-featured building) along with associated pottery and a pony burial in the area between the High Street and the ringwork. The grubenhaus was found to be enclosed by elements of a rectangular timber building with post-in-slot foundations. Although no dating evidence was retrieved for this second feature, this construction technique is believed to have been used in this region from the Late Saxon period (later C9) onwards. As this area is also overlain by housing it is not included in the scheduling.
Also found in the area immediately to the north of the moat's north-eastern arm, sealed beneath a thick layer of upcast material containing medieval pottery, was a post-built structure with a floor and/or occupation debris rich in charcoal and other organic material. Above the occupation remains were two layers of cobbled yard surface. The structure, which was associated with an infilled stream channel, was tentatively identified as either a latrine or part of a mill. This structure is considered to be of particular importance for the understanding of the water management system surrounding the ringwork and is therefore included in the scheduling.
In the late C20 a group of earthworks flanking the ringwork's north-eastern arm were recorded by the Ordnance Survey (OS) and subsequently interpreted as a pond. However, archaeological investigation by Cambridgeshire County Council's Archaeological Field Unit along with the interpretation of LiDAR imagery has confirmed that the area between the ringwork and Fowlmere Brook never served as a pond, with its deceptively embanked appearance having been created by the random grouping of unrelated landscape features which served different functions: on its north-eastern side by the embankment of the brook; on its western side by the ringwork outer bank or upcast zone; and on its north-western side by the moat's outfall channel.
Principal elements: the earthworks and buried remains of a medieval ringwork known as the Round Moat along with the buried remains of a medieval building associated with the site's water management system.
The site lies within the historic core of the village of Fowlmere, to the south of the High Street, on the west bank of the Fowlmere Brook, around 175m to the south-east of the Church of St Mary (listed Grade I) and some 230m to the north-west of a small, moated site known as Crow’s Parlour (Scheduled)
Description: the ringwork comprises a roughly oval-shaped stronghold, fortified by an earthen bank and an external ditch. The bank, or rampart, which forms a wider arc around the eastern side of the monument than the west, encloses an area measuring some 95m north-east to south-west and 65m north-west to south-east. The interior slopes gently towards the north where the bank reaches a maximum height of about 2m, approximately 1m above the height recorded elsewhere around the perimeter. During the period of occupation the bank would have probably been surmounted by a wooden palisade. Material for the construction of the ramparts was quarried from an 8m wide external ditch, or moat, which completely encircled the ringwork and would have provided an additional means of defence. Despite the gradual accumulation of silts within the base, the ditch still reaches an average depth of about 1.5m. The southern arc of the moat is largely dry, as was the remainder of the circumference until a channel was dug along the base in 1902. This channel has subsequently been recut and extended, and now carries water around approximately 75% of the perimeter. The original water source, a channel entering the moat from the south, has been built over as part of the residential development which surrounds all but the north-eastern side of the ringwork. A more limited supply is now provided by a series of drains leading from the housing estate which enter the moat on the south-eastern and eastern sides. The outflow runs through a narrow leat which links the north-eastern side of the moat to a field boundary ditch some 50m to the north.
Access to the interior of the ringwork is provided by two entrances; a 4m wide gap in the centre of the southern arm of the bank and a 3m wide break in the north-western part of the defences. The southern entrance is approached by a causeway, 5m in width, spanning the ditch, while the north-western entrance is thought to have originally been served by a bridge.
A small, dry, pond measuring approximately 18m by 6m, lies approximately 15m to the east of the southern entrance, within the interior of the ringwork. When it was investigated in 1906 it was found to contain silts to a depth of about 0.6m overlying a bed of broken flints.
Surviving as buried features in the area immediately to the moat's north-eastern arm, bounded to the south-west by a drain connecting the moat to Fowlmere Brook, are the buried remains of a medieval building and infilled stream channel associated with the water management system surrounding the ringwork. The building, which comprises a sequence of occupation layers 0.3m deep and a related post hole, has tentatively been identified as the remains of a watermill or latrine.
EXCLUSIONS: all fences, fence posts and interpretation signs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the area of protection, which is shown on the accompanying map extract, is drawn to include both the earthworks and buried remains of a medieval ringwork known as the Round Moat along with the buried remains of a medieval building associated with the site's water management system.
The constraint line on the western and north-western sides of the ringwork is drawn to follow the upper edge of the outer ditch scarp, which also marks the rear of a series of private gardens to St Mary’s Walk and Savile Way respectively. At the extreme north-eastern end of the outer ditch scarp the line projects north-east across the rear private garden of a house in Aldous Court to encompass the buried remains of the medieval building associated with the site's water management system. It then turns south-east to follow the upper edge of the outer ditch scarp on the eastern side of the ringwork. The southern boundary also follows the upper edge of the outer ditch scarp, and is projected across the southern edge of the entrance causeway on the same alignment.