Woodwalton moated site, 350m east of Park Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015197

Date first listed: 03-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Woodwalton moated site, 350m east of Park Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Huntingdonshire (District Authority)

Parish: Wood Walton

National Grid Reference: TL 21704 80970


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.

The moated site at Woodwalton survives well. The circuit of the moat is complete and shows little sign of modern disturbance. The fills within the moat will contain valuable artefactual evidence related to the period of occupation, and environmental evidence illustrating the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. The island contains visible and buried evidence for a variety of structures which will represent the character of the settlement. These include the sites of the main dwelling and various ancillary buildings, and also a particularly interesting internal moated feature. The fishponds on the island are a significant illustration of the economy and status of the site. Ponds of this type are a characteristic feature of a wide range of medieval settlements. The artifical pools were constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. On sites such as Woodwalton, the moat itself would almost certainly have served as part of the system, although smaller ponds, sometimes clustered together, would have been used to rear the fry and to separate stocks of differing age or species. The difficulty of obtaining fresh meat throughout the year was only one reason for the development of fishponds. The ponds also enabled compliance with religious dietary requirements (eating fish on Fridays) and served as a status symbol, enhancing the prestige of the household. The visible and buried remains of the small fishpond complex at Woodwalton moated site is a good example of a small nucleated pond group. The silts within the ponds will retain further artefactual and environmental evidence related to the period of use. The mill mound is also an significant indication of the site's economy. Windmills of the medieval period were wooden structures mounted on central posts attached to cross timbers embedded in earthen mounds for stability. The superstructure was rotated to face into the wind by pushing a pole projecting from the mill on the opposite side to the sails, the end of which was often supported by a wheel which left a characteristic channel around the mound. The appearance of the superstructure is only known from documentary evidence as no medieval examples have survived. The mounds sometimes remain and those, such as Woodwalton, which are found in association with contemporary monuments are considered nationally important. The mill mound at Woodwalton retains evidence for the position of the central post and will contain further evidence for the structure on which the windmill was mounted. Its presence signifies part of the agricultural role of the settlement and, as mills were often controlled by manorial lords, has implications for the social standing of the moated site.


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


The monument includes a large medieval moated site situated to the north of the Raveley Road on the eastern side of the village of Woodwalton. The moat occupies a low lying position on the rising ground of the southern margins of Woodwalton Fen. The island is triangular in plan, measuring about 160m and 130m along the straight north western and south western sides, respectively, and 190m along the eastern side, which has a slight outward curve. The ditch surrounding the island varies between 5m and 10m in width and between 0.8m and 1.4m in depth. It is widest and deepest along the south western arm and remains water- filled at the western corner. The ditch is interrupted by two causeways, both of which are c.10m in width. The south western entrance lies some 50m from the western corner and leads into a shallow hollow way crossing the southern part of the island. This entrance appears to have been created by leaving a gap in the line of the ditch, and is believed to be contemporary with the occupation of the site. The second causeway spans the north western arm about 30m from the western corner. Traces of the inner edge of the ditch remain visible indicating that the causeway was formed by later infilling, perhaps after the occupation on the island had ceased. The surface of the island is marked by a variety of earthworks representing aspects of its use. A level platform, slightly raised above the general ground surface and roughly 50m square, lies adjacent to the centre of the eastern arm of the moat; the three remaining sides of the platform are defined by shallow banks and scarps. This is considered to be the site of the principal dwelling, characteristically placed on the opposite side of the island from the entrance. A group of three fishponds lies to the north of the platform. The main pond measures about 18m in length, 9m wide and 1m deep, and is orientated parallel with the eastern arm of the moat. This pond is linked to the north western arm of the moat by a narrow and largely buried leat, and remains seasonally wet. The two smaller ponds, now mostly infilled and dry, lie immediately to the west of the main pond, set at right angles to the two ends.

A windmill mound stands in the western corner of the island. The mound is approximately 14m in diameter and 1m high with a flat summit measuring about 8m across. A slight depression in the centre of the summit indicates the position of the central post which would have allowed the superstructure to be turned into the wind, and a very slight depression surrounding the mound (mainly visible on the northern side) is thought to mark the track of the turning pole.

Towards the centre of the island, slightly to the north of the south western entrance, is a large semicircular ditch. This has an internal circumference of 20m and measures up to 10m in width and 1.5m in deep. It has been suggested that this feature is an internal moat, surrounding three sides of a narrow building platform. The remaining area of the island contains a number of small infilled ponds and a variety of low-lying undulations which are thought to reflect the buried remains of further structures such as barns, stables and other outbuildings. Slight traces of an internal bank can be seen along the south western and eastern arms of the moat. This is thought to have resulted from ditch clearance during the period of occupation. A further slight bank, about 4m in width, flanks the outer edge of the north western arm. This is also considered to have resulted from ditch cleaning, and is included in the scheduling.

The moated site may have formed part of the manor of Woodwalton which was held by the Norman `de Bolbec' family from 1086, and granted to the Abbey of Ramsey in 1134. The manor was seized by the sons of Aubrey de Sellea in 1143-4, during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, although it was later restored to the abbey. The medieval settlement at Woodwalton was dispersed over a considerable area. The moated site lies towards the south eastern limit of settlement, the area which subsequently developed as a post- medieval and modern village. Approximately 2km to the north stands the Castle Hill motte and bailey castle, the subject of a seperate scheduling, and a further area of settlement remains has been identified some 500m to the north of the castle in the vicinity of Higney Grange. The medieval Church of St Andrew's stands in isolation, in the area between the moated site and the castle, and was presumably located thus in order to serve both parts of the settlement.

All fences and fenceposts within the area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, as are the posts which carry an electricity cable across the site, the ground beneath these features is, however, 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: 27185

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hall, D, Fenland Research, (1984), 6
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 305-7
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 298
Ladds, S I, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1926), 305-7
Brown, A E, Taylor, C C, 'Proc Cambs Antiq Soc' in Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: III, (1978), 63-4
Brown, A E, Taylor, C C, 'Proc Cambs Antiq Soc' in Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: III, (1978), 63-4
Paterson, H, AM 107 Field Monument Warden's Report (SAM 178), (1987)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Huntingdon, (1926)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Huntingdon, (1926)

End of official listing