Roundabout Wood moated site, fishponds, and farming and settlement remains


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Roundabout Wood moated site, fishponds, and farming and settlement remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wycombe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 79428 02357

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 Roundabout Wood survives in a very good condition. The island is undisturbed by excavation or later development and will retain buried structural remains as well as other features relating to the period of occupation. Artefacts found both here and within the silts of the surrounding ditch will provide evidence for the date of construction, the duration of the site's use and the date of abandonment; environmental evidence from the ditch silts will also provide insights into the appearance and management of the landscape in which the monument was set. The moated site is surrounded by evidence for an impressive water management system, required both to drain the settlement areas and to feed the moat and adjacent fishponds. Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of medieval society, and are considered highly significant as a source of information for the economy of various classes of secular and religious settlement. The fishponds adjacent to the moated site at Roundabout Wood are well preserved and represent contrasting forms which reflect the increasing exploitation of this resource; a change clearly demonstrated by the abandonment of arable cultivation in favour of the construction of the northern range of ponds. The direct association between the moated site and the adjacent settlement earthworks is also of particular interest. The relationship between these two contrasting yet interdependent settlement forms provides valuable insights into the economic operation of the manor, and social differences in the medieval period.


The monument is situated within a shallow vale between Saunderton and Horsenden, some 400m south of Horseden House. It includes a small medieval moated site located in Roundabout Wood, together with an area of adjacent settlement and cultivation earthworks and a number of associated ditches and fishponds, created to manage and exploit the water courses which converge in this area. The moated island is roughly rectangular in plan, orientated north west to south east and measuring 50m by 30m. The surrounding ditch is normally water-filled and averages 6m in width and 1.5m in depth, the base containing deep deposits of accumulated silt. In the absence of a causeway, access to the island is thought to have originally been provided by a bridge and, although the surface of the island is level and shows no superficial indications of the structures which stood here, buried foundations and other features are indicated by fragments of tile, stone and medieval pottery brought to the surface by burrowing animals. An incomplete furlong of medieval ridge and furrow extends across the area between the moated site and the south western boundary of the pasture, the pattern of ridges orientated in line with the moated site and extending for some 140m to the north west. The height of the earthworks (which is rarely greater than 0.3m) indicates that the period of cultivation was limited, and both the ridges and a shallow ditch which mark their northern extent, were later in the medieval period overlain by a series of fishponds running parallel to the north western arm of the moat. Over an area 150m in length, there are three rectangular ponds each approximately 1m deep and 20m wide. Water still enters via a leat at the southern end, although the sluice gates which would have dammed the narrow channels between the ponds have long since disappeared, and the base of the ponds are now waterlogged rather than water- filled. The original outflow channel (now largely infilled) emerges from the northern pond and is visible as a single scarp extending across the floor of the vale parallel to the north eastern arm of the moat. A later outflow leat (not included in the scheduling) runs north east towards the ornamental pond in the garden of Horsenden House. The water level in the ponds was also regulated by a leat, now dry, which cuts across the ridge and furrow to the north of the southern pond. This channel is included in the scheduling together with a sample, 10m in width, of the cultivation earthworks to the north. The area of an associated settlement is marked by a series of slightly raised building platforms, which extend to the south of the moated site as far as the southern boundary of the ancient pasture (now marked by a line of tree stumps). The platforms average c.20m by 30m, and are divided by shallow gulleys. These were evidently used to drain this rather wet area, and lead into two main drainage ditches. One channel extends to the north west along the present field boundary and joins the supply leat at the southern end of the fishponds. The other ditch passes to the north of a small pond on the southern edge of the settlement earthworks and then continues (largely infilled) to the north east, where it is thought to have drained into a large fishpond cut into the lowest part of the valley floor. This seasonally wet pond is approximately 1.4m deep, 60m in length, and measures c.35m between the artificial scarps to the east and west. An earthen dam, c.10m in width, forms an arc between the scarps, separating this pond from a still larger pond which extends some 200m to the south. These ponds are thought to be a later development on the site, perhaps post-medieval in date and possibly part of a more extensive series including the (now ornamental) pond in the gardens to the north. In order to preserve the archaeological relationship between these features and the moated site and settlement remains, the pond to the north of the dam together with a sample of the pond to the south is included in the scheduling. The field in which the moated site is situated is termed `Browns' on the enclosure map of 1807. This is thought to refer to a manor, later known by that name, which came into existence as a result of the division in 1236 of one of the two manors of Saunderton, Saunderton St Nicholas, into three parts following the death of Roger de Sanford in 1235. The third share of the manor passed to his daughter Maud, and to her son Ralph Brown by 1300. Purchased in 1374-5 by Roger Braybrook, the manor remained in the possession of the Braybrooke family until 1432. It was last mentioned as a distinct holding in 1749.

The horse jumps located within the area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling together with all fences and fenceposts, although the ground beneath these items is included in order to protect buried archaeological remains.

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
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 253-55
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 92-95
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 253-55
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1925), 92-95
Simmons, H E S, 'Simmons Collection (British mills)' in Watermills of Buckinghamshire, , Vol. 2/21, (1989)
Comment on Enclosure Map (BRO IR/61R), Pike, A, 0307: Roundabout Wood, (1980)
Title: 1:2500 Source Date: 1972 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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