Santon moated site and associated medieval settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015256

Date first listed: 04-Jun-1970

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Mar-1997


Ordnance survey map of Santon moated site and associated medieval settlement
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: Breckland (District Authority)

Parish: Lynford

National Grid Reference: TL 82684 87293


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.

Santon moated site survives well, undisturbed by later cultivation or modern occupation and with a variety of features which include the remains of a masonry building or buildings. Archaeological deposits on the central island and in the ditch silts will contain evidence for the construction, occupation and use of the site during the medieval and early post-medieval periods, and the remains of part of the medieval settlement of Santon which survive in association with the moated site provide a context in which it can be better understood, complementing and augmenting the history of the manor as outlined in documentary sources. The monument as a whole will retain information concerning the character of the settlement prior to its depopulation, and is of particular interest for the study of settlement patterns and the medieval rural economy of the Breckland region of East Anglia.


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


The monument is situated on a gentle, south facing slope on the north side of the Little Ouse River, c.145m west of All Saints' Church and Santon House. It includes a moated site, together with an area to the west and north of the moat containing earthworks and other remains of an associated manorial complex which is believed to have formed part of the medieval settlement of Santon.

The moated site is sub-rectangular in plan and has overall dimensions of c.57m WSW-ENE by c.52m NNE-SSW. The moat ditch, which has become partly infilled and is now dry, with sloping sides, varies between c.12m and c.14m in width and ranges in depth from c.1m on the south side, nearest the river, to c.2m on the north side. It surrounds a central island on which there are buried remains of a substantial building, the visible indications of which include an irregular mounded platform up to 1m in height and measuring c.8m by 14m in the north eastern angle and another smaller mound c.0.5m in height in the north western angle. Traces of flint rubble masonry are exposed in the sides of these mounds and on the inner edge of the moat between them. Across the bottom of the southern arm of the moat, towards the western end, there is a slight ridge c.6m wide which perhaps marks the site of a bridge.

The river to the south of the moat is embanked to a height of c.0.6m, and opposite the south eastern angle of the moat there is an indentation in this bank and a slight hollow in the adjacent ground surface which are thought to mark the site of an infilled channel connecting the moat to the river, probably with a sluice to control the flow of water.

An area of earthworks around and to the west of the moated site include remains of boundary features and other structures, most of which are visible within an area measuring c.245m east-west by c.125m. This area is bordered on the east and west sides by low, roughly parallel earthen banks and on the south side by the river, it includes a strip of land c.50m wide to the north of the moat, crossed by an east-west track which is believed to be wholly or partly of post-medieval date. Further evidence for occupation in this area is provided by surface finds of medieval pottery and other artefacts, and fragments of building materials such as medieval roof tile and mortar. The southern end of the eastern boundary bank, which runs along the outer lip of the eastern arm of the moat, and the southern end of the western bank, which are included in the scheduling, terminate respectively c.45m and c.20m north of the river embankment. Abutting the eastern side of the eastern bank at its northern end, beyond the main distribution of earthworks and surface finds, is a low rectilinear platform measuring c.32m east-west by c.12m which probably supported a building, and this feature is also included in the scheduling. Parallel to the southern parts of the two banks but extending further towards the river, there are two more slight banks which have the appearance of boundary features; one, which is flat topped and measures c.10m in width, runs c.8m to the east of the western bank, and the other, measuring c.8m in width, is c.29m to the west of the moat. Approximately 11m to the east of the latter, alongside the western arm of the moat, there is a terraced platform c.18m wide with a scarp up to 0.7m in height on the western side, probably constructed with material derived from the excavation of the moat. The area to the north of the moat is terraced, with a low, south facing scarp at a distance of c.28m from the northern arm, and at the western end of this scarp, c.24m north east of the north east angle of the moat, is a sub-rectangular hollow surrounded by a bank. This has overall dimensions of c.20m east-west by c.15m and is considered to mark the remains of a building. From the south west corner of this feature a narrow bank, c.37m in length and rising to a height of c.1m at the western end, runs WNW towards a group of roughly rectilinear mounds which perhaps mark the sites of other buildings.

The track which crosses the site north of the moat, leading to Santon House and the adjacent church of All Saints' c.145m to the east, is not shown on 18th century maps of the area and probably postdates the construction of the Thetford-Ely railway which runs to the north of it and blocks access from an older road beyond.

In the 13th century the manor of Stanton was held by Peter de Barew from Earl Warenne, later passing to the de Stantons and, at the end of the century, to Roger de Bodney. In the mid 14th century John de Bodney gave it in trust to be settled on the Prior and Convent of St Mary's, Thetford, and following the dissolution of the priory in 1540, it was granted with the priory to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Householders in Santon numbered ten in 1428, but by the early 16th century the village was depopulated and Thomas Bancroft, then lord of the manor, who built All Saints' Church (consecrated in 1628) is said to have been the sole parishioner. A survey of the parish dated 1752 shows a building still standing on or near the moated site at that time, in addition to the present Santon House. More extensive earthwork remains of the village are said to have been visible at the time the railway was constructed in 1846.

The surface of the track crossing the monument and all other made surfaces of paths are excluded from the scheduling, together with service poles alongside the track, short wooden posts (dragon's teeth) alongside the track and around picnic areas, modern fences, an information board to the north west of the moated site, picnic tables and benches, and play apparatus, although the ground beneath all these features 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: 21425

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Guide to the Norfolk Railway, (1846)
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, (1805), 155-159
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, (1805), 155-159
Cushion, B, St Helen's Picnic Site, Santon: Archaeological Assessment, (1995)
Skinner, T, Survey of the Parish of Santon, (1752)
Alison, K J, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in The Lost Villages of Norfolk, , Vol. 31, (1957), 156
Breckland: Lynford 5688,
Ref. NRS 21391/37X, Skinner, T, Survey of the Parish of Santon, (1752)
Sussams, K, Watching Brief - St Helen's Picnic Site, Lynford, 1995,

End of official listing