Square barrow cemetery, moated site, fishponds and medieval settlement remains at Scorborough


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Square barrow cemetery, moated site, fishponds and medieval settlement remains at Scorborough
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 01642 45078, TA 01719 45152

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 Scorborough is an unusually large example of its kind and survives in very good condition. It is one of three moated sites surviving in close proximity in this locality and it is known to be the seat of the Hotham family until the early 18th century. As such, it affords insights into the social, economic and territorial divisions of this area during the medieval and early post-medieval period. Square barrows are funerary monuments of the Middle Iron Age, most examples dating from the period between c.500 BC and 50 BC. The majority are found in the area between the River Humber and the southern slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors, but aerial photography has suggested a wider distribution into the river valleys of the Midlands and south Essex. Around 200 square barrow cemeteries have been recorded; in addition a further 250 sites consisting of single barrows or small groups of barrows have been identified. Square barrows, which may be square, rectangular, or sub-rectangular, were constructed as earthen mounds surrounded by a ditch and covering one or more bodies. Slight banks around the outer edge of the ditch have been noted in some examples. The main burial is normally central and carefully placed in a rectangular or oval grave pit, and sometimes accompanied by grave goods which vary greatly in range and type, the most elaborate of which include the dismantled parts of a two-wheeled vehicle placed in the grave with the body. Given that very many square barrow cemeteries have been levelled by agricultural activity over time, the square barrow cemetery at Scorborough is an important and rare example of a cemetery where the square barrows still survive as extanct visible earthwork features. Although subject to part excavation by J R Mortimer in the 19th century, and then by Dr Ian Stead, the cemetery will retain the majority of its barrow burials intact, which will retain further archaeological information and burials relating to the La Tene period. The village comprising a small group of houses, gardens, yards, streets, paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community primarily devoted to farming, was a significant component of the rural landscape in most areas of medieval England. Villages provided some services to the local community as well as acting as the focus of ecclesiastical, and often manorial, authority within each medieval parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many have declined considerably in size and are now occupied by farmsteads or hamlets. As a consequence of their decline - which might have been a gradual or a rapid process, accelerated by epidemics such as the Black Death - large parts of these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Over 3000 shrunken medieval villages are recorded nationally. The shrunken medieval village of Scorborough is a nucleated complex, survives in good condition and will retain archaeological information relating to its medieval period of occupation. It also forms a part of the Scorborough complex described above, particularly with the moated site with which it was once related.


The monument includes an Iron Age Square barrow cemetery, a medieval moated site and fishponds and the associated earthworks of the shrunken medieval settlement at Scorborough, near Leconfield. It is divided into two seperate areas. The Iron Age square barrow cemetery lies to the south east of Scorborough Hall and its related moated enclosure and includes a `V' shaped section of land about 350m long by 150m wide which contains the individual square barrows. Many of the barrows are visible as upstanding earthworks, others have been ploughed flat but still retain below ground remains. The cemetery includes up to 127 low mounds ranging in height from 80mm to 1.5m and from 2m-12m in diameter. Six of the mounds were excavated in 1895 by J R Mortimer who found each to contain a single grave with a crouched burial and no grave goods. Ian Stead excavated a further barrow here in 1970 and found evidence of a contracted inhumation interred in a shallow grave, only 0.4m deep, again with no grave goods. The medieval moated site includes a very large enclosure containing the present manor house, Scorborough Hall, which is Listed Grade II, in its north eastern corner. It was formerly the seat of the Hotham family who had lived in Scorborough from the 13th century, and once included a manor house which was fortified during the Civil War and subsequently destroyed by fire around 1705, following which the Hotham family removed to a new country house at South Dalton. The present Scorborough Hall was built on the site of the previous one in the early-mid-18th century and is not included in the scheduling. A late 18th century bridge, Listed Grade II, gives access across the moat on the north western side. The large rectangular moated enclosure is nearly 250m in length overall, and 100m in width. To the south west of the moat there is a fishpond, 50m in length and 10m wide. The `U' shaped moat ditch is of variable depth and width, but is on average 12m wide at its top, and 1.5m-3m deep, containing standing water in places. Along the western arm there is the remains of a low exterior bank, about 12m wide. There are the remains of what is thought to have been an original entrance in the north eastern side of the moat, 5m in width, although the main entrance appears to have been approached from the north west where natural terminals to the two moated arms afford an access up to 18m wide at this point. The construction of Scorborough Hall and associated buildings, has disrupted the north eastern moat arm. Scorborough Hall and its cellars directly overlie part of the northern moat arm, and will have disturbed the archaeological deposits and this area is not included in the scheduling. Further south towards the centre of the north eastern arm, the moat ditch is partly infilled for a length of some 75m near the entrance on this side, although it will survive as a buried feature, and therefore has been included in the scheduling. The shallow remains of a second fishpond, 37m long by 25m wide survives outside the south eastern end of the enclosure, and is included in the scheduling. The moated site is adjacent and related to a group of earthworks belonging to the shrunken medieval settlement of Scorborough, which lie in pasture to the west and north west of the church. The earthworks include the remains of house platforms, tofts, hollow ways, and fishponds, together with some surviving ridge and furrow field systems, which have been identified from aerial photographs. The full extent of the medieval settlement which underlies and extends beyond the present day village of Scorborough is not fully understood and thus is not included in the scheduling. Modern post and wire fencing, animal feed and water dispensers, the paved surfaces to access roads, the 18th century bridge, post-medieval garden features and ornaments are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, (1973), 15; 116
Mortimer, J R, 'Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society' in , , Vol. iii, (1895), 21-3
Stead, I M, 'East Riding Archaeologist' in The La Tene Cemetery at Scorborough, East Riding, , Vol. Vol 2, (1975), 1-11
Humberside SMR, Sites and Monuments Record Sheet, (1995)
Neave, S A, Rural Settlement Contraction in E.R. of Yorks c. 1660-1760, unpublished D.Phil Thesis, Hull Univy


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

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