Moat House moated site and fishponds, 150m north east of Rooks Grove


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016672

Date first listed: 02-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Moat House moated site and fishponds, 150m north east of Rooks Grove
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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: Abbots Ripton

National Grid Reference: TL 23517 77968

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.

Moat House is a good example of a double island moated site. Although parts of the eastern island have been overlain by later buildings, these demonstrate the continuity of occupation from the medieval and early post-medieval periods. Other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, yard surfaces and refuse pits will also survive well, buried below the present ground surface. The ditches, both open and infilled, will provide detailed information concerning the water management system, and will contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and environmental evidence can be retrieved to illustrate the development of the site and the landscape in which it was set.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of breeding and storing fish in order to provide a consistent and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds began in the medieval period and reached a peak of popularity in the 12th century. Fishponds were often grouped together, either clustered or in line, and joined by leats; each pond being stocked with a different age or species of fish, which could be transferred to other bodies of water such as moats. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of society, and are considered important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions.

The fishponds at the Moat House site form an integral part of the complex and represent an important component of the medieval landscape, created to support the manorial economy. The northern fishpond is a particularly well-preserved visible feature which may retain further waterlogged deposits relating both to its use and to the site in general. The area around and between the two ponds is expected to contain archaeological features and deposits associated with their use and may further elucidate the way in which the water management system operated.


The monument includes a rectangular medieval moated enclosure 150m north east of Rooks Grove. The moat measures approximately 125m east to west and 50m north to south, and contains two roughly square islands with associated fishponds and water control features. Moat House, which is believed to have been constructed in the early 16th century and extended in subsequent centuries, stands on the eastern island and is a Grade II Listed Building. It is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included. The moat surrounding both the islands has been partly infilled. To the north this infilling, which extends around the north western corner, is partly overlain by a modern entranceway and a tennis court. To the south, where the moat is augmented by a low outer bank, a causeway gives access to the eastern island. The ditch which separates the two islands has also been infilled. Except where they are overlain by the modern constructions, the infilled sections are visible as a series of depressions, and all infilled ditches will survive as buried features. The open lengths of the moat still retain water and are thought to be fed by surface water, supplemented by seasonal springs. The eastern island, which is slightly raised, would have contained the principal medieval dwelling which preceded the present house, while stables and other outbuildings are believed to have been located on the western island. The two large fishponds lie about 20m beyond the eastern arm of the moat. These ponds are roughly rectangular in shape, aligned east-west and joined at the west by a north-south channel. The northern pond, which still retains water, is approximately 2m deep, and has a slight bank on its northern side. The southern pond and the linking channel are both partly infilled, but will survive as buried features. An outflow leat (channel), which would have been controlled by a sluice, links the eastern arm of the moat with the western end of the northern pond, with a further leat extending eastwards from the southern pond. These channels have also been partly infilled but will survive as buried features. Abbots Ripton was granted to Ramsey Abbey by Earl Alfwold, the grant being confirmed by King Edgar in 974, and returned as a manor in the Domesday Survey of 1086. It was held by the Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries when it was granted by the Crown to Sir John St John. During the tenure of the St Johns the manor was augmented by the acquisition of further lands formerly held by Ramsey Abbey and enfoeffed to the Vernon family in the 13th and 14th centuries. This holding, which was leased to Sir Richard Cromwell in 1535, is known to have included a manor house site which may be that of Moat House. Sir John's descendant Oliver, Earl of Bolingbroke, conveyed the manor to Hugh Awdley in 1640. Litigation following Awdley's death in 1662 led to the manor being apportioned between his great nephews, Nicholas and Thomas Bonfoy. The manor was reintegrated by their children, Hugh and Susan, in 1686, passing, through Susan's marriage, to the Caesar family who sold the manor. By 1794 the greater part had been acquired by William Henry Fellowes, the remainder passing to the descendants of Susan's cousin Hugh Bonfoy. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are Moat House, all standing structures, all walls, fences, fence posts, gates, modern made surfaces, the tennis court, the central heating fuel tank, the plank bridge across the southern arm of the moat, the steps and platform immediately adjacent to the eastern arm of the moat and all garden features; the ground beneath all these items 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: 29752

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Crowther, D R, Etchells-Butler, S, Medieval Village Survey, (1983)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1932), 203

End of official listing