Westhorpe Hall moated site and associated fishponds


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mid Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 05101 69124

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 of Westhorpe Hall is of paticular historical importance because of its association with Charles Brandon and his wife, and the surviving descriptions of the great house which he built here show that it was an outstanding example of early 16th century domestic architecture. The evidence recorded in limited excavations on the site and in the desilting of part of the moat, in addition to the remains visible around the central platform have demonstrated that the monument retains much archaeological information concerning this house, including a large quantity of architectural and decorative terracotta.

Archaeological deposits up to 2m in depth have been observed on the central platform and will include evidence for earlier occupation of the site in addition to information about the construction, occupation and demolition of the 16th century building. Organic materials, including evidence for the local environment in the past are also likely to be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the moat and in the adjoining fishponds.


The monument includes a moated site and adjacent fishponds bordering the north side of The Green at the eastern end of Westhorpe village. The moated site contains the remains of a great house built in the early 16th century by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and husband of Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII and dowager Queen of France. There is also some documentary and archaeological evidence for an earlier manor house on the site.

The 16th century house, which was of great magnificence and was said to have cost 12,000 pounds, is described in some detail in a survey compiled in 1538. It was constructed around a courtyard about 38m square with a gatehouse fronting a bridge across the moat on the west side. The gatehouse was of three storeys with two square towers at the corners and was ornamented with turrets and pinnacles. Ranges of two storeys extending to north and south of the gatehouse defined the western side of the courtyard, and on the south side was another range, also of two storeys. These ranges contained galleries on each floor giving access to a series of apartments with inner and outer chambers, and the range on the north side, though not described, probably followed a similar plan. The principal apartments were on the east side and included a hall, great chamber, dining chamber, a tower of two storeys, a chapel and several smaller rooms, as well as cellars, kitchens, a buttery, a pantry and other offices. The walls were of brick and embattled, rendered with plaster painted black and white in a chequer pattern (possibly in imitation of knapped flint and stone flushwork). The demolition of the house in or around 1750 was witnessed by Tom Martin, a local antiquarian, who described the manner in which it was pulled down as `very careless and injudicious' and lamented the fact that the various ornaments, which appeared as fresh as when first built, were being broken and crushed.

The moat, which is water-filled and approximately 16m wide, though slightly narrower on the east side, surrounds a rectangular central platform raised about 1m above the level of the prevailing ground surface and measuring approximately 70m east-west by 52m. The eastern half of the southern arm of the moat has been infilled, although the line of the inner edge is marked here by a gentle, south-facing scarp, and a causeway approximately 7.5m wide across the eastern end of the northern arm is also not original.

The outer walls of the 16th century house rose directly above the inner edge of the moat, and the footings of these walls, constructed of coursed flint faced with brick, survive as a revetment of the central platform. Evidence for the survival of buried remains in the interior has also been recorded, and parts of the footings and floor of a porter's lodge on the south side of the gatehouse were uncovered during small scale excavations in 1987. The remains of large rectangular projections are exposed at the north west and south west corners of the platform, and at the north east corner can be seen part of the base of a massive rectangular structure, probably a tower, measuring about 10m east-west by 8.5m and with flint walls still standing to a height of about 1m above the surface of the platform. The inner face of the east wall is exposed, showing that it was 1.15m thick. At the south east corner is the outer wall of a canted structure built of alternating courses of brick and flint with stone quoins, also standing to a height of up to 1m above the level of the platform.

Dredging of the eastern arm of the moat in 1990 exposed the base of the north eastern corner structure, showing that it had stone quoins and stood upon a raft of elm planks above timber piles, and dredging of the northern arm in the following year revealed details of the north wall surviving below the water level, including the bases of stepped buttresses and rectangular and hexagonal projections. At the foot of this wall, below the water, a mass of rubble including blocks of bonded brick work and fragments of decorative panels and architectural details such as window mullions in terracotta has been left largely undisturbed. It is possible that the north eastern corner structure and the canted structure at the south eastern corner are parts of an earlier building, incorporated in the 16th century house. The latter is of different construction to the greater part of the wall, with bricks of different type. Similar bricks can be seen in the remains of a structure on the west side, approximately 5m to the south of the bridge, with the broken stubs of walls projecting outward into the moat and forming a straight joint with the adjoining brickwork.

The most complete structure visible is the bridge across the western arm of the moat, which is Listed Grade II and is included in the scheduling. It has three arches and is faced with brick and, on the south side above the arches, retains parts of a frieze of terracotta panels, each with Brandon's badge, the head of a lion, in relief. According to the 16th century inventory, it originally had parapets with stone pillars to support figures of heraldic beasts, and although these parapets do not remain in place, fallen fragments may survive in the moat below. The ruined remains of a brick foot bridge were also recorded across the eastern arm of the moat, but these are no longer visible.

The house which now stands on the eastern side of the central platform is largely 18th century in date with modern extensions, although the eastern wing includes brickwork which may be earlier in date. It is Listed Grade II and is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

Adjoining the moated site on the south side is a sub-triangular enclosure with maximum internal dimensions of 105m south west-north east by 98m, bordered by linear ponds which are believed to have been fishponds, although they may have been modified in the 16th century to create a water garden. The area enclosed is raised up to 1.5m above the level of the green to the south west. The pond on the east side is rectangular and measures approximately 70m in length NNW-SSE by 13m in width. The northern end was connected to the south east corner of the moat by a channel which has been partly infilled. The pond on the south west side is aligned north west-south east and is approximately 142m long overall and up to 8m wide except at the north western end, where it expands southwards to a width of about 14m. Towards the south eastern end it branches into three, with one arm continuing south eastwards, a second extending south westwards to connect with a stream which probably fed the system, and the third north westwards towards the southern end of the eastern pond, to which it was connected by a short channel, probably containing a sluice.

According to the Domesday Book, there was a manor in Westhorpe before 1066, held by Wulfric Hagni under the jurisdiction of St Edmund's Abbey. It changed hands several times between the mid 13th century and the end of the 14th, and soon after 1403 it passed to Sir William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. It remained in the hands of the de la Pole family until the execution of Edmund de la Pole in 1513 for treason (he was of the Yorkist faction and seen as having a claim to the throne), and when the widowed Countess Margaret died in 1515, it went to Charles Brandon. His wife, the dowager Queen Mary, died at the house he built here, and his last recorded visit was in 1537. He died in 1545 and the manor was subsequently among the lands granted to Anne of Cleves following her divorce from Henry VIII.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the present house, two greenhouses, a garden shed, modern garden walling, the surfaces of a farm track along the western side of the moat, a driveway and car park, paths and paving around the house, inspection chambers, fence posts and railings, a service pole, propane tanks situated close to the outer edge of the northern arm of the moat and adjacent clothes line posts; the ground beneath all these features is however, 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.


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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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