Moated site known as Killigrews


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016798

Date first listed: 11-Mar-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Moated site known as Killigrews
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Chelmsford (District Authority)

Parish: Margaretting

National Grid Reference: TL 68860 02777


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.

The moated site known as Killigrews is one of the best known examples of its kind in Essex. The earliest parts of the house date to the late 15th or early 16th century and are contemporary with the brick revetment of the moat, the walls which display decorative loopholes and the two elaborate corner turrets. These various features illustrate the imposing and even defensive nature of the site, whilst primarily reflecting the wealth and social standing of its inhabitants. The island remains largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for further structures, including a possible chapel, as well as other features relating to the development and character of the site throughout the periods of occupation. The buried silts in the base of the ditches will contain artefacts relating to such periods and environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set.

The monument lies in an area where moated sites are fairly numerous, with further moated sites situated at Franklin's Island, Highwood, 4.3km to the WNW and at King John's Palace, Writtle, 4.2km to the north. Comparisons between these sites and further examples from other regions, will provide significant insights into developments in the nature of settlement and society in the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a moated site of medieval and post-medieval date surrounding Killigrews House, approximately 94m west of the River Wid.

The moated site includes a trapezoidal island which measures a maximum of 46m north-south and 48m east-west. This island is contained by a water-filled moat or ditch measuring up to 12m wide and at least 3m deep. The island is revetted with walls of early 16th century brick, of which only a small section still stands to its original height of 2m; much of the eastern wall has been removed and the walls towards the western side of the moat have been reduced to a height of less than 1m. Octagonal brick turrets with moulded bases and crocketed pinnacles above moulded cornices are built into the north west and south west corners of the walls and are also 16th century in date. A doorway in the eastern face of each turret opens into a small chamber; nesting boxes built into the sides of these chambers suggest that they were both formerly used as dovecotes. Both the walls and the corner turrets, which are Listed Grade II*, have narrow slits or loopholes set into them. The modern bridge across the west arm of the moat replaces a drawbridge which was recorded in 1769 by the local antiquarian P Morant, and provides access to the island.

The house and moated site were originally known as the manor of Shenfields, after the messuage which was held by `William de Shenvils' in 1279. Sir Guy of Shenfield who held one knight's fee at Shenfield had a commission in the late 13th century `for recutting his trees, fishing his stews and taking charters' at his manor. The western half of the present house which is Listed Grade II*, together with the walls and turrets, is thought to have been built in either the late 15th or the early 16th century by John Berdefeld (1477-1514) who is also recorded as having constructed other outbuildings, including a chapel. The house was refronted and altered in 1714 by William Alexander. The property subsequently took the name of `Killigrews' from Martin Killigrew who resided at or near the property in 1735.

The house on the island, the bridge across the western arm of the moat, the modern brick revetment on the outer edge of the western arm of the moat, the wooden revetting around the outer edge of the moat ditch, the brick and concrete pathways, the septic tanks, the wall dividing the east and west portions of the house (East and West Killigrews), the steps, and the causeway across the east arm of the moat are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 33244

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Morant, P, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex 1763-1768, (1769), 54
Reaney, PH, Place names of Essex, (1935), 260
'Moated Sites Research Group' in Moated Sites Research Group, (1973)
'Essex Archaeological Society' in Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, , Vol. 16, (), 95
1 copy in ownership of the Burnetts, Tudor-Craig, A, The Manor of Shenfields or Killigrews in the County of Essex, (1935)
The Essex Weekly News, Friday 13 June, Killigrew - History of an Ancient Moated House, (1930)
TL 60 SE 12/383 Listed Grade II*, List of Bldings of Spec. Arch. or Hist. Interest: Chelmsford, (1952)
TL 60 SE 12/384 Listed Grade II*, List of Bldings of Spec. Arch. or Hist. Interest: Chelmsford, (1967)

End of official listing