Moated site immediately east of the Old Rectory


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.

Epping Forest (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 59888 07540

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 immediately east of the Old Rectory survives well. The eastern island and the greater part of the western island are largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for numerous structures and other features relating to former periods of occupation, some of which are clearly depicted on historic maps. The buried silts in the base of the ditches will contain artefacts relating to the period of occupation and environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. In particular the ditches infilled before 1800 will preserve undisturbed archaeological deposits relating to the site's earliest occupation.

The monument, which represents a variation on the most common single-island moated site, lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous, enabling chronological and social variations to be explored. A further moated site with two islands is situated at Shellow Hall, Willingale 720m to the east and other single-island moated sites are situated to the south of the Old Rectory, Willingale Spain, 400m to the south west and to the west of Skreens Park Lodge, Willingale, 2km to the ENE. Comparative studies between these sites and further examples from other regions, will provide valuable insights into the development of settlement and many other aspects of medieval society in England.


The monument includes a medieval moated site located to the north east of the village of Willingale, immediately east of the Old Rectory and 320m north east of St Christopher's Church in the parish of Willingale.

The moated site incorporates two islands, both rectangular in plan and separated by an intervening arm of the moat ditch. The eastern island measures approximately 66m north-south and 52m east-west; it is raised by a maximum of 0.75m above the surrounding ground surface and is approached by a causeway across the eastern arm of the moat ditch. The western island measures a maximum of 60m north-south. The two islands are contained by a broad moat on the north, east and south sides, whilst the ditch surrounding the western side of the western island has been infilled along with the southern section of the intervening arm between the two islands.

The moat is considered to be the original site of the Rector's messuages and is also related to the medieval parish church. The local antiquarian, P Morant, stated in 1768 that the `Rectory is appendant to the Manor of Willingale Doe or Warden's Hall' which is situated 850m to the south west and is first recorded in the 12th century. By 1800, when the estate map of Willingale Doe and Shellow Bowells was drawn up, much of the western arm of the Rectory moat had already been infilled. The map shows the extant causeway across the eastern arm of the moat and a further causeway across the central arm. By 1837, the date of the tithe map of Willingale, a large square house and associated outbuildings, shown standing on the islands in 1800, had been replaced by the `Parsonage House'. This building, together with a range of offices, outbuildings, yards and gardens is sited on the eastern island. The small section of the western arm of the moat and the southern section of the central arm of the moat, which were still open in 1800, had both been filled in by this time. A single barn positioned across the original causeway between the islands is all that remains of the numerous other buildings shown on the tithe map.

The barn, the surface of the drive and the telegraph poles are 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Morant, P, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex 1763-1768, (1769), 479
'Moated Sites Research Group' in Moated Site Research Group, (1975)
The Old Rectory, LBII, 5/117, List of Bldings of Spec. Arch. or Hist. Interest: Epping Forest,
Title: Map of Wilingale Doe and Shellow Bowells Source Date: 1800 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office Ref: D/P 339/3/5
Title: Willingale Tithe Map Source Date: 1837 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office Ref: D/CT/402


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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