Rookwood Hall moated site


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)
Abbess Beauchamp and Berners Roding
National Grid Reference:
TL 56055 10968, TL 56126 10867

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 Rookwood Hall survives well. Although the moat ditches have been cleared of silt in the past, the island remains largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for structures and other features relating to the development and character of the site throughout the periods of occupation. The social standing of the inhabitants in the medieval period is reflected in the scale of the moat's construction and complements the particularly detailed information available from the surviving documentary sources.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow moving freshwater constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding, and storing fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. The tradition of construction and use of fishponds began in the medieval period and reached a peak of popularity in the 12th century. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of medieval society, and are considered important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions.

The fishpond to the south east of Rookwood Hall moat forms an integral part of the settlement and provides further evidence for its economy and status.

The monument lies in an area where moated sites are fairly numerous, with further moated sites situated 1.75km to the SSW at Envilles and 2.75km to the south west at Church Farm, both in the parish of Little Laver. Comparisons between these sites and with further examples from other regions will provide valuable insights into developments in the nature of settlement and many other aspects of medieval society in England.


The monument includes a medieval moated site and fishpond within two areas of protection at Rookwood Hall located 1.2km to the WSW of the village of Abbess Roding.

The moated site includes a sub-square island which measures a maximum of 110m in width. The island is contained by a water-filled moat or ditch measuring between 8m and 18m wide and at least 2m deep. A spur or inner arm of the moat is depicted on the 1838 tithe map of Abbots Roothing, extending eastwards from the western arm of the moat for approximately 30m to form an internal division across the island. This has since been infilled although it is thought to survive as a buried feature. The derelict remains of Rookwood Hall, a 16th century building, which is thought to have occupied the centre of the island, were demolished in the 1970s. Two barns, which are Listed Buildings Grade I and II* and 16th century in date, stand on the east side of the island, while Rookwood Cottage, thought to be 19th or early 20th century in date, occupies the south eastern corner. Causeways across the eastern and southern arms of the moat provide access to the island.

Approximately 40m to the south of the moated site and within a second area of protection, lies a linear fishpond, measuring 54m in length by a maximum width of 17m. It follows the same alignment as the moat. The pond, thought to be contemporary with the moated site, is depicted on the 1838 tithe map. Another pond, possibly a second fishpond, was formerly situated 30m to the south west of the moat. This however, has been infilled, and is not included in the scheduling.

It is believed that Rookwood Hall represented part of the Manor of Roding, the main part of which was in Beauchamp Roding, which was held in 1086 by Aubrey de Vere, ancestor of the earls of Oxford. It is possible the moated site related to the half knight's fee held by Walter Fitz Richard in 1166. According to the local antiquarian, P Morant, Rookwood Hall was held by John Fitz Richard in 1250, by Richard Fitz William in 1268, and continued in the possession of the heirs of William Fitz Richard during the 14th century. During the 15th and much of the 16th century the manor was held by the Browne family, and at the time of the death of Thomas Browne in 1488 the manor comprised of `300 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture, 26 acres of meadow, 10 acres of wood, and a toft, garden and half an acre of land in Abbess Roding and neighbouring parishes'. Rookwood Hall is thought to have been built by John Browne in the second quarter of the 16th century. From 1580 until 1698 Rookwood was held by the Capel family, and it is recorded that in 1578 Elizabeth I stayed one night in the hall and held a Privy Council there. The 1696 Oliver map of Essex shows Rookwood Hall standing in a wooded park, however the wood had disappeared by 1777 when the hall and moat were depicted on Chapman and Andres' map of the County of Essex. The decline of Rookwood Hall is thought to have begun in the late 18th century after the departure of the Capel family. In about 1886 it was replaced by a new farmhouse (also called Rookwood Hall) which was built to the south of the moated site.

The two listed barns, all other farm buildings, Rookwood Cottage, the fences, bridges, concrete yards and 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
The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1959), 188-193
Morant, P, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex 1763-1768, (1769), 204-5
II 2/4, List of Bldings of Spec. Architect. or Hist. Intst: Epping Fst, (1967)
II* 2/5, List of Bldings of Spec. Architect. or Hist. Intst: Epping Fst, (1967)
Ordnance Survey record card, 4411: Rookwood Hall, (1971)
Title: Map of Essex Source Date: 1696 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office
Title: Map of the County of Essex Source Date: 1777 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office: sheet xii
Title: Tithe Map of Abbots Roothing Source Date: 1838 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office ref: D/CT 292B
Title: Tithe Map of the Parish of Abbots Roothing Source Date: 1838 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office ref: D/CT 292 B


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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