Moated site immediately east of Absolpark
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017004
Date first listed: 06-Apr-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Chelmsford (District Authority)
Parish: Great Waltham
National Grid Reference: TL 66448 19408
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 immediately east of Absolpark farmhouse survives well. The island will retain buried evidence for structures and other features relating to the period of occupation. In addition, there is considerable documentary evidence which will complement the archaeological evidence providing insights into the use of the moated site and the lifestyle of its inhabitants. The association of the moated site with notable individuals and events provides additional interest.
The moated site lies in an area where such sites are fairly numerous, and is situated in close proximity to one such site, at Porter's Hall in Stebbing, 4.5km to the NNW. Comparative studies between these sites and with further examples from other regions, will provide valuable insights into the development of settlement and medieval society in England.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval moated site immediately east of Absolpark
Farm, and 900m to the north of the village of North End, on ground which
slopes to the south east.
The moated site includes a roughly rectangular island measuring a maximum of 40m north to south by 42m east to west and is raised by approximately 1m above the ground to the south east of the moat. An inner bank, about 1m wide by 0.3m high, located along the eastern side of the island is thought to be modern. A water-filled moat or ditch, measuring up to 18m wide and at least 4m in depth, surrounds the island; the outer face of the moat is partially revetted with both timber and concrete. A sub-circular extension to the north east corner of the moat may in the past have been used as a watering place for cattle.The moat has been extensively reworked in the 20th century and is not therefore included in the scheduling. The modern footbridge across the south arm replaced an earlier bridge on the same site.
Absolpark may have originated with a pre-Conquest manor of Wulfwin known as Udecheshale (Udec's hall) which was held, at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 by Aubrey de Vere, passing by marriage to Geoffrey de Mandeville in the 12th century. As lord of Pleshey and Saffron Walden as well as many other manors, Geoffrey was probably the greatest landowner in Essex. His turncoat activities during the struggle between Stephen and Maud for the English throne in the mid 12th century won him favours from both parties including his elevation to the earldom of Essex. Through his treachery de Mandeville was deprived of his lands and, escaping to the fens to raise a rebellion, died in a skirmish at Burwell (Cambs) in 1144.
The earldom of Essex and the de Mandeville lands passed to Geoffrey's two sons in succession and then by marriage, in 1227, to Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford. Humphrey was first hereditary Constable of England and was created Earl of Essex.
Documents from the period of de Bohun tenure refer to poachers at Absolpark `who fished in the stews of Humphrey de Bohun.....and carried away fish' (1297) and to the issue of a licence to crenellate the manor house at Absolpark (1348).
The male de Bohun line failed in the second half of the 14th century leaving two daughters as co-heiresses. The elder, Eleanor, married Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester and youngest son of Edward III whose opposition to Richard II led to his arrest at Pleshey and probable murder in 1397. In 1380 the younger daughter, Mary, married Henry Bolingbroke, founder of the Lancastrian dynasty and the future Henry IV. It seems probable that Absolpark formed part of Mary's share of the de Bohun inheritance, and it was certainly absorbed into the duchy of Lancaster before 1438. In that year a grant for life to John Penycok of a pipe of Gascon wine notes that he held `the office of parker of Epechylde (Absol) and the keeping of the manor there belonging to the duchy of Lancaster with wages of 3d a day'.
Charles Brandon, first duke of Suffolk and close friend of Henry VII held Absolpark in the early 16th century, selling it to Sir Richard Rich in 1538. Rich, who is best known for his betrayal of Sir Thomas More, swung with the political wind, supporting first Lady Jane Grey and then, from Essex, declaring for Queen Mary. In his later years he founded the school at Felsted.
It is thought that Absolpark remained in the Rich family until the early 17th century when the estate, said to lie in Great Waltham, Barnston and Dunmow, may have been divided, with a portion passing to the earl of Manchester and the remainder forming part of the Essex estates of Guys Hospital. The holding of the earl of Manchester was sold on to the Duke of Buckinghamshire in 1722, and it would appear that the Tylney Long family leased Absol Park Farm in the same century, the farm remaining part of the Guys estate until at least 1827.
The moat is marked on the 1816 Map of the Parish of Great Waltham and the 1846 Plan of Absolpark and has changed little since then. Absolpark farmhouse, a 17th century Listed Building Grade II which stands immediately to the south west of the moat, is thought to have replaced an earlier building on the island.
The outbuilding, walls and modern surfaces on the moated island, as well as part of the footbridge itself 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: 33263
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Reaney, PH, Place names of Essex, (1935), 271
Title: Map of the Parish of Great Waltham Source Date: 1816 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office ref: D/DTu 203
Title: Plan of Absolpark in the parish of Great Waltham Source Date: 1846 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office ref: DD 21 16
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