King's Court Palace moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of King's Court Palace moated site
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Dorset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 81829 26331

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.

King's Court Palace moated site is a well preserved example of its class in an area of the country where moated sites are rare. It will contain archaeological deposits providing information about medieval high society, the local economy and landscape. The survival of many contemporary documents referring to the royal residence is unusual, and these provide details of the buildings and rooms in the house and allow a fuller understanding of the nature and development of the site.


The monument includes a moated site known as King's Court Palace, the site of a medieval royal hunting lodge, situated near the confluence of the River Lodden and Fern Brook. The moated site is defined by a ditch, internal bank and partial external bank which enclose a rectangular area 95m by 56m. The ditch is deepest on the northern and eastern sides where it is up to 12m wide and 1.7m deep. On the western side it measures 8m wide and 0.8m deep. The moat was probably water- filled and fed from the River Lodden at the north west corner of the site. The inner bank is best preserved on the western and northern sides where it averages 16m wide and up to 1.3m high. It has been disturbed on the south and south eastern sides where platforms have been cut into it, possibly in the area of the original buildings. In the late 18th century Hutchins recorded that foundations were formerly visible in one corner of the site forming an `L'-shaped block. The inner bank has been reduced considerably in height at the north eastern corner, creating a gap with an external platform. There is an external bank on the lower western and southern sides, with a short stretch at the north western corner, 12m wide and up to 1.5m high. There is no indication of the original entrance, but it is likely to have been at or near the south western corner where there is a gap in the two banks and a causeway across the ditch. Two rectangular platforms on the inner bank either side of this gap may suggest the location of the 14th century gatehouse referred to in contemporary documents. The site is crossed by a modern trackway which bridges the ditch and truncates the banks at the south western corner and diagonally on the northern side. The earthworks are truncated by shallow drainage ditches, probably modern in origin, on the southern and western sides of the site. The moated site lies within Gillingham deer park, the boundary bank of which is the subject of a separate scheduling (DO 796). Gillingham was recorded as a royal manor in the Domesday survey. Henry I issued a charter in 1132, suggesting a residence at the site by that date. King John ordered extensive alterations to the house which were begun in 1199 and completed by 1203 when a feast was held to mark the opening of the castle. He visited the site every year until 1214. Further additions, alterations and repairs were made in Henry III's reign between 1249 and 1260 which included the construction of the moat, curtain wall, drawbridge and gatehouse, and a hedge around the courtyard which was later replaced by oak railings. Further repairs are recorded up to 1354. In 1369 Edward III ordered the demolition of the buildings and the sale of the materials. In the late 18th century foundations of the building were dug up and the stone used for road repairs. All fence posts and poles supporting overhead power lines are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Historical Mounuments in the County of Dorset: Volume IV, (1972), 51-2
Hutchins, J, History of Dorset: Volume III, (1868), 618-9


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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