Countess Close moated site


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017289

Date first listed: 23-Feb-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Apr-1999


Ordnance survey map of Countess Close moated site
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Alkborough

National Grid Reference: SE 87952 21589


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.

Countess Close includes substantial upstanding medieval earthworks and will retain additional buried remains including building foundations, rubbish pits, and evidence of both agricultural and small scale industrial activity. Its historical association with Countess Lucy implies that it is an early example of a moated site. The monument's importance is further enhanced by its proximity to Julian's Bower, a rare survival of a medieval turf maze and the subject of a separate scheduling.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a fortified medieval manor house located at the top of the scarp above the River Trent floodplain on the south western edge of Alkborough. Antiquarians from Abraham de la Pryme in the 17th century onwards thought that Countess Close was a Roman fortification. Small scale excavations in 1879 failed to find evidence of Roman occupation, but uncovered arch stones and pottery now thought to have been medieval. Stray finds of pottery found since confirm the medieval dating of the monument. Countess Close is thought to owe its name to a Saxon heiress, Lucy, who was countess in her own right of Leicester, Lincoln and Chester and is thought to have been the daughter of William Mallet, recorded as the main land owner in Alkborough by the Domesday Book. She married Ivo Taillebois, nephew of William the Conqueror, who was Peterborough Abbey's tenant at Walcott and who was given land in Alkborough by the abbey sometime before his death in 1104. Countess Lucy went on to remarry twice, with her manor in Alkborough passing to the son of her second husband who in turn gave property to Spalding Priory. In 1147 a chapel was built following the arbitration of a dispute between Spalding Priory and Peterborough Abbey. It is thought that this chapel was built in or near to Countess Close. The monument includes a main enclosure, defined by a bank and external moat ditch, with an annex or second enclosure on the south western side. The moat ditches were almost certainly dry moats and never water filled. The whole monument is aligned with the edge of the 30m high steep scarp above the floodplain of the Trent. The bank and ditch between the main enclosure and the annex were levelled in 1965-6, but their position can be seen as soil marks and the course of the moat ditch is marked by a slight depression. The north eastern side is the best preserved section of bank and ditch. Here the moat ditch is up to 1.5m deep and measures up to 15m wide from the top of the internal bank to the outer lip of the ditch. The internal bank runs immediately alongside the ditch and stands up to 3m above its base, 1.5m above the interior of the enclosure. On the north western side, the level of the interior rises so that there is only a slight bank when viewed from inside the enclosure. From the outside it appears to be up to 3m high with the moat ditch continuing with a low external bank separating it from the steep scarp. The level of the annex is generally about 0.2m-0.3m below that of the main enclosure. It has a moat ditch on its north western side up to 2.5m deep and 6m-8m wide with a 1m high bank defining its north western side before the edge of the scarp. On the western side of the annex there is a slightly raised level area which is considered to have been a building platform for a range of buildings. In the eastern part of the annex there is a broad depression which is characteristic of areas used for holding livestock. The main enclosure, which measures approximately 80m by 90m internally, also has a level raised area on the western side. This is considered to be the building platform for the main hall and associated buildings, possibly including the chapel built in 1147. The stonework found in 1879 came from the south western corner of the main enclosure. On the eastern side the ground is quite stony, which may indicate further building remains or yard surfaces. The telegraph pole near Vicarage Lane, all modern fencing and sign posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 32622

Legacy System: RSM


Record Card, North Lincolnshire SMR, 44,

End of official listing