Southchurch Hall moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Southend-on-Sea (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 89395 85490

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 Southchurch Hall survives well, preserved in the midst of a large residential area by its conversion to a public park in around 1930. Despite the landscaping which accompanied this conversion, the outline of the moat remains visible and the buried profile of the ditch is known both to survive and to contain deep silts which retain artefacts related to the long period of occupation. Environmental evidence also remaining within these silts will provide significant information regarding the appearance of the landscape in which the moated manor was set. The hall itself is not included in the scheduling, although its remarkable state of preservation provides a valuable indication of the status and lifestyle of the former occupants. Other buildings are known to have existed alongside the hall, and excavations have demonstrated the presence of well preserved buried foundations on the island. Further archaeological evidence is also considered to survive in the form of buried features beyond the island, which will shed light on the development of the manor. The fishponds to the west of the moat are one such feature. Ponds of this kind were created to provide a consistent and sustainable food supply, 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 buried remains of the continuation of the moat to the south of the island are also expected to survive, together with evidence for the the formal gardens and orchard which extended across this area in the later medieval period. The combination of buildings, earthworks and historical information, as displayed in the Southchurch Hall Museum, provides a valuable public amenity.


Southchurch Hall moated site lies approximately 1.1km to the east of the central station at Southend-on-Sea, between the railway line and Woodgrange Drive. The medieval hall and its immediate grounds were granted to the Borough in 1927 for use as a public library and park, thereby preserving the site from encroaching housing developments which now encircle the monument. The moated island occupies the northern half of the park (which covers approximately 2ha) and measures approximately 60m square. The surface of the island is raised by about 2m, providing a platform for the manor buildings. The manor house (a Grade I Listed Building) still stands in the centre of the island, having been converted from farmhouse to library in 1928-9, and transformed into a museum in 1974. Although the hall has seen numerous modifications since its construction in the late-13th century, restoration work undertaken in the late 1920s returned to the building something of its earlier appearance. The main east-west range displays its original layout as an open hall and retains a fine late-13th century tie beam roof, an ogee arched timber doorway and evidence for the characteristic cross passage of the period. The solar wing to the west dates from c.1560, utilising in part an earlier arrangement of chambers and storerooms. The small kitchen to the east was converted from an earlier buttery and pantry around 1600 when a detached kitchen range was demolished. The eastern wing, which overlies the area of the former kitchen range, dates from 1928-9 and probably replaced a 17th century stair wing. The manor house, including both the medieval and later elements, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. The foundations of other buildings have been revealed by limited excavations elsewhere on the island, particularly to the north of the hall. The exposed and consolidated rubble foundations of a stone structure lie adjacent to the modern bridge which spans the northern arm of the moat and these are believed to represent a gatehouse, which is one of several features mentioned in an inventory of the manor dating from 1391. The present bridge was constructed in the late 1980s, replacing a causeway which had accumulated from the 16th century onwards, being revetted and pierced by a concrete pipe in the 1930s. The excavations which accompanied these recent changes uncovered stone supports to either side of the ditch (that to the south retaining features of a turning bridge or drawbridge mechanism) and revealed the waterlogged timberwork of a series of earlier and later bridges. The moat surrounding the island owes its present appearance to the landscaping of the park in the 1930s, when the ditches along all but the southern arm were remodelled to form a series of ponds separated by baulks and causeways. The resulting pattern follows the original course of the ditch which can be traced on a series of maps beginning in 1687. The excavations at the bridge demonstrated a considerable depth of undisturbed silts, and the base and lower fills of the medieval ditch are thought to remain largely undisturbed by later work. The southern arm of the moat remains visible as a broad slope, from which two parallel flights of steps (dating from the 1930s) ascend towards the hall. Several ornamental ponds, immediately to the west of the moat, are believed to have originated from two large medieval fishponds. A map dating from 1687 shows a continuation of the moat to the south of the island, forming a second enclosure approximately half the width of the main circuit and similar in length. Later developments, including the construction of a further shallow pond in the 1930s, have removed evidence of this feature at ground level, although the buried ditch is expected to survive, along with buried evidence for the orchard and formal gardens which lay to the south and east of the island from the 14th century. The manor was granted to the the Holy Trinity Benedictine priory at Canterbury before the Norman Conquest. It was held between the mid-12th and mid-14th centuries by the de Southchurch family, during which time the estate grew to include properties from Shoebury to Canvey Island and several members of the family rose to prominence. Sir Richard de Southchurch (c.1225-1293) held office as Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire and as King's Steward of the Liberty of Rochford. His son, Sir Peter de Southchurch (c.1255-1309), was appointed Justice of Oyer and Terminer in 1300. The male line of the de Southchurch family failed in 1343, and the manor passed to William Dersham who let the property to a London spice merchant, John of Prittlewell. The property was also held as surety in financial dealings at this time and, following the economic collapse precipitated by the Black Death, its revenues were held in forfeit by the Crown. Canterbury Priory released the debt and recovered the property in the late-14th century, and the manor was let on short leases until the Dissolution. In 1545 the Crown granted the manor to Sir Richard Lord Riche who also leased it out, and it was later (c.1650) sub-divided into two main tenancies, one of which was based at the hall. By the mid-18th century the hall was divided into two tenements, but these were reunited into a single farmhouse, later known as Wiffen's Farm, when the hall was bought up in the mid-19th century. The outer court, shown to the north of the moat on maps dating from 1687 onwards, was subsumed by housing developments in the 1920s-30s. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the manor house, all other standing structures apart from the stone bridge supports; the sunken boiler room to the east of the hall; all modern paths, steps and paved areas; all fences, railings, gates, benches, litter bins and signposts, and all sluices, pond revetments and concrete pond liners; the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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.

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Books and journals
Southchurch Hall: A Medieval Manor House in Moated Gardens, (1990)
Crowe, K, Southchurch Hall: Watching Brief on New Bridge Foundations, (1990)
AM7 Ancient Monuments - Record Form, Sherlock, D, Southchurch Hall and moated site, (1975)
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Letter from Curator of S-on-S Museum, Wright, A, Southend Hall, (1997)
on display in Southchurch Hall Museum, (1839)
RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments in Essex, (1923)
Title: Map of Essex Source Date: 1777 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: on display in Southchurch Hall Museum
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Source Date: 1875 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: On display in Southchurch Hall Museum
Title: Tithe Map Source Date: 1687 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: On display in Southchurch Hall Museum


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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