Thorpe Hall moated monastic grange


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017460

Date first listed: 08-Dec-1997


Ordnance survey map of Thorpe Hall moated monastic grange
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Oct-2018 at 12:50:42.


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

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby (District Authority)

Parish: Selby

National Grid Reference: SE 57815 31665


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

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Around 6000 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. Some moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigniorial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in the central and eastern parts of England. However moated sites were built throughout the medieval period, and are widely scattered throughout England, exhibiting a wide variety of forms, sizes and uses. 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. Thorpe Hall moated monastic grange is a very well preserved example of its type. Medieval archaeological deposits will survive throughout the islands, both under the present buildings and in open areas. Remains will include building foundations, rubbish pits, and evidence of both small scale industrial activity and gardening. The moat, still being partly water filled, will retain well preserved organic remains. These may include timbering related to one or more bridges across the moat, wooden and leather items lost or thrown away, animal and fish bones, together with pollen, seeds and other environmental remains which rarely survive elsewhere and will provide valuable information into the life of the medieval site.


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


The monument includes the remains of a medieval moated manor house site on the north bank of the medieval drainage channel Selby Dam, to the north of Thorpe Willoughby village. Originally a grange of the Benedictine abbey at Selby, the property was leased to Willoughby in the 13th century. When Selby Abbey was suppressed in 1539, Thorpe was held directly by the abbey and was described as being a mansion house with a dovecot and orchard, all surrounded by a moat. The same document continues to list the closes, fields and garths of the grange which in total was assessed at being worth ten pounds per year. The western part of the monument is now occupied by a house built c.1800 which is Listed Grade II. The monument includes a moat ditch that follows a roughly rectangular circuit, orientated with its long axis lying east-west. Most of the circuit is very well defined except for the southern half of the western moat arm and the western half of the southern arm which survive as infilled features, the former lying partly underneath Dam Lane, the rest lying within the garden of Thorpe Hall. The rectangular island outlined by the moat ditch is approximately 140m by 80m and is divided in two halves by a north-south moat which is separated from both the north and south moat ditches by baulks about 10m wide. On the outside of both the north and east moat arms there is a slight broad bank of material which is considered to be the result of dredging operations conducted to maintain the moat after its initial construction. A hedge line follows the southern side of the eastern half of the south moat arm, and overlies a continuation of this external bank. The area to the east of the central moat ditch includes a number of slight earthworks, including an approximately 15m long slight depression orientated east-west, which is interpreted as the silted remains of a fishpond. The area to the west of the central ditch includes the present Thorpe Hall, together with a number of outbuildings and sheds with surrounding gardens. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all buildings, sheds and greenhouses, all drive, path and patio surfaces, the electricity power line, and all garden walls, timber and post and wire fencing and the surface and foundations of Dam Lane; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included in the scheduling.

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: 30113

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Record series' in Record series, , Vol. 13, (1893), 352
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, (1973), indexed
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, (1973), 128

End of official listing