Scurff Hall moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 68756 26348

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.

Scurff provides good evidence of the medieval practice of assarting waste- land. Medieval archaeological deposits will survive throughout the inner island, 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 inner moat will retain evidence of one or more causeways or bridges spanning the moat. It will also contain finds like bone and pottery as well as environmental information, all of which will preserve important information about the medieval life of the area. Further important archaeological remains will survive beyond the inner island, especially within and under the banks beside the outer moat. The ridge and furrow is also an important and increasingly rare survival.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a medieval moated manor house set within a larger moated enclosure. The southern half of the enclosure retains ridge and furrow earthworks and is included in the scheduling, while the earthworks in the northern half have been levelled by ploughing and are not included. Scurff Hall is located 700m south of the River Ouse, 1.2km due east of Drax church. The area was assarted (reclaimed from the fen and legally claimed) before 1286 by the del Scurth family, who were free tenants of Drax. The outer moat is considered to date to this time and to have been part of the original drainage works. By 1364 Scurff was described as a vill, the smallest medieval administrative unit. This could be applied to a dispersed settlement like Scurff as well as to nucleated villages. The inner moat was dated by excavation in the early 1960s to the late 14th to early 15th century. On its moated island stood a medieval hall which was demolished in the early 18th century when the rear of the present hall was built. Around this time the farm buildings to the east of the inner moated island were built in successive phases and the inner moat was largely filled in with spoil from drainage ditches on the farm. In the mid-19th century the hall was remodelled and enlarged and the south and east sides of the inner moated island were partially landscaped. The inner moated island is about 75m east-west and 55m north-south and forms a raised platform above the general surrounding land surface. The medieval hall is believed to have stood to the east of the present house and in this area a stony surface lies about 30cm below the current ground level. The western half of the moat ditch survives as a visible earthwork. The eastern arm of the moat was infilled during the 18th century and was partly built over with farm buildings, but it will survive as an infilled feature. Part of the southern arm was modified to form a ha ha in the 19th century. The outer moat originally enclosed an irregular area of nearly 8ha and can be divided into three distinct sections. The south east and east sides are formed by part of the curving course of the Willow Row Drain. This is thought to be an old course of the River Ayre and flows northwards to meet the Ouse. The south western and western sides are formed by a ditch with a marked bank up to 1.3m high on the eastern (inner) side. This ditch is in three straight sections forming an elongated zig-zag and is followed by the parish boundary between Drax and Newland. The northern side, closing the circuit, ran in an approximately straight line ENE between the parish boundary and Willow Row Drain. This northern moat arm, which is not included in the scheduling, has been infilled and is marked by a footpath across a large field. At the junction between the Willow Row Drain and the ditch marking the parish boundary, there is a circular water filled depression nearly 10m across. The area between the inner and outer moats within the area of scheduling is crossed by pronounced, 11m wide ridge and furrow running east-west. Further ridge and furrow existed in the field to the north but as this has been levelled by modern ploughing, it is not included in the scheduling. All the ridge and furrow respects both moats, and thus post dates their construction. All fencing, buildings (including Scurff Hall), walling and paving, are excluded from the sheduling, 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, , Vol. 5, (1973), 127
Wilson, K, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Survey and Excavations With The Area Of Scurff Hall Farm, , Vol. 41, (1966), 670-686


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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