Moated site and fishponds 200m north west of Vatche's Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017510

Date first listed: 04-Feb-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site and fishponds 200m north west of Vatche's Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Aston Clinton

National Grid Reference: SP 86529 12729


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.

The moated site near Vatche's Farm is largely undisturbed, and it remains one of the best preserved monuments of its kind in Buckinghamshire. The island will contain evidence of buildings in the form of buried foundations and the impressions of timber structures, as well as other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, yard surfaces and refuse pits. The ditches will provide detailed information concerning the water management system, and contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and environmental evidence can be retrieved, illustrating the development of the site and the landscape in which it was set.

Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow-moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of breeding and storing fish in order to provide a consistent and sustainable supply of food. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds began in the medieval period and reached a peak of popularity in the 12th century. Fishponds were often grouped together, either clustered or in line, and joined by leats; each pond being stocked with a different age or species of fish, which could be transferred to other bodies of water such as moats. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of society, and are considered important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of medieval settlements and institutions.

The fishponds adjacent to Vatche's Farm moated site form an integral part of the settlement, and represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support the economy and enhance the surroundings of the moated site. The ponds are well preserved both as visible and partly buried features, retaining the ditches used to control the water levels within.

The moated site is thought to be that of Vache's Manor, the history and descent of which is well documented. It lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous and in quite close proximity to two similar sites at Broughton and Buckland. Comparisons between these sites will provide valuable insights into the development of medieval settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the visible and buried remains of a medieval moated site and a related group of fishponds located to the north of the A418 Aylesbury Road and immediately to the north west of Vatche's Farm.

The moated island is slightly trapezoidal in plan, measuring some 100m along all but the western arm (which is some 20m longer), and surrounded on all sides by a broad ditch, 14m to 20m in width and up to 1.4m in depth. The island contains several broad platforms and numerous minor undulations indicating the locations of former buildings and other structures. Medieval artefacts collected from the site over the years include a decorative ceramic roof finial, which points to at least one building of substantial construction. The most distinctive platforms are located towards the western side of the island, perhaps facing an entrance suggested by gaps in the internal and external banks which can otherwise be traced around the moat.

To the east of the island two fishponds are arranged in line with the northern and southern arms of the moat, each enclosed within slightly embanked rims. The northern pond measures some 100m in length and between 20m and 40m in width, and is water filled. The southern pond is similar in length but only 13m in width. This is now dry and measures approximately 1.2m in depth. The two ponds appear to have been connected by a broad leat (now also dry) running parallel to, and some 40m from, the eastern arm of the moat. An enlarged branch from this leat may have formed a third, smaller, fishpond alongside the southern pond. The area between the two larger ponds also contains a number of low platforms. These may indicate the foundations of outbuildings within an outer ward defined by the fishponds. Alternatively, the platforms could be interpreted as garden features designed, together with the ponds, to enhance the setting of the island. A slightly sunken trackway traverses this area approaching the island from the east. However, since the track partly truncates the channel connecting the main ponds, it is unlikely to be entirely contemporary with the period of occupation.

The moated site has been identified as the possible location of Vatche's Manor, the name of which is perpetuated by the adjacent farm. The earliest references to the manor date from the early-13th century when it was held by Richard de Turri. In the mid-13th century, Richard acquired a license from Bishop Grosteste to build a chapel on his lands, perhaps within the curtilage of the manor itself. On Richard's death (c.1371) the manor passed to Richard de la Vache and it remained the property of this family until 1506, when it was divided and sold. The manor was later granted to the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, and subsequently formed part of the endowment of St Paul's School. The trustees of the school, the Mercers Company of London, still held Vatche's Farm in the early part of this century. The final date of the site's abandonment is not known, although it had clearly ceased to be occupied in 1814 as a parish map of that year shows no structures either within or adjacent to the island.

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: 29403

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Clinch, G, The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1908), 315
Lipscomb, G, History and Antiquities of Buckinghamshire, (1847), 86-7
Bucks SMR entry, 0129, (1980)
Ordnance Survey Antiquity Model (1:2500 map base), NKB, SP 81 SE 7 Homestead moat and possible fishponds, (1972)
Ordnance Survey Antiquity Model, NKB, SP 81 SW 7 Homestead moat and possible fishponds, (1972)
Plan (copied from Eaton 1967), Bucks County Museum Service, (1985)
Plan from aerial photos (Bucks SMR), Eaton, H (Capt), Moat, Area SU 865127, Aston Clinton, (1967)
Plot from aerial photos (Bucks SMR), Eaton, H (Capt), Moat, Area SU 865127, Aston Clinton, (1967)
Title: Tithe Map Aston Clinton Source Date: 1814 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Bucks PRO MA/8/1.R

End of official listing