Moated site at The Old Rectory


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


Ordnance survey map of Moated site at The Old Rectory
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Waveney (District Authority)
St. Margaret, South Elmham
National Grid Reference:
TM 31455 83793

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 The Old Rectory survives well. The interior is unencumbered by modern buildings, and the moat itself, although it has undergone some later modification, retains much of its earlier form. The monument will contain archaeological information concerning the construction of the moat and subsequent occupation of the site, including evidence for the buildings which once stood upon the central platform. It has additional interest as one of the several rectorial moated sites within the episcopal manor of South Elmham, and in relation to a variety of other features of the medieval landscape which survive in the area and are of importance for the study of medieval settlement.


The monument includes a moated site which is believed to be the site of the medieval rectory, located 150m south of St Margaret's Church, on the west side of the road through the village. It lies some 50m to the north east of the present Old Rectory, which is a building largely of 19th century date.

The moat, which is water-filled, ranges in width from approximately 7m to 18m and surrounds the northern, western and southern sides of the area on which the medieval buildings are thought to have stood. At some time during the 19th century it was modified as a garden water feature, and the inner edge now describes an irregular curve around the western end of this partial enclosure. The outer edge defines a more rectilinear north western angle and, according to old editions of Ordnance Survey 1:2500 maps, was at one time more regular around the south western angle also. On the north side, the moat is approximately 43m in length and issues into a narrower channel approximately 4m wide and 41m in length which extends eastwards to the road. The moat on the south side is approximately 60m in overall length and terminates at the eastern end in a short southward extension. It is possible that the moated site was always open at the eastern end and fronted directly onto the road, although a slight but distinct scarp alongside the boundary with the road defines what may have been the western edge of an infilled north-south ditch about 4m wide. The interior area, as thus defined, has maximum dimensions of around 78m east-west by 32m north-south. The ground surface of the interior is uneven and slopes to a lower level in the south western part of the enclosure.

According to a map of the Glebe dated 1834, the moat in the earlier part of the 19th century remained open and water-filled in three separate sections, with a gap around 25m wide, probably created by infilling in order to provide greater ease of access, on the south western side. The southern arm is depicted as it remains today, including the out-turning eastern end. The north western section of the moat, including most or all of the northern arm, is shown as more regular in width than now, with the inner edge following a rounded angle corresponding to that of the outer edge. The third and shortest section corresponds to the western end of the narrower channel which extends to the road on the northern side. It is likely that the outlines of infilled sections of the moat remained at least partly visible on the ground surface and were followed when the south western part was recut.

The map dated 1834 records two buildings standing on the moated site, but the Tithe Award map of 1842 shows none, and the site has remained unoccupied since that date.

The monument is one of several rectorial moated sites which survive in the different parishes which made up the manor of South Elmham and which are the subject of separate schedulings. The manor was held in the later 11th century by the Bishop of Thetford and subsequently, until the Reformation, by the Bishops of Norwich who had a country seat at the moated site of South Elmham Hall located 850m to the south west, also the subject of a separate scheduling. Other features of the medieval landscape which survive in the area include St Margaret's Green, some 750m to the south east, at the eastern end of the parish.

A timber garden structure standing on the moated site, a concrete-lined tank adjacent to the outer edge of the southern arm of the moat, a modern footbridge, paving and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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:
Legacy System:


Blaxland, J C, (1997)
Title: Map of the Glebe, St Margaret's, South Elmham Source Date: 1834 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: In possession of Major Blaxland


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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