Moated site in Prestley Wood, 800m north east of Cartwright's Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017843

Date first listed: 22-Oct-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site in Prestley Wood, 800m north east of Cartwright's Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Huntingdonshire (District Authority)

Parish: The Stukeleys

National Grid Reference: TL 22842 75763


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 in Prestley Wood survives largely undisturbed and remains one of the best preserved monuments of its kind in Cambridgeshire. The island and outer enclosure will contain buried evidence for former buildings as well as other features related to the period of occupation such as yard surfaces and refuse pits. The ditches will provide detailed information concerning the water management system, and will contain waterlogged deposits from which both artefacts and environmental evidence can be retrieved, to illustrate 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 at the Prestley Wood moated site form an integral part of the settlement and represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support the economy of the settlement. Their location close to the entrance to the site may also have been intended to enhance the setting of the inner island and to indicate the occupant's status.

The southern fishpond is a particularly well preserved visible feature which may retain further waterlogged deposits relating both to its use and to the site in general.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site located in Prestley Wood, 800m north east of Cartwright's Farm, close to the south eastern end of the main runway of Alconbury Airfield.

It includes two moated islands, one contained within the other. The outer enclosure is roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 150m north to south at its western end and 174m east to west. The inner moat lies towards the southern side of the outer enclosure, forming a rectangle which shares one side with the southern arm of the outer moat.

The inner moated island measures approximately 61m north to south and 39.5m east to west, and is defined by a water-filled moat some 8m wide and about 2.4m deep. The outer edge of this moat is banked on the northern, eastern and western sides. Access to the island is thought to have been via a causeway on the western side where a lowering of the ground surface of the otherwise level island corresponds with traces of a ramp in the outer enclosure.

The outer moat, which varies in width up to approximately 4m, is between 1m and 1.8m deep. It is thought to have partly silted up and is now dry. The area enclosed by this outer moat is about 2.25ha. There are no features visible in the outer courtyard apart from an oval fishpond, which is connected to the south western angle of the inner moat, and two depressions to the north which may represent further ponds.

To the south, a low, irregular bank follows the southern sides of the fishpond, the inner moat and the southern arm of the outer ditch. It cannot be traced elsewhere and may have been intended as a facade to the whole complex.

The moated site has been identified with the manor of Prestleys, which was held of the Honour of Huntingdon and granted to Simon de Senliz in the early 13th century. Simon's successors held the manor until the mid-14th century when it was granted to Nicholas Stukeley. Thereafter, the manor of Prestleys formed part of the Stukeley estates, eventually passing through the female line to the Torkington family who held it from 1539 until the 19th century.

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: 29707

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1932), 230

End of official listing