Bruce's Castle: moated site immediately east of Bruce's Castle Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017844

Date first listed: 27-Oct-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Bruce's Castle: moated site immediately east of Bruce's Castle 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: Conington

National Grid Reference: TL 18417 84578


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.

Bruce's Castle is a well preserved and impressive moated site. The water- filled moat will contain valuable evidence in the form of artefacts and environmental deposits illustrating the lifestyle of the occupants and the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set. Little disturbance has taken place within the island and this will retain buried evidence in the form of foundations and foundation trenches, surfaces, and building debris for the hall, gatehouse and other structures.

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 fishpond at Bruce's Castle survives as a distinctive feature and is clearly identifiable with the fishpond detailed in 13th century documents. Although partly infilled, the lower silts will contain waterlogged artefacts and environmental deposits relating both to its own use and to the site in general.

The existence of detailed documentary records from the period of the site's occupation in the 13th century, together with a high level of archaeological preservation, combine to make Bruce's Castle an outstanding example of this class of monument.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site known as Bruce's Castle, situated on the western side of Duckpit Fen, immediately to the east of Bruce's Castle Farm.

The island is roughly square, measuring approximately 80m by 100m, and is defined by a substantial moat 6m wide by a minimum of 3m deep, which retains water in all but the western arm. The outer edge of the moat is not embanked, but a slight inner bank survives along the western edge of the island. A leat, or channel, at the south eastern angle is now connected to a modern field drain. Several water-filled hollows beyond the eastern arm of the moat are thought to be the result of later activities around the site and this area is not included in the scheduling.

The site takes its name from Bernard de Brus who built a manor house here in about 1242. The antiquarian, William Camden, was sufficiently impressed by the derelict remains of the manor house to term the site `a castle'. However, by the late 16th century even these had disappeared, with a map drawn by the owner, Sir Robert Cotton, in 1595 depicting the island as tree covered and referring to it simply as `the old site'. Nevertheless, an Inquisition of 1279 makes it clear that the manorial complex here was both large and prestigious.

The Inquisition details a hall with wings to east and west, the west wing having a chapel at the southern end and a room to the north called `The Great Sklat (Slate) Chamber'. This hall was probably located towards the centre of the island where traces of a raised platform still remain.

According to the Inquisition, a gatehouse was situated to the north of the house, with a herbary between the two. The gatehouse had a drawbridge and stables to either side with a large room - `Le Garite' (garret or attic) above. To the east of the gatehouse were barns. The probable site of the gatehouse is indicated by a narrow causeway across the northern arm of the moat, and animal disturbance of the ground surface of the island in this northern area has revealed building debris. The debris showed signs of burning, suggesting the possibility that the site's abandonment resulted from a disastrous fire.

The south eastern corner was occupied by a bakehouse, yard and fishpond. The fishpond is still a visible feature, 15m long by 1.7m wide, and irregularities on the ground in this corner of the island may indicate the site of the bakehouse.

The south western corner is said by the Inquisition to have held a vineyard, a term which was also used to refer to orchards, particularly of pears which were frequently used in the medieval period to make wine.

A road running north from the moated site gave access to Barn Yard Close which is said to have contained a great barn, hay house and dove house. None of these features can now be traced. The area which they would have occupied to the immediate north of the moated site has been considerably disturbed and it is not, therefore, included in the scheduling.

All fences, fence posts and the pheasant pen and its accessories are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 29708

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Page, W, Proby, G , The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1936), 145
Page, W, Proby, G , The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, (1936), 145
Title: Source Date: 1595 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: plan of Conington and district

End of official listing