Moated site 215m south of Chancel Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017845

Date first listed: 20-Oct-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site 215m south of Chancel Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: East Cambridgeshire (District Authority)

Parish: Wicken

National Grid Reference: TL 57709 70264


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 215m south of Chancel Farm survives largely undisturbed and represents one of the best preserved monuments of its kind in Cambridgeshire. Situated to the south of the site of the presumed location of the original village, the monument is, apart from the parish church, the only visual surviving feature of the medieval period.

The island will contain evidence for buildings in the form of buried foundations and the impressions of timber structures, as well as other buried 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, 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 at this moated site form an integral part of the settlement, and represent an important component of the medieval landscape perhaps created to support the economy of Spinney Abbey. The ponds are well preserved as visible, waterlogged features which may retain further environmental evidence relating both to their 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 situated 215m south of Chancel Farm, in a copse on the northern edge of Little Fen.

The island, which is rectangular in plan, measures approximately 23.1m north to south and 53.6m east to west. It is defined by a water-filled moat averaging 3.6m wide and up to 1.2m deep. Traces of leats to the north east and south west indicate the remains of inlet and overflow channels which are now incorporated into the modern drainage system.

A slight bank, increasing in height from west to east, is visible along the outer edge of the northern arm of the moat. A dip towards the centre of this bank corresponds with a causeway across the moat. These features are believed to be remnants of the original entrance to the island which would have given access to the small medieval settlement, which is not included in the scheduling, thought to have been located in the area now occupied by Hall Farm and Chancel Farm.

The island is edged by a low bank up to 5m in width which is most apparent to the north where it is also broken at the point of the causeway. To the south of the causeway, approximately at the centre of the island, there is a slightly raised rectangular area some 20m north-south and 10m wide which is thought to represent the platform of the principal building.

The western area of the island contains three roughly rectangular fishponds. The largest, to the north, is orientated east-west and is about 20m long by 8m wide. The two smaller ponds are situated to the south, lying at right angles to the larger pond, and are of similar size to each other, being approximately 8m long by 4m wide. All the ponds retain water and are some 2m deep. No trace of connecting leats can now be seen on the ground, but evidence for these channels may survive as buried features.

The moated site may have been associated with the medieval manor of Wicken, or Wykes, and was, perhaps, the location of an early manor house which was subsequently replaced by another dwelling further to the north. However, its size and proximity to the Monks Lode, a waterway to the south, suggest that it may have been attached to Spinney Abbey. The abbey, some 2.5km to the north west, was united with that of Ely in the 15th century after it had failed as an Augustinian foundation. The moated site may represent an outlying monastic grange associated with agricultural or fish-rearing activities.

All fences and fenceposts 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29711

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cambs., (1851), 396
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948), 45
ammunition dump said to be on site, James, R, Moated site at Wicken: military activities in area, (1997)
oblique monochrome print, BFH 28, (1971)
search for the Masquerade golden hare, James, R, Moated site at Wicken: digging on the moated island, (1997)

End of official listing