Gesyns: moated site 600m south east of Elms Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017885

Date first listed: 13-Oct-1980

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Mar-1998


Ordnance survey map of Gesyns: moated site 600m south east of Elms 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: Ashley

National Grid Reference: TL 70605 61284


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.

Gesyns is a well preserved and largely undisturbed moated site of unusual form. The simple layout implies that it was constructed for a specific function. The exceptionally substantial ditch with its outer bank may indicate that the site originated early in the post-Conquest period. At this time there was a need both for defence and for strong visual statements of the intended permanence of the new Norman regime. Gesyns would seem to fulfill both requirements, particularly when considered with a second, similar site 500m to the south west.

The island will retain archaeological deposits relating to the dating, period of occupation and use of the site, such as building remains, yard surfaces, refuse pits and wells. The moat will contain environmental evidence to illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.


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


The monument includes the medieval moated site known as Gesyns, situated in woodland some 600m south east of Elms Farm.

The island is roughly kidney shaped in plan, measuring about 70m long by 50m wide. No features can be traced on the island other than a slight linear depression running east to west across the interior, which was probably intended to separate former buildings from an area of garden or herbary. The eastern end of this depression corresponds with traces of a causeway across the moat. This is thought to be the original entrance way, that to the south east being a modern construction.

The moat itself is substantial, measuring some 16m wide and up to 3m deep. Only the straight, northern arm is damp and it is thought that the moat was never intended to retain water. A low bank 1.3m high and varying between 2m and 6m in width follows the outer edge of the moat on all sides except the north. To the east the bank dips, again at a point level with the causeway.

The moated site takes its name from the de Guisnes family who held the manor of Ashley between 1166 and 1303. By 1338 the manor was held by the Knights Hospitallers under Roger de Dalton, a formar Templar. However, in 1356 a Roger de Guisnes witnessed a local land grant, implying that the de Guisnes family was still active in the area at this time.

A second moated site known as Sylhall is situated about 500m to the south west of Gesyns. No physical or documentary evidence can be traced to suggest a connection between the two sites, which were formerly in separate parishes and apparently attached to different manors. The moated site in Sylhall Plantation is the subject of a separate scheduling.

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: 29710

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Fischer, S R, The Ashley Manuscripts, (1986)
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948), 261

End of official listing