Sylhall: moated site 520m south of Elms Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017886

Date first listed: 12-Mar-1998


Ordnance survey map of Sylhall: moated site 520m south 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 70156 61093


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 Sylhall Plantation is a well preserved and largely undisturbed example of this monument class. The moat's unusual form, simplicity of plan and substantial nature suggest that it was intended for a particular purpose, perhaps reflecting construction in the early post-Conquest period when there was a need both for defence and a strong visual statement of the intended permanence of the new Norman regime. Sylhall would seem to fulfil these requirements, the latter being particularly apparent when considered with a second, similar site 500m to the north east.

The island will contain archaeological deposits relating to the construction, period of use and lifestyle of the occupants. Such buried evidence will include the remains of buildings, yard surfaces, refuse pits and wells. The moat will retain environmental evidence which will illustrate the landscape in which the monument was set.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site situated 520m south of Elms Farm in Sylhall Plantation.

The island is roughly triangular in plan, measuring about 80m east to west and 70m north to south, and defined by a substantial `V'-shaped dry moat averaging 11m in width and 3m deep. The outer edges of both the island and the moat are embanked to a height of about 1m.

The northern and eastern arms of the moat display traces of central causeways which correspond with dips in both the internal and external banks and are considered to be original. The northern causeway would have given access to a trackway running between the village of Ashley and St Mary's Church (the remains of the church are the subject of a separate scheduling), while the eastern causeway would have probably connected with the road between Ashley and Silverley. This road was known as The Stool Way in the 14th century and is now the B1063. Slight causeways near the southern corner are thought to be later additions. There are no visible structures on the island but three raised areas in the western half are considered to indicate the probable sites of former buildings.

The name Sylhall is thought to be a corruption of Silverley Hall and, as such, may refer to the manor of Silverley. The manor was held under the Veres by the Arsick family in the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) and documentary evidence suggests that the Arsicks were tenants until at least 1340. In time, the manor of Silverley passed, together with the manor of Ashley, to Sir Edward North, and by about 1800 it was owned by the Earl of Guildford.

A second moated site known as Gesyns is situated about 500m to the north east. There is no evidence to suggest that the two sites were interrelated. During the medieval period they were in separate parishes and apparently associated with different manors. The Gesyns moated site 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: 29721

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Fischer, S R, The Ashley Manuscripts, (1986)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1979)
derivation of name Sylhall, Parish file correspondence and notes,

End of official listing