The Abbot of Ramsey's manor: moated site immediately north east of Illing's Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018341

Date first listed: 03-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of The Abbot of Ramsey's manor: moated site immediately north east of Illing'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: Broughton

National Grid Reference: TL 28506 78227


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 known as the Abbot of Ramsey's manor is one of the most substantial and prestigious monuments of this class in the region. It survives as a very well preserved area of earthwork features representing the outer enclosure and inner moated island which will contain evidence of buildings in the form of buried foundations and the impressions of timber structures as well as other features related to the period of occupation such as wells, 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 the Abbot of Ramsey's manor are well preserved both as visible and partly infilled features. They form an integral part of the settlement and represent an important component of the medieval landscape created to support the economy and, perhaps, to provide a visual demonstration of the manor's status.

The descent of the Abbot of Ramsey's manor, and the history of the Barony of Broughton, with which it is closely associated, are well documented. The site itself, with its high degree of preservation, is clearly visible from adjacent footpaths, providing an unusually sharp appreciation of the extent and layout of a manorial complex which reflects its significance to the region in the medieval period.


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


The monument includes the medieval moated site known as the Abbot of Ramsey's manor situated immediately to the north east of Illing's Farm on the northern outskirts of Broughton village. The site includes a moated outer precinct, an inner moated island and associated fishponds. The greater part of the site is within a field where the earthwork remains of this substantial manorial complex are clearly visible. A smaller portion to the north is believed to contain further buried evidence of the outbuildings which would have been associated with this large and prestigious holding, which was closely associated with the Barony of Broughton.

The outer boundary encloses a roughly triangular area 290m long by a maximum width of 244m. This precinct is defined by an inner bank on all sides and a partly infilled dry moat to the north, south and west. To the east the site is bounded by a brook. Although the western arm of the moat is no longer visible at surface level it is considered to survive beneath the adjacent trackway known as Illings Lane and therefore included in the scheduling.

Towards the eastern area of the enclosure a broad inner moat surrounds a rhomboid shaped island measuring some 90m by 70m. On the eastern part of the island two adjacent rectilinear depressions suggest the sites of the principal buildings, whilst further surface irregularities within the north east corner indicate the sites of other structures.

There are two points of access, marked by depressions in the ground surface, on the northern and southern edges of the island. These are matched by similar, though offset, depressions in the outer banks of the surrounding moat.

The inner moat is thought to have been spring fed. It is now only seasonally wet, although a leat, or channel, from the south eastern corner leads eastwards to the brook, and was probably constructed to regulate the water level around the island.

South of the inner moated island a roughly rectangular fishpond, 33m by 15m, is similarly connected to the brook and traces of a leat to the west imply that the pond was integrated with the water management system of the inner moat.

Beyond the western arm of the inner moat there are four further fishponds. The largest lies alongside the bank of the outer enclosure and measures about 35m by 10m. The remaining three ponds are situated about 20m to the north, and arranged in a line from east to west. No connecting leats can be discerned and it is thought that these ponds were also spring fed. The broken alignment of the ponds may have served to form a second enclosure abutting the inner island perhaps developed from a single ditch.

The earliest grant of land in Broughton, which formed the basis of the manorial holding, was made by King Edward the Martyr (975-979) to the Abbey of Ramsey. This grant was augmented with further land by Edward's successor, Aethelred the Unready (979-1016) and by Aethelric, Bishop of Dorchester, who was buried at Ramsey in 1034. These gifts were confirmed by Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), and there was a further confirmation by William I in 1077.

Although the manor was generally on lease to a variety of tenants, the hall situated within the moated site was the venue for the general courts of the Barony of Broughton which were held every three weeks, for the two magnae curiae (great courts) of Easter and Michaelmas presided over by the abbot or his steward, and for the annual court leet. That the moated site was also the scene of some turbulence during the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign (1135-54) is suggested by a reference in the Chronicles of Ramsey Abbey to the building of a tower here by Daniel, `the evil-disposed monk of Ramsey'.

The Barony courts were in decline by the 14th century, but courts continued to be held in Broughton until about 1800. By that date the manor had passed, after the Dissolution, through a succession of owners including the Cromwell family in the 16th and 17th centuries and Lord St John of Bletsoe in the 18th century. It was subsequently sold to the Pinfold family and passed to the Beaumonts in the early years of the 20th century.

All fences, fence posts, gates and stiles, together with the modern surface of Illings Lane, 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: 27922

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Huntington159-161
The Victoria History of the County of Huntington159-161
text, Archaeological record no 01057,

End of official listing