Moated site of Holton House and its associated ice house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018424

Date first listed: 09-Apr-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 23-Oct-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site of Holton House and its associated ice house
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: South Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Holton

National Grid Reference: SP 59876 06375


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 of Holton House in Holton Park is believed to be the late medieval successor of a smaller moated manor house which lies 280m to the south east. It is associated with the former Holton House, and a number of Listed Buildings and the landscaped park which lie outside the moat. The remains include a series of building foundations, situated in the south west corner of the moat. These represent a number of phases of building alterations dating from about 1450 through to 1805. It is known from part archaeological investigations that there are buried remains relating to these structures beneath the present ground level and there are also likely to be environmental and archaeological remains within the silt deposits in the bottoms of the moat ditches. Together these remains will tell us much about the social standing and life of the families who lived at Holton Park as well as providing evidence relating to the building techniques used at various times. The combination of these later remains, taken as a group along with the earlier manor site to the south east, form an excellent example of the changing design and economy of successful manorial sites.


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


The monument includes the moated site of Holton House and its associated ice house and larders. It lies within the former grounds of Holton Park. The moat is believed to have been built in the late medieval period to provide a more impressive setting for the manor house which had previously occupied a smaller moated site 280m to the south east which is the subject of a separate scheduling. The later moat surrounded a large island measuring 50m by 54m across, with stone revetted sides. In the south west corner of the island stood a succession of houses while the remainder of the space was occupied by associated buildings and gardens. The island is aligned roughly south east to north west and has a level surface. There were two points of access to the island; from the north west corner of the north west side, and from the south east side, roughly centrally, via wooden bridges built on stone supports. A series of steps in the south west corner formerly connected the original house with a jetty. The moat around the island measures up to 23m wide on its north west side, 15m wide to the south east and approximately 7.5m wide on its south west side. Its most impressive side was that facing a man-made dam to the north east. The exact width of the side may have been altered during the lifetime of the moat but it measured up to 25m. Beyond the dam, the ground level drops steeply to the north east down a natural slope which has been enhanced by the profile of the dam. On the lower-lying ground below it is a deer house associated with the late 18th century house and not included in the scheduling. This would have been seen along with the deer run beyond it from the upper windows of the house. Immediately outside the moat on its north west corner lie the remains of a Grade II Listed ice house and two larders which face south east towards the entrance to the island. During the winter ice would have been taken from the moat across a flat bank at this point and stored in the stone-built chambers for use both in food storage and for when ice itself was required to cool food and drink, for ice cream and as an expression of wealth and social status. The ice house consists of three chambers with arched bays forming their entrances, and these each measure approximately 6m back into the slope and 2.5m wide. The original doors are no longer present but otherwise the chambers survive very well. The ice house chamber itself lies at the southern end of the row with the two adjacent chambers functioning as larders. The exact date of the first house on the island is not known precisely, but could have been as early as the 1450s. At this time it was the residence of the Brome family, and in 1461 it was called Halle Place. When the earlier manor was held by Richard of Cornwall it is likely that the manor moat was not on this site but on that to the south east. The house is known in 1665 to have had 18 hearths and to have been the home of the Whorwood family. It had two wings which faced north and west. The remainder of the island was at that time described as a courtyard. There are a number of sketches and paintings of the house which show it with a late 18th century Gothic facade of three storeys and a pent house roof. Evidence of 15th century features incorporated in the house can be seen in these sketches, and this would support the 1450s date of its construction. Like many similar medieval manor houses it appears to have undergone a complicated series of part demolitions, rebuildings and extensions as the fashions, needs and fortunes of the owning families changed. The house was demolished in 1805 when the present Grade II Listed Holton House was built outside the moat to the south east. A 17th century dovecote and 18th century stables (both Listed Grade II) still survive in use among the buildings of the school to the west, but these are not included in the scheduling. Excluded from the scheduling are the wooden bridges and all path surfaces, 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: 30823

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire , (1907), 329
PRN 1771 Detailed File, SMRO, HOLTON HOUSE, (1987)
PRN 1771, SMRO, HOLTON HOUSE, (1987)

End of official listing