Hartley Court moated site and enclosure


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018576

Date first listed: 11-Feb-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jun-1998


Ordnance survey map of Hartley Court moated site and enclosure
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: South Bucks (District Authority)

Parish: Burnham

National Grid Reference: SU 94618 85688


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.

Hartley Court is the best preserved medieval moated site in south Buckinghamshire, and is amongst the finest in the region. The undisturbed interior retains evidence for the subdivision of the island into different areas of activity, and contains the buried remains of a complex of former structures from which the function and duration of the site may be determined. The seasonally flooded ditch maintains much of its original appearance and still functions as originally intended. The deep silts and waterlogged deposits within the ditch (and the well) will contain discarded artefacts, including organic material, from the period of occupation; as well as environmental evidence illustrating the appearance and management of the medieval/post-medieval landscape. The outer enclosure, similarly well preserved, is a rare example of the extended appurtenances belonging to medieval settlements of this type. Buried features and ground surfaces within its confines may provide valuable information concerning cultivation, and other forms of husbandry associated with the occupation of the island and the economy of the settlement and its surroundings. The monument contributes to the amenity value of the Beeches, providing the visitor with a graphic demonstration of the nature of a medieval defended settlement and insights into the development of the present wooded landscape.


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


Hartley Court moated site stands on a slightly elevated gravel plateau near the north western corner of Burnham Beeches, to the north of the junction of Morton Drive and Halse Drive. The monument includes a sub-rectangular moated island, covering approximately 0.6ha, which is situated within a larger, diamond-shaped enclosure of approximately 3.7ha. The island is surrounded by a broad ditch, measuring 5m to 7m in width and about 1.5m in depth, which retains water for much of the year supplied by rainfall and the natural water table. The dry summer of 1976 provided an opportunity to probe the ditches revealing accumulated deposits of silt, between 0.5m and 1m in depth, above the original bottom. The outer edge of the ditch is flanked around most of the perimeter by a low bank, about 3m wide and 0.6m high, which is thought to be upcast from dredging, probably during the period of occupation. The inner edge supports a larger bank, about 4m wide and up to 1m high, which is continuous around the edge of the island apart from two small gaps to the west (believed to be later alterations) and a single opening near the southern end of the eastern arm. This latter break coincides with a gap in the outer bank and a narrow causeway across the moat, and is thought to be the original entrance. The interior is subdivided by several banks, measuring on average 2.5m in width and 0.8m high; including a main partition orientated north to south across the middle of the island, broken by a central gap, 10m wide. A second bank runs parallel to the northern section of the main partition, some 17m to the east, and the intervening area contains some slight undulations which suggest the position of former structures. This has been suggested as the location of the principal dwelling. The inner bank of the moat is slightly higher between the two internal banks, which may have provided some protection from northerly winds, and a house located here would have the advantage of a southerly aspect. Furthermore, a short section of trackway identified in the eastern part of the island is aligned between this area and the entrance, and with the gap in the central partition. A range of outbuildings is indicated by three low, square platforms abutting the inner moat bank near the south eastern corner of the island; and by two linear platforms, about 10m in width and 15m to 20m in length, which extend along the southern edge of the island towards a small embanked area in the south eastern corner. The north eastern corner of the island appears to have been enclosed by a bank, indicated by two surviving sections aligned between the gap in the main partition and the eastern arm of the moat. This area contains a circular depression, 1m in diameter, which has been probed to a depth of 1m without reaching the base and is certainly a well. The well lies within a slight hollow bounded by shallow scarps which suggest the foundations of a protective structure. The uneven appearance of the ground surface within the north eastern enclosure implies the locations of other domestic buildings which, given the proximity of the well, are likely to include kitchens, stores, brew and bake houses. The outer enclosure measures approximately 200m between the north eastern and south western corners and 330m between the corners to the north west and south east, and is bounded by a bank and external ditch. The bank averages 3m wide and 0.7m high and the ditch is generally the same width and about 0.6m deep; except on the northern boundary where it has been recut to a depth of approximately 1m. There are gaps in the circuit at the north west, north east and south east corners, also at two points near the south east corner where McAuliffe Drive crosses the enclosure. These are all matched by tracks noted on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map, whereas two gaps in the western bank are likely to be of recent origin. An original entrance may be located at the eastern end of the southern arm, which differs from all others in that the bank is broken but not the ditch. This entrance is aligned with a short section of trackway identified to the north of McAuliffe Drive, leading to the causeway across the moat. The ground within the outer enclosure contains numerous undulations some of which, such as slight trackways skirting the moat, may be be ascribed to the period of occupation. The boundary earthworks are designed to keep stock, and other animals grazing the surrounding woodpasture (such as swine and deer) out of the enclosure; perhaps with the help of a fence along the bank. This would protect cultivated land within the enclosure providing produce for the homestead. `Hertleigh' wood is mentioned in the foundation charter of Burnham Abbey, which lists grants of land from Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and was signed by him at Cippenham Manor near Slough in 1266. The entrance to the moated site, however, is directed towards East Burnham rather than to nearby Park Lane, which is thought to have linked Burnham Abbey with its lands to the north; and may indicate that the moated site remained, or originated in separate ownership. The woodland retained by the Earl included a park called `Herleteye' which is refered to in the appurtenances of Cippenham Manor in 1299. Hartley Wood and Court is mentioned (but not described) in the records of a quarrel over adjacent rights of common in 1596. By the 17th century an area with the same name was recorded in the possession of the Eyres of East Burnham, and it has been suggested that the property may have been associated with their predecessors, the Allard family, who owned Burnham Beeches from 1234. The surface of McAuliffe Drive, the adjacent notice board and information plaque are excluded from the scheduling together with all fences and fence posts, 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: 27137

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Official Guide to Burnham Beeches, (1993)
The Official Guide to Burnham Beeches, (1993)
Page, F (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1914)
Page, F (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1914), 167
Miller, D D, Miller, D M, 'Records of Bucks' in Hartly Court Moat and Enclosure, (1978), 535-7
Miller, D D, Miller, D M, 'Records of Bucks' in Hartly Court Moat and Enclosure, (1978), 535-7
Ancient Monuments Record Form BU 138, Sherlock, D, Hartley Court Moat and Enclosure, (1980)
information from Assistant Keeper, Read, H, Hartley Court Moated Site and Enclosure, (1995)
SSSI schedule entry map (1:10,000 OS), Countryside Commission, Burham Beeches, Buckinghamshire, (1984)
SSSI schedule entry map (1:10,000 OS), Countryside Commission, Burham Beeches, Buckinghamshire, (1984)

End of official listing