Moated site 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018668

Date first listed: 07-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Moated site 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Little Horwood

National Grid Reference: SP 79248 30937


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 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church survives well. It is largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for structures and other features relating to the period of occupation. The buried silts in the base of the ditch will contain both artefacts relating to the period of occupation and environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set.

The monument lies in an area where moated sites are relatively numerous, and is situated in close proximity to one such site, about 3.5km to the south east at Mursley. Comparisons between these sites will provide valuable insights into developments in the nature of settlement and society in the medieval period.

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to a turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of various kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, with a simple `shut' to control water flow, or may be spring fed. More usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. The spent water returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be straightened to increase efficiency. Where the natural flow of water is inadequate, a millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow) behind the wheel.

During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were a sign of status, and an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the wheel and its land to the miller. With technological improvements, an increasing range of equipment could be powered by watermills, and they became increasingly important to urban and rural life and industry. With the advent of steam power and the introduction of iron gears in the 18th century, water power eventually became obsolete for major industry, although many smaller rural mills continued in use.

The watermill 200m north east of St Nicholas's Church is known to date to the 19th century, which is of particular interest due to the reuse of the moat ditch as a mill pond. There is also the possibility that there was a mill on the site prior to the 19th century. The area of land immediately to the south west of the mill site, between the tailrace and the brook is likely to contain the remains of buildings and other features associated with the mill.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site and the remains of a post-medieval water mill, about 200m to the north east of St Nicholas's Church.

The moated site includes a rectangular island, which measures approximately 44m from north east to south west by a maximum of 52m from north west to south east and is raised by about 0.4m above the surrounding ground level. The island is approached by a broad causeway across the south eastern arm of the surrounding ditch. This ditch, the moat, averages 11m in width and 1m in depth, and is normally waterlogged - fed by a narrow channel which enters the circuit at the northern corner. A short section of this inlet channel is included in the scheduling together with an upcast bank, some 5m wide and 0.4m high, which surrounds the outer edge of the moat. The much altered medieval manor house, or more probably a later replacement, still stood on the island in the mid-19th century when it served as the residence of Moat Farm. Described as a `decayed mansion' by the local antiquarian JJ Sheahan in 1861, the house is thought to have been finally demolished around the turn of the century.

Within the lifetime of the farm the moat was converted for use as a mill pond, with a series of sluices retaining a head of water above the adjacent water mill and diverting the excess supply along the meandering stream course (not included in the scheduling) which flanks the eastern arm. Traces of the stone-lined shute which carried water to the mill are still visible linking the southern corner of the moat to the eastern side of the wheel housing some 4m further south. The remains of this structure, a circular brick-lined chamber some 7m in diameter and 2m in height, indicated that the mill operated a horizontal wheel - a relatively straightforward device which required minimal gearing to turn the grindstones. After turning the wheel, the water issued from the south side of the wheel house and flowed through a straight artificial cutting (or tailrace) which rejoins the stream course some 140m to the south west. The tailrace is flanked to either side by parallel banks, each approximately 78m in length, 1m high and 8m wide. These are thought to reflect upcast from the initial construction of the channel and subsequent episodes of cleaning and dredging. These banks are included in the scheduling along with the adjacent area between the tailrace and the stream which is likely to contain the buried remains of trackways, yard surfaces and ancillary structures associated with the operation of the mill.

A 13th century document refers to a mill at Little Horwood, and a Little Horwood miller (W Goodman) is also mentioned in the 1798 document `Posse Comitatus'. Bryant's 1825 map of Buckinghamshire, however, provides the first conclusive documentary evidence for a mill in this particular location. The mill is known to have fallen into disuse, along with Moat Farm House, towards the end of the 19th century.

The fences and stiles around the monument and the brick bridge across the brook on the north of the moat are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these items 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: 32108

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1969), 377
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1969), 376
Sheahan, J J, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, (1861), 692
'Buckingham Express' in Notes on News, (1899)
BRO ref: L/P/15 and 16, Posse Comitatus, (1798)
Title: Map of Buckinghamshire Source Date: 1825 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Map of Buckinghamshire Source Date: 1825 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing