Bury Yard moated site adjacent to Milldyke


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019040

Date first listed: 16-Dec-1999


Ordnance survey map of Bury Yard moated site adjacent to Milldyke
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Jan-2019 at 22:32:37.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)

Parish: Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth

National Grid Reference: TL 32881 44166


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.

Bury Yard moated site survives as a very well preserved and largely undisturbed example of this monument class. Its form and layout - supported by a wealth of historical records - demonstrate its evolution from a defensive dwelling to a high status residence.

The inner moat island and outer enclosure will retain buried archaeological deposits, including structural remains and artefacts, relating both to the original manor house and outbuildings and to their 15th century replacements and additions. These will provide valuable evidence for the phases of construction and occupation and for the lifestyles of the inhabitants.

The ditches of the two moats will retain, as well as further artifacts, waterlogged organic and environmental material providing dietary information and illustrating the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.


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


The medieval moated site is situated immediately to the south and west of Mill Lane in a close formerly known as Bury Yard, in the village of Bassingbourn. The monument includes a roughly D-shaped outer ditched enclosure within which is situated a rectangular moat. A small housing complex developed from the former vicarage and its outbuildings overlies part of the northern outer moat arm and outer enclosure and extends across the north eastern corner of the inner moat and island. Building works and landscape gardening in the 19th and 20th centuries have caused significant disturbance over most of this area and survival of underlying archaeological features and deposits is considered to be poor. The majority of this area is, therefore, not included in the scheduling.

The moated site is associated with the manor of Richmonds which, before the Norman Conquest, belonged to Eddeva the Fair (Edith Swanneck), widow of Edward the Confessor. By the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 the land had passed to Count Alan, Lord of Richmond, and it is thought that he, or more probably his successor, Count Conan, constructed the inner moat some time before 1171 on that portion of the manor's land known as Bury Yard. This inner moat surrounds a raised island measuring approximately 70m NNE to SSW and 55m ENE to WSW. There are no visible traces of buildings on the moat island but documents of 1280 record a house on the site, and its buried remains will be preserved. To the north, south and west the substantial moat ditch is largely infilled by natural silting. These moat arms are generally waterlogged and seasonally wet. The eastern arm is open and dry. The form of the moat - in particular the substantial nature of the ditches - implies a defensive purpose, perhaps associated with the period of civil war between Stephen and Matilda known as the Anarchy. If so, this would date the construction of the moat and house to between about 1130 and 1140. An extension of the south western arm, now completely infilled, runs from the north western corner for a distance of about 10m into a relatively undisturbed part of the garden of the property known as Milldyke. This extension ditch will survive well and is included in the scheduling. It is thought that this ditch continued further north and formed part of the original water management system both of the moat and the former mill, being truncated when the system was altered by the construction of the outer ditch. There is no causeway across the moat and access to the island was probably via a bridge.

By the early 13th century the manor was in the hands of the Crown, being held during the 14th century by John of Gaunt who is believed to have lived at the former Richmonds manor house some time before 1372. In 1455 Bury Yard was granted to John Lynne, a London merchant. His son, Richard, replaced the original house, which is known to have been in ruins by 1436. Remains of Richard's house were still visible in the early 19th century and evidence for the structure will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. It is thought that the D-shaped outer moat was also constructed by Richard Lynne. By the 15th century moats had ceased to have a defensive purpose. Drainage and water management were always prime concerns but moats dug at this period also served as landscape features designed to enhance the setting of the house and emphasise the status of the occupant. The greater part of Richard Lynne's outer moat survives as a wide, water-filled feature enclosing an area measuring about 200m east to west by 150m north to south, banked along the western edge. The western arm, formed by the mill stream, has been scoured out and altered and is not included in the scheduling. Construction of the 19th century vicarage and outbuildings involved infilling of the western half of the northern arm. To the east of the entrance to the grounds of the vicarage the water was diverted through a culvert. This is thought to pass diagonally beneath the coach house (rebuilt as a dwelling in the 1970s) and Mill Lane to flow into an open channel behind the houses on the west side of The Fillance north of Mill Lane. The line of the western end of the northern moat arm lies within the garden of the Coach House. In view of severe disturbance in this area it is now impossible to trace this section of the moat on the ground and its survival is in doubt. This section of the moat, from the mill stream to the open ditch east of the entrance, is, therefore, not included in the scheduling.

The southern arm of the outer moat has been detached from the south western and south eastern corners both by deliberate infilling and silting, and the south eastern corner has been adapted, joining the eastern arm to a 19th century drain known as the horse pond. There is no visible causeway or bridge site across the moat, and it is thought that the point of access would have been on the northern arm within the area of the housing complex.

It is known that Richard Lynne created fishponds when his new moat was dug. The Enclosure Map of 1806 provides a clear depiction of the whole moated site but no fishponds are shown. These are, therefore, thought to have been infilled before the 19th century and their location is unknown, but is expected to be within the outer enclosure.

Buried evidence for a range of ancillary structures will be preserved both on the inner moat island and in the outer enclosure. Typically these would include stables, stores and a bakehouse and might also include a dovecote, rabbit warren and gatehouses.

Bury Yard was recovered by the Crown in about 1520 and was known to be unoccupied a century later at which time, together with the rest of the manor of Richmonds, it was annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1628 the manor passed to the Corporation of London in settlement of royal debts. A series of sales brought the manor into the hands of the Hatton family and, at enclosure in 1804, Bury Yard itself passed by exchange to the then vicar of Bassingbourn, and to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1869.

All fences, fence posts and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 33602

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Salzman, L F, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, (1982), 14-16
reference to moated site features, Oosthuizen S, letter to tenant, (1999)
reference to pigsties on moated site, discussion with Mr R Clarke, (1999)

End of official listing