Moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019181

Date first listed: 03-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)

Parish: Histon

National Grid Reference: TL 43525 63843


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.

A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They may be dug into the ground, embanked above ground level, or formed by placing a dam across a narrow valley. Groups of up to twelve ponds variously arranged in a single line or in a cluster and joined by leats have been recorded. The ponds may be of the same size or of several different sizes with each pond being stocked with different species or ages of fish. The size of the pond was related to function, with large ponds thought to have had a storage capability whilst smaller, shallower ponds were used for fish cultivation and breeding. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system which included inlet and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices set into the bottom of the dam and along the channels and leats, and an overflow leat which controlled fluctuations in water flow and prevented flooding. Buildings for use by fishermen or for the storage of equipment, and islands possibly used for fishing, wildfowl management or as shallow spawing areas, are also recorded. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. They were largely built by the wealthy sectors of society with monastic institutions and royal residences often having large and complex fishponds. The difficulties of obtaining fresh meat in the winter and the value placed on fish as a food source and for status may have been factors which favoured the development of fishponds and which made them so valuable. The practice of constructing fishponds declined after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century although in some areas it continued into the 17th century. Most fishponds fell out of use during the post-medieval period although some were re-used as ornamental features in 19th and early 20th century landscape parks or gardens, or as watercress beds. Documentary sources provide a wealth of information about the way fishponds were stocked and managed. The main species of fish kept were eel, tench, pickerel, bream, perch, and roach. Large quantities of fish could be supplied at a time. Once a year, probably in the spring, ponds were drained and cleared. Fishponds are widely scattered throughout England and extend into Scotland and Wales. The majority are found in central, eastern and southern parts and in areas with heavy clay soils. Fewer fishponds are found in coastal areas and parts of the country rich in natural lakes and streams where other sources of fresh fish were available. Although 17th century manuals suggest that areas of waste ground were suitable for fishponds, in practice it appears that most fishponds were located close to villages, manors or monasteries or within parks so that a watch could be kept on them to prevent poaching. Although approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be only a small proportion of those in existence in medieval times. Despite being relatively common, fishponds are important for their associations with other classes of medieval monument and in providing evidence of site economy.

The moated site 140m south west of Histon Manor survives well. The island remains largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for structures and other features relating to the period of occupation.

The fishponds, adjacent to the moat, would have formed an integral part of the manorial site providing a valuable source of income and food all year- round, and will retain sealed deposits from the medieval and post-medieval period.

Comparison between this site, and others both locally and more widely, will provide valuable insights into the nature of settlement and society in the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site located 140m to the south west of Histon Manor and 170m to the south west of the parish church of St Andrew.

The moated site includes a sub-rectangular island measuring approximately 84m east-west by up to 44m north-south. The island is enclosed by a water-filled moat which measures an average of 10m wide and between 1.5m and 2m deep. The modern bridge across the north arm of the moat occupies the site of an earlier bridge, believed to be the original access point. The remains of steps are visible on both sides of the moat towards the south eastern corner, and the north eastern corner is revetted with bricks and concrete. Modern brick sluices are visible in the north west and north east corners of the moat.

Extending eastwards from the northern arm of the moat, on the same alignment, are the buried remains of two linear fishponds. By the late 19th century they had been joined together to create a single extension to the north arm of the moat, 58m in length, which was later filled in. The remains of the ponds, however, will survive as a buried feature.

The moated site is believed to represent the manor of Histon Denny, later called Histon St Andrew, which was owned by the bishops of Lincoln from the 11th century until 1392 when it was sold to Denny Abbey. The Abbey retained the manor until the Dissolution. In 1539 the manor was sold by the Crown to Edward Elrington who sold it on to William Bowyer in 1541, and it continued in the possession of the Bowyer family until 1655. Documentary sources record a manor house in this area in 1560 and it is thought to have been succeeded in the 17th century by the present Histon Manor which is situated 120m to the north, outside the area of the scheduling. Landscaping of the grounds of Histon Manor, which included the moated site, took place in the 18th century.

The bridge across the north arm, the fences, the steps, the brick and concrete revetting and the 19th century water pump on the island are all 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. 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: 33279

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire90-97
The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire96
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map Source Date: 1886 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: CRO: XL.1
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map Source Date: 1886 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: CRO: XL.1
Title: Enclosure map of Histon Source Date: 1801 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: CRO: Q/RDc 8

End of official listing