Passmores House moated site, immediately south of Todd Brook


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019276

Date first listed: 03-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Passmores House moated site, immediately south of Todd Brook
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Harlow (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: TL 44376 09081


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.

Passmores House moated site is known to retain significant archaeological information relating to the structures which stood upon the island in the medieval period, and during the long period of occupation preceding the redesign of the central house in the early 18th century. The history of the site is also comparatively well documented, providing further valuable insights into the status of the medieval tenants and early post-medieval owners.

Artifacts such as those already found in association with buried features on the island are also expected to survive within the lower silts of the buried moat arms, and will provide additional evidence of the moat's construction and the lifestyles of its inhabitants. Waterlogging has been shown to be a feature of the archaeological remains at Passmores, promoting conditions suitable not only for the survival of organic artifacts, but also environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the moated site was set.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site surrounding Passmores House, located alongside the Todd Brook to the south of Third Avenue on the southern outskirts of Harlow.

The moat which defines and surrounds the island, has been partially infilled leaving only the southern arm clearly visible and water-filled. This arm measures approximately 60m in length and 12m in width and is orientated north east to south west. The adjoining arms, which continued at right angles to the east and west, can still be detected as slight depressions of similar width crossing the grounds to the south of the present house. That to the east is still shown open and continuous with the southern arm on the Ordnance Survey 25 inch map of 1896, although it was infilled by the time of the 1947 edition. A slight undulation marks the course of the western arm to the north west of the present house, although the full extent of both the eastern and western arms is uncertain. In the absence of any evidence for a northern arm completing the circuit around the former island, it is thought probable that Todd Brook provided the boundary on this side.

Passmores, an elegant Georgian country house, is a Listed Building Grade II and situated in the centre of the island. The house has retained much of its original appearance, with only minor modifications and the addition of an eastern stable block in the latter part of the 19th century. Its construction represents the modernisation of an earlier brick-fronted and timber-framed building, one range of which was encapsulated and retained within the southern half of the present structure. Parchmarks caused by stone foundations beneath the adjacent lawn indicate that an earlier structure also extended some 20m to the south, incorporating a long hall (running parallel with the east and west arm of the moat) with additional chambers at either side of the southern end. Excavations within the western room of the older part of Passmores House in 1999 provided further evidence for the sequence of buildings. This room contained an early fireplace and was interpreted as a later 16th century parlour. The parlour was the successor to a chamber, 3m by 4m with brick foundations, probably constructed in the 15th century at the northern end of the range identified from the parchmarks. To the east of this small chamber, also attached to the northern end of the long range, was a small brick-lined subterranean chamber which was excavated to a depth of 2.4m without reaching the base. This feature is considered to be a garderobe, or cess pit, also of 15th century date. The absence of fragments of Metropolitan ware (a local product widely found in the Harlow area) suggests that the pit was infilled prior to the introduction of this pottery in the 1580s - presumeably in preparation for the construction of the 16th century parlour. The pit did, however, contain a wide variety of other artifacts, including a leather shoe preserved in the waterlogged soil. Both the small chamber and the garderobe were attached to a pre-existing foundation of mortared flint running beneath the southern wall of the 16th century parlour. This is considered to date from the 13th century and to form the north wall of a cross wing, either contemporary with the structure indicated by the parchmarks, or attached to it.

The small manor which provided the origin of Passmores can be traced to a Saxon settlement granted to baron Ranulf after the Norman Conquest. In the 12th century the manor was transfered to Southwark Priory, and in 1199 the name `Passemer'(retained as Passmores) first appears in a document relating to land in the parish. The Passemer family held the manor as tenants of the priory for nearly three centuries, ending their line of succession with Richard Passemer who is mentioned in a document of 1475. The manor passed to the Bevis family, presumably as a tenancy, although the will of George Bevis (dated 1543) suggests that the family acquired full title after the Dissolution. The 16th century parlour, and the two story timber-framed hall to which it belonged (now encased within the Georgian house), was probably built during their occupancy to reflect the family's growing prosperity and influence. John Bevis served as Constable of the Harlow Hundred in 1562 and his grandson attained the same office. In 1622 the estate was divided equally between the second constable's sons, and the Indenture regarding this inheritance provides some details of the appearance of Passmores at this time. The farm buildings, some of which which may have stood upon the island, included a Great Barn, hayhouse, stable, milkhouse, malthouse and tanhouse. The house itself was divided into two separate residences, one brother taking the western half, together with the parlour, painted chamber above, kitchen and larder; the other acquiring the hall to the east and various chambers, lofts and garrets. It is not clear whether this structure included any part of the earlier range to the south, but if it had not been demolished by this time it certainly disappeared soon after the reunited property was sold to Jonathan Nunn in the early 18th century. Nunn was responsible for the radical transformation of Passmores into the fashionable brick-built house which was completed three years before his death in 1730. In 1778 the property belonged to Champain Collins, passing shortly after to his relative Francis Bailey. By 1820 the Bailey family had reorientated Nunn's house by building a new entrance on the north side of the block and creating a miniature parkland landscape to flank the new northern driveway. The house and immediate grounds, altered only to a limited degree in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, was acquired by Harlow Urban District Council in 1972, and opened as the town's principal museum in 1973.

The following items are excluded from the scheduling: Passmores House and all other standing buildings, garden walls, the surfaces of all modern paths, drives and yards; all benches, litter bins, external exhibition cases, bollards, lamp posts and signposts. The ground beneath these items is however 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: 29468

Legacy System: RSM


Historical and architectural study, Jones, J, Passmores. The story of a house, (1994)
Interim excavation report, Andrews, D D, Passmores Museum, Harlow, (1999)
Parchmark photos (Harlow Mus Coll), Passmores Museum, Gt Parndon, Harlow, Essex, (1976)

End of official listing