Moated site and remains of demolished parts of Shelley Hall, a post-medieval great house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019815

Date first listed: 09-May-2001


Ordnance survey map of Moated site and remains of demolished parts of Shelley Hall, a post-medieval great house
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Suffolk

District: Babergh (District Authority)

Parish: Shelley

National Grid Reference: TM 02861 38222


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 and 16th century building remains at Shelley Hall survive well. The building remains which are known to extend northwards from the present Shelley Hall indicate that the hall was much larger and more impressive in the 16th century. The moated site remains relatively undisturbed and is known to retain buried evidence for garden remains. A geophysical survey on the island has demonstrated the survival of at least one structure, together with the buried remains of a formal garden layout. Known examples of early 16th century garden remains are rare, and this comparatively well documented example is therefore of particular interest, making an important contribution to our understanding of the history of both this garden and of 16th century gardens in general. Documentary sources enhance our understanding of Shelley Hall and its relationship with the moated site and the surrounding landscape. The well documented historical association of the site with the Tilney family is of additional interest.


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


The monument is located 300m to the south west of Shelley parish church and includes a moated site and remains of demolished parts of Shelley Hall. The moated site, which is thought to be contemporary with the present Shelley Hall, appears to have been built as a garden feature for Sir Philip Tilney in the early 16th century. Sir Philip's will of 1532 mentions `his mansion place...with all the gardeynes, orchards, pondes...also the parke with... the deer', and a 1533 survey commissioned by Sir Philip in 1519 refers to the manor with a garden on the east side built with stews and ponds and moated on every side and with a dovehouse to the south of the stews and ponds. The moated site is situated approximately 32m to the east of the present Shelley Hall and includes a roughly square island, measuring an average of 50m across. A geophysical survey on the island revealed the outline of the buried remains of a formal garden. It identified a series of linear paths with a small square structure towards the centre of the island, which may represent the dovecote mentioned in the earlier surveys. The island is surrounded by a partly waterfilled moat which measures up to 14m wide and 3m deep. The outer edge of the west arm of the moat is revetted in places with brick, and an aerial photograph taken in 1953 suggests that at one time this revetting may have extended around both the inner and outer edges of all four sides of the moat. Access to the island is via the brick bridge across the west arm of the moat. The bridge is aligned with an impressive Tudor doorway, in the east face of what was originally a gatehouse, indicating that the house and moat may have been linked as part of the original builder's plan. Alternatively, the moated garden site may represent the modification of an earlier medieval site, perhaps the medieval manor of Shelley, which would have predated the 1519 Shelley Hall. The medieval lords of Shelley manor were largely non-resident, but it is likely that there would have been a manor house and perhaps this stood on the moated site. The structural remains revealed through geophysical survey may therefore relate to an earlier house. It is thought that Shelley Hall was originally much larger than it is today. The part which survives as a standing building, and which is not included in the scheduling, comprises a range aligned north-south, with a cross wing at the southern end and the gatehouse projecting westwards from the north west corner. The east face of the gatehouse to the south of the doorway is partly obscured by a 19th century addition to the house. There is evidence that the gatehouse was originally wider (the north wall is not original), within a range which extended further to the north, and that it opened centrally onto a courtyard to the east. The foundations of the demolished parts of the building will survive as buried features; these are marked in part by slight earthworks in the adjacent ground surface and are included in the scheduling. Evidence for a contemporary range along the south side of the courtyard is provided by a blocked doorway in the east wall of the Hall, together with a stub of walling which projects from the same east wall, and another section of wall 19m to the east of this and on the same alignment, incorporating part of a polygonal buttress identical to buttresses on the east and west faces of the surviving building. These last two elements survive in what is now a garden wall and are thought to represent the remains of a two storey range interpreted as an alley linking a kitchen in the west range to a hall range along the east side of the courtyard, opposite the moat. It is probable that there was a corresponding range along the north side of the courtyard as well. This section of wall and the associated remains are included in the scheduling. After the death of Sir Philip Tilney in 1533 the manor remained in the Tilney family until about 1627. The Tilneys were cousins of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Queen paid a visit to Shelley Hall on 11th August 1561. In 1586 Charles Tilney, great great grandson to Sir Philip, was executed for his involvement in the Babington conspiracy, whose aim was to kill Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. In 1999 work was carried out on the moated site to reproduce a 16th century garden on the island. The work, which included the construction of raised ponds on the east side of the island, was non-invasive and the underlying archaeological layers remain undisturbed. All fences, modern path surfaces and raised beds are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. Also excluded from the scheduling is a later section of garden wall, approximately 4.75m in length, which is connected to the eastern end of the earlier 16th and 17th century garden wall. The remains of any earlier foundations beneath the later wall are included in the scheduling.

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: 33293

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Copinger, W, 'The Manors of Suffolk' in The Manorial History of Suffolk, , Vol. 6, (1910), 79-84
Martin, E, 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History' in Shelley Hall, (1998), 257-262
Martin, E, 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History' in Shelley Hall, (1998), 257-262
HN 66 (copy in SMR), CUCAP, (1952)
SAU, Stratascan, Geophysical survey, Shelley Hall, (1999)
SRO (Ipswich): HD 12:51/3/6, Survey of manor of Shelley for Sir Philip Tilney. 12 June 1519, Extent or Rental of Thomas Tilney Esq, of Shelley, 1556., (1533)
SRO (Ipswich): HD 12:51/3/6, Survey of manor of Shelley for Sir Philip Tilney. 12 June 1519, Extent or Rental of Thomas Tilney Esq, of Shelley, 1556., (1533)

End of official listing