Bradley Hall fortified house and underground passages, moated site, pillow mound and fishponds


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 10827 36207

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Around 6000 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 signeurial 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. 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 fresh water 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 12 ponds variously arranged in a single 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 tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. The difficulties of obtaining fresh meat in the winter and the value put on fish as a source of food 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. Most fishponds fell out of use during the post-medieval period. 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. 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 monuments and in providing evidence of site economy. A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries. The mounds vary in design, although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and 40 pillow mounds and occupy an area up to approximately 600ha. Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society. However, they gradually spread in popularity, so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical estates. All well-preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection. A sample of well-preserved sites of later date will also merit protection. The moated site and fortified house at Bradley Hall are well-preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. They will contribute greatly to our knowledge and understanding of medieval settlement in the region. Their association with a set of fishponds and a pillow mound will add to our knowledge of the economic basis of such settlements.


The monument includes the remains of a moated site, the ruins and remains of a fortified house, a pillow mound and a series of fishponds of medieval date, situated on the left bank of the Bradley Burn, a tributary of the River Wear. The fortified house is a Listed Building Grade II. In 1183 the estate was mentioned in the Bolden Book, when it was held by the Bradley family. In Bishop Hatfield's 14th century survey it was held by Roger Eure of Witton. The son of the latter was granted licence to crenellate the house in 1431 by Bishop Langley. The estate later passed to the Tempest family and after the Rebellion of 1580 Elizabeth I granted it to the Bowes family, with whom it remained until 1844. The moated site, trapezoidal in shape, measures a maximum of 110m east to west by 125m north to south within a broad ditch up to 7m wide and a maximum of 1.8m deep. On the west, north and north eastern side, the moat is a prominent steep sided feature. The remainder of the eastern side has been infilled but it survives below ground level as a buried feature. The south side of the moat has also been infilled but it is visible as a shallow depression for part of its course. A regular inner bank of stone and earth, which is between 1.2m and 1.6m high and between 6m and 9m wide, flanks the moat for most of its course. A more discontinuous outer bank is also visible measuring between 6m and 10m wide and standing up to 1.6m high. The original entrance into the island of the moat is thought to have been at the north western corner. The island of the moated site contains slight earthworks of uncertain nature and the north western part shows a pronounced rise in level; the latter is thought to reflect the greater number of structures within the moated site placed near the original entrance in the north west corner. A drainage ditch which was cut across the moated site in 1951 revealed the existence of a cobbled area interpreted as a courtyard. At the south eastern corner of the island of the moated site there are the standing and earthwork remains of a fortified manor house thought to be of 14th century date, re-modelled in the late 16th or early 17th century. The medieval fortified house is thought to have been of courtyard plan in which at least three ranges were placed around a central yard. The east range houses the present farmhouse. The south range is visible as a rectangular ruin of large undressed sandstone measuring 30m east to west by 11m north to south and standing 5m high. The remains of a chamfered plinth are visible on the south, east and west faces. This range includes four barrel vaulted compartments. The interior west wall of the south range contains an original fireplace. A pointed medieval doorway with a square window above is visible in the north wall of the building and to the west there is another, now blocked, opening. Also in the north wall are at least two further pointed doorways, all blocked. The west range of the fortified house is visible as a pronounced but spread bank, 0.3m high, running north from the west end of the south range. A bank of slighter proportions at right angles to the latter is thought to represent the north range of the fortified house. The remains of an underground passage with two branches survive, and entry is gained through a rectangular opening situated outside the south eastern corner of the moat. From here a semi-circular passage faced in sandstone blocks, 1.4m high and 0.7m wide, runs north east for approximately 22m before it is blocked by fallen masonry. Some 3m before the blockage, a second passage, 0.7m wide and 1.1m high and roofed with sandstone slabs, branches off in a westerly direction for approximately 48m when it ends near to the north east corner of the east range of the building. Some 31m along the course of this passage a third passage joins from the north; this passage, which is 0.7m wide and only 0.5m high, can be followed for some 6.5m before it becomes blocked by fallen masonry. The lower passages are thought to be an integral part of the water management system associated with the late 16th or early 17th century re- modelling of the fortified house. They are clearly later in date than the filling in of the eastern arm of the moat and the subsequent construction of the garden. The main east-west passage is thought to have served as a drain for the house which was flushed with water from the northern branch. The purpose of the higher arched passage and its destination are uncertain. Some 25m north of the northern side of the moated site there is a linear mound 8m long by 2.5m wide and standing up to 1m high. This has been interpreted as a medieval pillow mound. Immediately to the south of the moated site there is a row of at least three enclosures, each one 40m square, bounded by low banks spread to an average of 8m wide and standing to a maximum of 0.5m high. These enclosures are thought to be the remains of a series of fishponds which were fed with water from the south side of the moat. Each enclosure contains the remains of broad ridge and furrow cultivation between 4m to 5m wide which runs parallel with the enclosures. The ridge and furrow represents ploughing of what at certain times of the year were dry ponds. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the present farmhouse housed in the eastern wing of the fortified house, the associated stone garage, all stone walls, fences, gate posts and electricity supply posts, the surfaces of all hard-standing areas and all stone or wooden sheds; the ground beneath all these features 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.

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Books and journals
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)
Cleveland County Archaeology Section, , Bradley Hall Weardale: A Survey of the Building and Earthworks, (1992)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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