Moated site and associated earthworks 270m north east of Millers Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020345

Date first listed: 17-Mar-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Dec-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site and associated earthworks 270m north east of Millers Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Hilgay

National Grid Reference: TL 62595 98615


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 270m north east of Millers Farm, which has survived largely undisturbed by later activity, is a good example of this class of monument and archaeological information relating to its construction and the manner and duration of its occupation, including evidence for a manor house and other buildings, will be contained in the moat ditch and in deposits on the central platform.

Fishponds, created for the purpose of breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food, were largely built for the wealthy sectors of society and are therefore often associated with medieval manorial and monastic sites. The extensive series of fishponds associated with the moated site survives particularly well, with a variety of characteristic features, and the earthworks and the fills of the ponds and associated channels will contain evidence for the way in which they were operated and managed. Organic materials, including evidence for the local environment during the medieval period, are also likely to be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the ponds and moat, thus adding to the interest of the monument, and soils buried beneath the raised central platform of the moated site and the various banks will retain evidence for earlier land use.


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


The monument includes a medieval moated site and associated earthwork enclosures containing a series of fishponds. These are located on the north east side of Hilgay village, on low ground at the northern edge of an island in the fens, where it is separated from higher ground to the north by a peat-filled channel through which the River Wissey runs, some 300m to the north of the earthworks.

The moat, which ranges from 10m to about 17m in width and remains open to a depth of up to 1.5m, surrounds a rectangular central platform raised up to 0.5m above the exterior ground level and measuring some 78m north-south by 47m internally. Access to the interior is provided by a causeway across the western end of the south arm of the moat. At the northern end the moat is bordered internally and externally by low banks about 7m wide which probably served as a protection against flooding, and a depression about 1m deep and 15m wide which extends northward from the northern end of the western arm perhaps represents the remains of an outlet channel to take surplus water from the moat.

The three contiguous rectangular enclosures to the east of the moat extend northward from a green lane which runs eastwards from the village, curving to the south of the moat, and forms their southern boundary. The first of these enclosures, adjoining the moat, measures 93m north-south by 68m internally and contains a complex array of fishponds, visible as well defined sub-rectangular and linear hollows, with associated water management features. One of the ponds, measuring approximately 20m east-west by 13m, lies adjacent to the south eastern corner of the moat and is connected to it by the remains of a short channel, marked by a shallow depression about 5m wide and 0.5m deep, which probably contained a sluice to control the flow of water between the two. Some 12m to the north of the first pond and parallel to it is a second of similar length and about 10m wide, with traces of a similar channel connecting it to the western arm of the moat. To the east of these is a north-south linear depression, between 4m and 5m wide and up to 1m deep at the northern end, which extends across almost the whole length of the enclosure and perhaps represents part of the system of leats and channels by means of which the ponds would have been filled and drained. Beyond this, in the north eastern corner of the enclosure, is a large, sub-rectangular, moat-like pond with overall dimensions of 29m north-south by 22m, containing a central island which measures 17m by 10m and is reached by a low causeway on the western side. Parallel to the southern arm of the pond is another, about 5m wide, immediately to the south of which are two smaller ponds from which traces of shallower, parallel depressions extend towards the southern end of the enclosure. The enclosure is bounded on the northern and eastern sides by a ditch or channel up to 1m deep and 6m wide which extends eastwards from the eastern arm of the moat and returns southward on a line approximately 7m to the east of the ponds, the ground between being raised about 0.4m to form a slight embankment. About 5m to the east of this latter part of the ditch, but not quite parallel to it, can be seen traces of a second channel.

The second and third enclosures, in line to the east of the first, are separated by another north-south ditch, embanked on both sides, and are defined on their northern side by a modern drainage ditch which probably follows the course of an earlier feature and which turns southwards to form the easternmost boundary of the sequence. A single pond, about 50m long and 7m wide, extends east-west across the centre of the middle and largest enclosure and, although no other features are clearly visible on the surface, aerial photographs taken of the site under wet conditions have recorded evidence for adjacent, possibly contemporary, ponds and channels which have become infilled but which will survive as buried features.

The third and easternmost enclosure contains two smaller ponds roughly in line with the long, linear pond to the west. They are about 3m apart and linked by a short, shallow depression which is considered to mark the remains of another sluice channel. The western and larger of the two measures approximately 20m east-west by 5m, and the other approximately 11m by 7m.

Most of the ponds and parts of the moat contain water for much of the year and their lower fills are likely to be permanently waterlogged.

The moated site is thought to have been the centre of a manorial holding. Three medieval manors are recorded in the parish of Hilgay, the most important of which, held by Ramsay Abbey, was centred at Wood Hall, about 1km to the south. A second was centred on the south western side of the parish at Modeney Priory, which was a cell of Ramsey, and the third, known as Massingham, or Curtey's manor and originally also within the Lordship of Ramsey Abbey, was held in the mid and later 15th century by William Massingham and his son, Thomas. According to the 18th century historian Blomefield, other, lesser tenures were held at various times by the Earl Warren, the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, the Lord of Wormegay, Roger Bigod, the church of Ely and the Abbot of West Dereham.

Three short wooden posts on the island of the fishpond in the north east corner of the enclosure adjoining the eastern arm of the moat 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: 30558

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Sylvester, R J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 4: The Wissey Embayment and Fen Causeway, , Vol. 52, (1991), 45-48

End of official listing