Moated site at Low Laithes Farm, Whitby Laithes


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020402

Date first listed: 07-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of Moated site at Low Laithes Farm, Whitby Laithes
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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 21:17:22.


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

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre


National Grid Reference: NZ 92014 09506


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.

In the medieval period settlements were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as landes) which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced long, wide ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow' where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual strips or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape. Fishponds are also commonly found at moated sites. These were artificial pools of slow moving water in which fish were bred and stored in order to provide a constant supply of fresh fish for consumption and trade. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system to regulate water flow. In addition to the ponds there would be buildings for use by fishermen for storing equipment or fish curing. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. Large and complex systems were often associated with the wealthy sectors of society such as monastic institutions and the aristocracy. Small and simple examples are commonly found at villages throughout England. The remains at Whitby Laithes survive well and significant evidence of the moated site and associated features will be preserved. Much of the surrounding countryside has been improved in recent years and the level of survival of remains from the medieval period preserved at Whitby Laithes is rare in the area. The site offers important scope for the study of social and economic practices in the area during the medieval period.


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


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval moated site and parts of the surrounding medieval agricultural system. The monument is located 3km to the south east of Whitby and occupies fields to the east and south of Manor House Farm and to the west of Low Laithes Farm. Little is currently known of the history of the moated site. It lies within the manor of Hawsker and was part of the Liberty of Whitby, which was held by the Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. After this the manor passed to the Cholmley family. Moated sites such as these were usually occupied by high status families and probably supported one of the more prestigious dwellings in the area. The moated site lies in the eastern part of the monument. It has a steep sided ditch enclosing three sides of a central platform. The fourth, western side of the moat has been infilled and now lies beneath the current farm buildings. The encircling ditch is 2.5m deep and 4m wide along the sides widening out at the corners. The central platform measures at least 50m across. Access to the central area would have been via a causeway but the location of this is not currently known. Water was fed into the ditch at the north eastern corner from a stream which passes along the northern side of the moat. To the west of Low Laithes Farm there are remains of further earthworks. These have been interpreted as the remains of gardens including features such as ponds. Aerial photographs taken in 1968 show clearly the detail of these remains. Subsequent landscaping has reduced these earthworks but traces can still be seen and taken with the aerial photographs demonstrate how the land was used in the medieval period. To the south west of the moated site there is a substantial linear bank with an adjacent ditch on the northern side. The bank is 5m wide and up to 1.75m high. The ditch is 5m wide and has been partly infilled and now survives as a depression up to 0.5m deep. The bank and ditch extends westwards for 90m. It is not currently clear what the function of this feature was although it may be a linear fishpond taking water from the moat to the east. To the south of this bank are clear remains of the medieval field system in the form of ridge and furrow earthworks. These include a broad area of rounded parallel ridges up to 4m wide and 0.30m high which are separated by furrows up to 3m wide. The ridge and furrow is orientated east to west. A number of features are excluded from the monument. These are; all fences, gates, walls, the surface of tracks, the caravan park facilities and the garden pond, although the ground beneath these features 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: 34822

Legacy System: RSM


CUC ANJ 18, (1968)

End of official listing