Moated site of Kimberley Hall and remains of associated gardens


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020856

Date first listed: 04-Oct-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Mar-2003


Ordnance survey map of Moated site of Kimberley Hall and remains of associated gardens
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: South Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Kimberley

National Grid Reference: TG 07752 04006


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 site of Kimberley Hall, or Wodehouse Tower, is a very good example of a later medieval, high status moated house, and the site has remained largely undisturbed since the demolition of the hall in the mid-17th century. The earthworks of the moat survive well, and the remains of the hall provide evidence of the plan of the building, with some architectural detail. The earthworks and the standing and buried remains of the building, with associated deposits, will provide further information concerning the construction and occupation of the site and the activities of the inhabitants from the beginning of the 15th century onward, to supplement what is known from the historical record. Organic materials, including artefacts and evidence for the local environment in the past, are also likely to be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the moat and associated ponds.

The remains of the water garden and the other earthworks, which are believed to include evidence for gardens contemporary with the hall, are also of particular interest. Gardens of medieval and early post-medieval date take a variety of forms. Some involved significant water management works to create elaborate water gardens, as here. In others, flower gardens were favoured, with planting in elaborately shaped and often geometrically laid out beds. Such sites were often provided with raised walks or prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which the garden design and layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high status houses, continued occupation of the houses and remodelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early remains rarely survive undisturbed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings of a house and symbolise the social hierarchy. They were probably not uncommon in the medieval and post-medieval periods, but the exact original number is unknown. Physical remains of medieval gardens, in particular, are rare, and those associated with the moated site of Kimberley Hall will contribute to a better understanding of the lives and leisure activities of the occupants of high status houses in the later medieval and early post- medieval periods, and their perception of their own standing within society.


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


The monument includes the moated site of a later medieval hall known as Kimberley Hall, or Wodehouse Tower, located about 450m east of the parish church of St Peter, together with adjacent earthworks relating to associated yards and gardens. The moated site and the hall, were constructed within a new park by Sir John Wodehouse in or around 1400. He had acquired Kimberley manor through his marriage to Margaret, the daughter and sole heir of Sir Thomas Fastolf, and removed here from from an earlier manor house, which lay about 900m to the south east. The moated site of the earlier manor house is the subject of a separate scheduling. Wodehouse Tower remained the seat of the Wodehouse family until 1641, when Sir Philip Wodehouse inherited Downham manor and they removed to Downham Lodge, about 2.75km to the north east. The old hall was demolished in 1659, but moulded terracotta panels with heraldic devices, thought to be from the medieval building, are incorporated in the walls of Park Farm, 100m to the north. The moated site is depicted on a map dated 1700, marked as `The Place where the Old House stood'.

The moat, which ranges in width from about 15m to 19m and contains water, surrounds a rectangular central island with internal dimensions of approximately 100m NNE-SSW by 45m. The northern end of the island is terraced into a slight south facing slope, so that the scarp of the outer edge of the moat is higher here than elsewhere. A causeway across the northern arm of the moat is not original. Access was formerly by means of a bridge across the centre of the southern arm, where the inner abutment, faced with brick, can still be seen. Traces of flint masonry to either side of the bridge abutment suggest that the inner edge of the southern arm was at least partly revetted.

The hall stood at the southern end of the central island and the overall plan can be determined from the visible foundations and brick walls standing to a height of up to 1m. The building stood around a courtyard about 29m wide ENE-WSW. Fronting the southern arm of the moat was a central range about 7m wide with polygonal turrets at either end, and extending back from either end of this, alongside the eastern and western arms, were two ranges of similar width and about 25m in length. A slight WNW-ESE ridge in the ground surface perhaps marks the site of the buried foundations of a wall enclosing the courtyard on the north side. At the northern end of the west range there are the footings of a rectangular structure measuring about 9m WNW-ESE by 6m, possibly a tower, with the base of a small circular turret at the south west corner and indications of another small structure at the north west corner. The inner wall of the east range includes part of a doorway opening onto the inner courtyard, with one remaining jamb displaying ovolo brick moulding. The foundations of a cross wall are visible immediately to the east of the entrance in the south range, probably representing one side of a passage leading from the entrance through to the courtyard. The area of the central island to the north of the hall would have contained either a garden or another court with outbuildings.

The earthworks associated with the moated site lie to the west, south and east. Adjoining the western arm of the moat there is a sub-rectangular pond about 92m in length east-west and still partly water-filled. Traces of a short channel which formerly linked the two can still be seen in the outer edge of the moat opposite the pond.

The earthworks to the south and and south east comprise a series of intersecting rectilinear scarps, low banks and ditches on a similar alignment to the moat and likely to be contemporary with it. A linear depression which runs south eastwards towards the south west corner of the moat is thought to be the eastern end of a sunken track or hollow way which at one time probably formed one of the main approaches to the hall. To the south of this feature and the southern arm of the moat is a large rectangular area about 43m wide NNE-SSW, which is defined on the west side by a scarp about 1m in height and on the south side by slight but regular scarps and banks, situated above rising ground and most clearly visible from the air. Two well-defined, rectangular, terraced platforms which project from the western end of the southern boundary probably supported buildings. The areas to the south and east of these are divided into small rectangular enclosures by the remains of banks and slight linear depressions which mark partly infilled ditches. Some of these boundary features are very slight but others, particularly on the east side, are well-defined and include broad, flat-topped banks up to 1m high. The layout corresponds to what is known of high status medieval gardens, which often consisted of a series of such small rectangular compartments with elaborate fences, arbours, walkways, turf seats and other features. About 75m to the south east of the moat is a roughly rectangular raised area about 0.5m high, which is probably the platform for a garden building.

A clearly defined linear depression about 13m wide, with a ditch along the south eastern side, runs diagonally from the south west across the area to the south east of the moated site and is interpreted as a hollow way. It cuts across the alignment of the rectilinear enclosures in a manner which suggests that it is of a different date, possibly earlier, but with subsequent modifications. It is not depicted on the map of 1700, but a track on approximately the same line is shown further to the south, leading towards the moat from the road to Wymondham. A low, flat-topped ridge which runs south eastwards from the surviving southern end of the hollow way perhaps marks the line of an earlier road to Wymondham, predating the park.

The area to the north of the enclosures, extending eastwards from the moated site and then north eastwards, is marked on the map of 1700 as `Old Ponds'. At the western end of this area, adjoining the moat, there are two large but shallow depressions which have the appearance of fishponds, separated by a pronounced north-south bank between 1m and 2m in height. They are probably contemporary with the moat and were perhaps designed to be ornamental as well as functional. The larger depression is trapezoidal in plan and measures about 75m in length north-south, with a maximum width of about 52m across the southern end. The second depression, to the east of this, is smaller and triangular in plan, and along the east side of it there is a raised platform about 8.5m wide and 1.5m high, on the surface of which traces of building materials have been observed. At least one much smaller, rectangular pond, measuring 22m east-west by 10m and apparently unconnected with the two larger features, lies some 30m to the south east.

The hollow way across the site runs towards the ponds and, near the point where it meets their southern edge, the ditch alongside it, which is possibly a later feature, widens and turns eastwards to feed into an adjacent water garden of considerable size and complexity. The water garden shows evidence of alteration and is, at least in its final form, probably later than the fishponds alongside it. The series of ponds and other visible earthworks which constitute its remains are on a south west-north east alignment, covering an area about 248m in length and 87m in width. The original water management system which controlled the supply to and between the ponds is not wholly apparent, although there are indications of a link to the eastern arm of the moat. It has, however, been altered by the construction of a later water course running eastwards from the moat and then north eastwards through the complex, slightly to the north west of the central axis.

The various features within the water garden occupy a sub-rectangular, flat bottomed area, sunk to a depth of between 1m and 2m below the prevailing ground level and terminating at the north eastern end in a long rectangular canal about 20m wide, with a low, flat-topped bank or dam about 0.7m high behind it. The surface of the dam appears to have been degraded by modern activity, but the outer scarp is still clearly visible. The sunken area is subdivided about 100m from the south western end by the remains of a bank which originally extended across its entire width, although the north western end, recorded on Ordnance Survey maps published in the 1970s, has been levelled. Between this cross bank and the dam at the north eastern end, the south western edge of the sunken area is terraced at a height of about 1m to form what was probably a raised walkway approximately 12m wide. At the south western end of the complex, to the west of the cross bank, is a large, roughly oval pond measuring about 60m north east-south west by 45m, encircled by a flat-topped bank which widens from about 7m on the south side to 12m on the north. The bank is surrounded in turn by the remains of a wide outer ditch, now largely dry, which is cut by the later stream to the north. The central pond is linked to the outer ditch by a short channel through the encircling bank on the east side, with small embayments on either side of it within the thickness of the bank. Immediately opposite this, another short channel, cut through the cross bank, links the outer ditch to the area beyond. About 10m from the opposite side of the cross bank and 12m from the terrace to the south east, is a smaller rectangular pond measuring approximately 22m north east-south west by 13m, surrounded by a flat topped bank about 1m high and between 5m and 8m wide. The banks around both ponds probably served as walkways from which the water features could have been viewed, with interconnecting bridges to give access. Another feature, situated about 8m to the north west of the rectangular pond and parallel to it, has been levelled, but is recorded on the 1970s Ordnance Survey maps as a rectangular raised platform about 28m long and 10m wide, with two small, oval depressions on the surface.

It is possible that, in its earliest form the water garden may have been little more than a shallow lake, although the terraced walkway along the south western edge could be original, as could the small rectangular embanked pond and the feature alongside it. If so, the canal below the dam at the north eastern end must be a later modification. The large oval embanked pond at the south western end certainly has the appearance of being a later addition.

Several features which post-date the abandonment of the hall are visible on the eastern side of the site to the south of the water garden. They include two ditches marking post-medieval field boundaries of different dates, and a raised causeway running east-west across the complex of rectangular enclosures, which is thought to be the remains of a former driveway to the present Kimberley House.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the surface of a disused hard tennis court on the moated site, all modern fences gates and stiles, a pheasant pen within the remains of the water garden, service poles and a drinking trough and stand pipe. 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.

Legacy System number: 30622

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, (1805), 536-544
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, (1805), 544
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TG 0704/L-N, (1984)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TG 0704/L-N, (1984)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology: TG 0704/AJ, (1995)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology: TG 0704/AJ, (1995)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology: TG 0704/L-N, (1984)
OS Field Observers comments, Seaman, NMR TG 00 SE 1, (1973)
Title: A Great Survey of Kimberley Park Source Date: 1700 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: NRO Ref. MF/RO 499/2 (microfilm copy)

End of official listing