Medieval manor of Simpson


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Milton Keynes (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 88418 35904

Reasons for Designation

Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with associated gardens, yards and paddocks, supported communities devoted primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land- use such as enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment, these settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities.

The site of the medieval manor of Simpson is represented by the buried remains of the manor house, together with an area of well-defined earthworks, in which evidence for the nature of the settlement will be preserved. The crofts and building platforms will contain buried evidence for houses, barns and other structures, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse pits, wells and drainage channels, all related to the development of the settlement. Artefacts buried in association with these features will provide further insights into the lifestyle of the settlement's inhabitants and assist in dating the changes to the settlement through time. Environmental evidence may also be preserved, in particular in the area of the moat ditch and the fishponds, illustrating the economy of the settlement and providing further information about its agricultural regime. Although the site of the manor house is no longer visible, evidence from maps, paintings and geophysics show the foundations of a substantial building. The site of the moat and fishponds, together with the landscaped gardens depicted on maps, suggest a high status property. The moat and fishponds are likely to have originated in the medieval period. It is possible that the moat may even represent the site of the original manor house. In the medieval period fishponds were created, by those who could afford the cost of their construction and maintenance, to ensure a constant food supply. The cultivation earthworks are also believed to predate the manor house and appear to have been partly truncated by the ornamental gardens.


The monument includes the buried and visible remains of the medieval and post-medieval manor of Simpson, bounded to the west by the Fenny Stratford Road and to the east by the River Ouzel. The manor occupies an area of low-lying pasture to the south and east of the village of Simpson. Earthworks along the east side of the site consist of the buried remains of the manor house, together with garden earthworks which include a moated site and two fishponds. This manorial settlement is marked on the 1781 Estate map of Simpson as the `Mansion house and Pleasure garden'. Further earthworks to the west, also included in the scheduling, are thought to represent the site of outbuildings associated with the manor house, as well as village earthworks; the remains of cultivation earthworks survive to the south of the village earthworks and to the west of the moat and fishponds. The manor house is located towards the northern end of the site, about 100m to the south of the church of St Thomas. The buried remains of the house were recorded by a geophysical survey in 1992. This identified the main outline of the north east-south west aligned house, together with features believed to represent wings, bays, a stairwell and cellars. The entrance to the house was indicated by a metalled surface along the north west side. To the south of the site of the manor house and immediately to the west of the River Ouzel are the remains of the medieval garden earthworks which include the moated site and fishponds. The moated site is roughly rectangular in plan. The island measures approximately 45m north-south by 40m east-west and is surrounded by a ditch averaging 8m across and up to 1m deep. A narrow causeway crossing the centre of the western arm provides access to the island. The two fishponds, which are sited immediately to the south east of the moat, are north-south aligned and measure 25m and 45m long respectively and about 20m wide. An artificial cut which lies approximately 20m to the east of the moat and ponds, was used up until the 1990s as the main course of the River Ouzel. The river supplied the moat and fishponds with water by a channel, still visible today, which ran along the south and west sides of the fishponds before connecting with the south east corner of the moat. A further short channel extending eastwards from the south east corner of the moat back to the original course of the river is thought to have controlled the level of water. The small raised mound to the south of this overflow channel is believed to represent the platform for a small building, perhaps a dovecote. The manorial complex is separated from the village to the west by a north-south hollow way with a well-defined dog-leg. This is marked on the 1781 Estate map as a village street. The remains of building platforms aligned along the east side of this hollow way are believed to represent the site of courtyard outbuildings associated with the manor house. A large platform to the west of the hollow way may represent the site of crofts and tofts associated with the village to the west. Post-medieval quarrying and landscaping has caused some disturbance to the earthworks in this area. To the south of the hollow way and building platforms are the remains of a medieval field system containing the characteristic pattern of ridge and furrow cultivation earthworks. A later north-south boundary truncates the cultivation earthworks and to the east of this boundary the vague outline of ridge and furrow is visible. It is possible that the field system predates some of the manorial earthworks. To the east of the manor house site are the remains of an artificial lake, marked on the 1781 Estate map as a feature in the pleasure garden. The map shows the river flowing through the lake which may previously have been used as a millpond. Landscaping and alterations to the course of the river over the past 15 years or so have altered the lake, and it is therefore not included in the scheduling. The manor of Simpson is first mentioned at the time of Domesday as belonging to the Bishop of Coutances. By the beginning of the 13th century it is recorded as being in the ownership of Geoffrey de Cauz and from 1254 until the beginning of the 14th century it was held by the de Grey family. By 1551 the manor had passed to Thomas Pigott of Dodorshall, Quainton. He left it to his son, also called Thomas, who sold it in 1578 to William and Thomas Cranwell. In 1631 the manor of Simpson was in the ownership of Arthur Warren and by the late 17th century it was in the hands of the Hatch family, who were already in possession of other land in Simpson. Spencer Hatch conveyed the manor to John Walden of Coventry in 1683. John died in 1689 and it passed to his brother Thomas who in turn passed it on to his daughter Susan. Susan married Job Hamner in 1717 and when Job died in 1739 their son, Job Walden Hamner inherited the manor. At his death, in 1783, the manor passed to Sir Thomas Hamner. Sir Thomas occasionally resided at Simpson, though it was not his main residence, and he eventually sold the manor to Charles Pinfold in 1806. In about 1810 Charles Pinfold pulled the manor house down and leased the farm to William Sipthorp. Eventually the estate was purchased by William Sipthorp's son, at some time prior to 1860. The 1781 Estate map records the manor and adjacent lands as belonging to Sir Walden Hamner, Baronet. With ownership of 407 acres Sir Walden, at that time, was the biggest landowner in the parish. The Estate map shows the manor house and pleasure gardens with avenues of trees running southwards from the house and from the fishponds. The artificial lake is depicted with a bridge crossing a mill leat immediately to the south and a sluice and by-pass leat running in a north east direction from the mill leat to the original course of the River Ouzel. All gates, fences and benches, surfaces of the pathways and telegraph poles are excluded from the scheduling, as is the display board and gravel marking out the outline of the manor house. The ground beneath 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
The Victoria History of the County of Simpson460
Northamptonshire Archaeology Unit, , Manor House and Moated Site, Simpson, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, (1992)
Northamptonshire Archaeology Unit, , Manor House and Moated Site, Simpson, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, (1992)
'Bucks. Arch. Soc. Monog. Series No.5' in Simpson, (1993), 145-152
'Bucks. Arch. Soc. Monog. Series No. 5' in The Changing Landscape of Milton Keynes, (1993), 145-152
'Bucks. Arch. Soc. Monog. Series No. 5' in The Changing Landscape of Milton Keynes, (1993), 145-152
Hamner, W H, (1782)
Title: A Plan of the Manor of Simpson Source Date: 1781 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Tracing in Bucks CRO
Title: Plan of the Manor of Simpson Source Date: 1781 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Tracing in Bucks. CRO
Title: Plan of the Manor of Simpson Source Date: 1781 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Tracing in Bucks. CRO
Title: Plan of the Manor of Simpson Source Date: 1781 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Tracing in Bucks. CRO


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.

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