Click on the image to enlarge.
Read the official report on the site from Historic England
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 is approximately 1 km from the centre of Grafham village and, despite some disturbance, is a well-preserved example displaying clear evidence of a sequence of occupation from the medieval period to the 19th century. The island will retain archaeological deposits, including structural remains and artefacts, which will provide valuable information concerning the various phases of occupation, and the status and lifestyles of the occupants. The silts of the moat ditches will retain further artefacts together with organic and environmental remains. These may provide dietary information and may illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.
Ridge and furrow cultivation, created to provide drainage and equal division of land, is a distinctive and characteristic feature of the medieval period. Where earthworks survive they can provide a valuable insight into the apportionment of land and the agricultural practices of the time. The survival of an area of ridge and furrow adjacent to the moated site is a rare example in the region. Its spatial relationship with the moat provides evidence both of changing land use and of changes in local social structure.
The moated site lies approximately 1km from a similar monument believed to be the site of Engaines manor house. A comparison of the two sites would have significance for the study of medieval settlement patterns and demography.
The monument includes a medieval moated site situated approximately 700m ENE of Village Farm. An area of medieval cultivation earthworks (ridge and furrow) lying adjacent to the south and west of the moat is also included. Documentary evidence, supported by fieldwalking finds, indicates that a small settlement or hamlet formerly existed to the east of the moated site, being largely abandoned by the 18th century and completely abandoned in the 19th century. Intensive cultivation over the area of this settlement has caused significant disturbance to the area and it is not, therefore, included in the scheduling.
The moated site is roughly rectangular in plan, defined by a fairly narrow moat and measuring about 140m east to west and between 75m and 100m north to south. The moat is approximately 1m deep, containing a thick layer of damp silts and is broken by a single causeway situated towards the eastern end of the southern arm. The western arm is banked along its inner edge. A narrow leat (drainage channel) runs westward from the north west corner of the moat.
Although the island of the moat has been partly disturbed by quarrying, two building platforms are clearly visible. The most distinct is located within the south eastern corner. It is about 35m east to west and 20m north to south, enclosed by a ditch on three sides and by the main moat on the fourth, eastern, side. The ditch is not linked to the main moat, and its western arm has been widened and deepened, perhaps to form a pond. The second platform occupies the western part of the island and is defined on its eastern side by a shallow ditch, partly cut by quarrying.
It is thought that the south eastern platform was the site of the principal house, the remainder of the moated site being used as a stock compound with outbuildings such as stores, stables and byres. A map of about 1750 depicts a house at this south eastern corner and, in the 19th century, a further building is known to have stood towards the north eastern corner. The site of this structure has, however, been disturbed by quarrying.
The area of medieval ridge and furrow adjacent to the south and west of the moated site represents the only surviving remains of a once extensive system of cultivation earthworks. The earthworks are aligned north to south and are undisturbed except for a small, irregular area of quarrying to the north west. Traces of these earthworks survive in the south western corner of the moat island, suggesting that they predate the construction of the moat.
The moated site has been associated with the manorial holding of Eustace the Sheriff which became known as the Lovetot fee. Eustace held the whole of the manor of Grafham in 1086, but by 1167 the holding had been divided between the Earls of Gloucester and Eustace's Lovetot descendants. The Gloucester portion was centred on the present village of Grafham, and it seems probable that the moated site represents the focus of the Lovetot fee.