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Bassingbourne, John of Gaunts House

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bassingburn

In the civil parish of Bassingbourn Cum Kneesworth.
In the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely.
Modern Authority of Cambridgeshire.
1974 county of Cambridgeshire.
Medieval County of Cambridgeshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL325451
Latitude 52.08783° Longitude -0.06736°

Bassingbourne, John of Gaunts House has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

This moated site is situated at the N end of the village on the E side of the brook which flows northwards from Bassingbourn Springs to join the Cam. Until 1887 the earthworks were still well preserved and some structural features of the buildings which once stood on this site survived, but in that year the whole area was turned over by coprolite diggers and the moats were to a large extent filled up. In 1266 Warin de Bassingbourn received a licence to inclose his house with a dyke and a wall of stones and to crenellate it. When he died in 1268 his castle on this site is specifically mentioned, and Lysons states that in his time the manor was still called the Castle Manor. The site now consists of a large sub rectangular moated area measuring 400ft by 300ft, approached from the S by a causeway 600ft long from the Bassingbourn - Shingay road. In the northern part of the moated area and abutting close to the outer moat there is a rectangular mound, 200ft by 90ft, closely surrounded by a moat averaging about 30ft in width. This area was the strongest part of the site and the mound is said to have stood to a height of 10ft or 12ft above the general ground level before 1887. This is improbable, but it has now been reduced to about 3ft and much of it has been used to fill up the surrounding moat. Before 1887 the abutments of a bridge were visible on the S side, but in that year these stones and other remains of foundations were removed and used to mend the roads. The whole area inside the outer moat is now under the plough and only traces can be seen on the N and E sides. At each side of the causeway entrance the outer moat presents some circular projections which may have once carried bastions overlooking the entrance. There are traces of two lesser examples a few yards to the E and W of the larger ones. A high mound outside the moat on the W side of the entrance does not seem to be original. The site has been much damaged by digging, but it seems clear that the traces of banks on the inner side of the outer moat round the northern half of the Inclosure are original, though they have been much spread inwards. The SE corner of the inner moated area has been badly dug down, and there is a fair amount of brick and tile rubbish to be seen on the ploughed land, which suggests that buildings of post C15 date have stood here. The inner moat drew its water from a cut joining it with the outer moat to the SW. The whole was supplied from the Bassingbourn Brook. an earlier course of which may be plainly traced in the field to the W of the entrance causeway. A sudden inward bend of the outer moat on the E side suggests that it may have once followed a course along the S side of the inner moat and then have been later extended to take in a larger area to the S. On the W of the site the remains of an approach ramp for a bridge over the Mod course of the Bassingbourn Brook cannot be an original feature. The long approach causeway is an unusual feature of the site; it was until recent times flanked by an avenue of trees and is said by tradition to have once extended S to Bassingbourn Church. The carriageway is 18ft wide and is flanked by deep ditches which are prolongations of the outer moat. On the outer side of these ditches are banks of upcast, which have now been partly levelled, but on the E side the bank is part of the Inclosure of another large area, now mainly under the plough, probably related to the main site. There are signs of the prolongation of the causeway across the outer ward to the site of the bridge over the inner moat. The type of castle built by Warinde Bassingbourn after 1266 is unknown, but the central stronghold may be compared with Burwell, Rampton and Caxton, which appear to be at least 100 years earlier in date, so that this nucleus may be older than the licence to crenellate. It is doubtful whether this Bassingbourn site can be truly regarded as that of a castle, but the form of the inner mound suggests that it belongs to a class of minor local strongholds of the C12 in its earlier form. (VCH 1948)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1266 Oct 22 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Comments

The interesting and unusual C15 landscaping (Oosthuizen and Taylor) may have effected the earlier features and must be properly considered when looking at the interesting cropmarks visible on the air photo.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 15/11/2016 11:30:45

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