Moor End moat is a site with important royal connections, being owned by the royal family in both the 14th and 15th centuries, and occupied by Edward III during part of his reign. The moat ditches are well preserved and completely waterlogged thus presenting considerable potential for the preservation of environmental evidence.
The monument consists of a rectangular moated site and an associated fishpond both of which lie to the north of Moor End manor. The moat fully encloses the island, with a southern ditch about 40m wide and ditches on the other three sides about 15 to 20m in width. The moat ditches are completely waterfilled and are fed by a stream which runs from north to south of the east arm. The stream was also originally connected to the fish pond which lies to the north of the moat and which is still waterfilled. A causeway, now submerged, runs from the centre of the west arm of the moat to the island and indicates the original entrance to the moat island. In the west ditch of the moat a covered drain running southwards functioned as an overflow from the nearby fishpond. Remains of a dam and sluice situated at the southern end of the east arm of the moat assisted the maintenance of water levels within the moated system. The moat island is 50m square and is planted with conifers. This monument is known to have been the site of Moor End Castle, which belonged to Edward III. Between 1363 and 1369 the king spent almost a thousand pounds on the repair and improvement of the castle and he lived there for part of his reign. Also, in the 15th century, the castle was held by various members of the royal family. (Scheduling Report)
Moat (SP 754446; Fig. 128
), usually known as Moor End Castle, lies W. of Yardley village, within the hamlet of Moor End, in the bottom of a valley draining S., on clay at 92 m. above OD. The origins of the site are obscure but in 1327 Thomas de Ferrers was granted a licence to crenellate his dwelling place of Le Morende. In 1363 the manor passed to the Crown and between then and 1369 much building work is recorded. Among the structures mentioned are a royal chamber, a chapel, towers, an old chamber and inner and outer gates. It remained in royal hands during the 15th century but its subsequent history is uncertain (H. M. Colvin, The History of the King's Works,
II (1963), 743). In the early 19th century, stone-robbing revealed foundations of a rectangular building with towers at each corner. Tiles described as 'Roman' were also uncovered (G. Baker, Hist. of Northants.,
II (183641), 229; JBAA,
7 (1852), 111).
The site has been much altered, particularly in recent years, and now consists of a sub-rectangular island, completely overgrown, with no visible surface features. The island is surrounded by a water-filled ditch between 17 m. and 25 m. wide on the S.W., N.W. and N.E. and by a large pond 50 m. by 90 m. on the S.E. The latter may be a relatively recent widening of the ditch on this side. A small rectangular pond 40 m. by 25 m., much altered in recent times, lies to the N.W. of the site, and on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 52434) two other smaller rectangular ponds are shown between it and the moat. These have now been destroyed.
A dry ditch 8 m. wide and up to 1 m. deep to the N.E. of the moat appears to be a former leat which carried water round the site, possibly to a mill at its S.E. end. The field on the S.W. side of the moat, in which stands the present Castle Barn, was known as Castle Yard in 1728 (map in NRO). In its S.E. corner are at least two building plat-forms lying at the S. ends of two rectangular closes ('a' on plan). It is not certain whether these are part of the castle or of the settlement remains. (RCHME)
The castle at Moor End, which stood on the north side of the lane running through the hamlet, was presumably built shortly after 1347, when Thomas de Ferrers was granted licence to fortify his house there and create a park. After the manor passed to Edward III in 1363 John de Newnham was given custody of the castle and appointed to oversee building work there. The king, who visited Moor End frequently during the 1360s, spent £860 over two years, building a new royal chamber and a royal chapel, and substantially rebuilding the gatehouse. Work on the castle finished in 1369 and John de Ipres was granted custody for life. In 1378 the castle was said to be in need of repairs to the value of 40s. and yearly expenditure of 10 marks, and in 1382 John de Daventry was commissioned to carry out repairs under the supervision of Hugh de Springfield, who had been appointed gatekeeper two years before in 1380.
In 1478 John Hulcote was made constable of the castle, although by 1485 the office was held by Sir William Catesby; in both cases the appointment included the keepership of the park there. Henry VII later made Thomas Green constable and granted the office of bailiff of the lordships and manors of Moor End and East Pury to Thomas Philip. In 1496 Stephen Fleming was installed as constable and keeper of the castle and lordship; (fn. 31) he was still living at Moor End in 1509, when he was also bailiff of the manor of Higham Ferrers. (fn. 32) In 1510 Henry VIII appointed two auditors (Thomas Combes and Thomas Roberts), a bailiff (Robert Neswick) and a steward (Sir Nicholas Vaux) for the lordship. In 1537 the king granted the reversion of the auditorship to Richard Mody in succession to Thomas Combes (Thomas Roberts having died), and in 1540 William Clarke, serjeant-at-arms to the king, was made keeper of the castle, and of the parks there and at Plumpton (in Paulerspury), an appointment renewed four years later.
By 1580 the castle was described as utterly decayed, with no timber or stone remaining. The stone had been taken to Grafton House for repairs there. In 1650 and 1728 the site was known as Castle Yard, and in the 1830s it was noted that a recent tenant of Castle Close, in digging up the foundations of the castle, had recovered over 2,000 yards of stone. A few 'architectural fragments' had been incorporated in the outbuildings of Moor End Farm. In the 1970s the only feature visible on the site of the castle was a much-altered moat, fed by the stream which flows from Potterspury Lodge through Moor End to Potterspury village. (VCH 2002 see original for footnotes and references to primary sources.)
Thomas Ferrers had erected a crenellated residence here under licence in 1347. The property was acquired by the king in 1363 from Thomas Despenser to whom it had passed, and Edward III immediately ordered new work costing £861 over the next two years. Moor End seems to have begun as a fortified house with gateway, at least three towers, hall, and chamber, and it was in this form rather than as a fortress that the king developed it. He upgraded the earlier work, added 'the king's tower', embattled the chamber over the gate, extended the accomodation, installed glass, and built a new chapel. The reasons for his enthusiasm are not clear, for having spent nearly £1,000 by 1369, made many site visits, and encouragedd working by candlelight, the king promptly granted the castle to John of Ypers and subsequently to a succession of royal favourites until the sixteenth century. We know nothing of its character and no site evidence remains except the moated platform. (Emery 2000)