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Caxton Moats

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Moats

In the civil parish of Caxton.
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: TL29475870
Latitude 52.21141° Longitude -0.10662°

Caxton Moats has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The monument, known as Caxton Moats or "The Moats" is situated in the base of a small valley some 700m west of the A1198 at Caxton village, on the south side of a green lane between Caxton and Eltisley (Eltislley Lane or Caxton Drift). The monument includes a group of three contiguous moated enclosures arranged in an inverted "L"-shaped plan, with associated water management features, fishponds and warren earthworks. The most elaborate enclosure occupies the angle of the "L" at the north west corner of the group. This rectangular island, which is oriented east to west and measures approximately 75m by 45m, is surrounded by a broad flat-bottomed ditch measuring up to 18m in width and 2.5m in depth, and waterfilled to a depth of about 0.5m. Raised rectangular platforms occupy the east and west ends of the island, standing about 1.5m above the level of the centre and taking up about two thirds of the available space. Fragments of Roman pottery, C12 and C13 wares, daub and wall plaster have been found here, indicating substantial medieval buildings and perhaps earlier occupation. Access to the island is thought to have originally been provided by one or more bridges. The southern enclosure is similar in size, bounded by the southern arm of the moat to the north, and by a dry, "V"-shaped ditch averaging 12m in width and 2m in depth, around the remaining sides. The third enclosure lies to the east of the northern island, separated by the counterscarp bank along its eastern arm. A narrow leat meanders to the south east from the north east corner of the small moat. The channel is thought to have formed part of the original course of the brook, adapted to serve as an outflow after the course was diverted upstream to feed the moats. A rectangular enclosure, part of a medieval warren, lies towards the southern end of the leat, extending WSW towards the southern end of the moat. This measures some 80m in length and 20m wide. A raised platform, 0.4m high, extends along the northern side of the enclosure covering three quarters of its length from the eastern end and half its width. Four low pillow mounds (artificial breeding places for rabbits) remain clearly visible along the length of the platform. A fifth mound, at the western end, is less well defined. The warren enclosure was superimposed over part of the ridge and furrow, and its alignment appears to have been determined by that of the earlier earthworks. Only a small fragment of the pattern of cultivation earthworks now remains to the east of the enclosure. The northern side of the pillow mound enclosure is bounded by a broad channel, or hollow way, ascending the slight slope from the east towards the southern side of the southern island. This is thought to have provided the main approach the main approach in the later period of occupation. The moated site may have originated in C12 as the seat of the de Scalers family, the descendants of Hardwin de Scalers to whom Caxton was given by William I. The northern island is thought to be the earliest part of the complex. The arrangements of platforms and the scale of the moat have been compared with the rectangular motte at Burwell Castle near Newmarket, which is known to have been built in the mid C12, during the period of civil wars known as "The Anarchy". It has been suggested that the two sites were contemporary, both built around 1143 as part of a series of fortifications intended to contain the rebellion of Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex. The earliest clear documentary evidence to the site, however, dates from 1312, when it was occupied by a dower house of Lady Eleanor de Freville. The expansion of the complex, with additional islands, fishponds and warren may be a reflection of this later period, and it remains possible that the elaborate appearance of the northern island resulted not from a need for defence, but to create a more prestigious dwelling reflecting the status of the later inhabitants. (EH Scheduling Report 1996)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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