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Well and Chapel Woods, Watton

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Watton At Stone.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.
Medieval County of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL28231901
Latitude 51.85349° Longitude -0.13883°

Well and Chapel Woods, Watton 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.


Two adjacent earthworks in Well and Chapel Woods, the latter possibly the site of a chapel. When seen in circa 1908, Well Wood enclosure was described as sub-circular with a well-defined bank and ditch on the East, the ditch being the more oustanding feature. The enclosure in Chapel Wood appeared to be triangular with a double bank and ditch on the North, the banks being the more outstanding. At the time, it was considered that the earthworks represented a moat. An excavation within the Chapel Wood enclosure by Datchworth Local History Group in 1955 revealed a slight raised platform, the packed flint foundations of a building oriented ENE-WSW, measuring 8.0m by 5.5m: a scatter of Mediaeval roofing tile was present. It is possible that this is the remains of a chapel. Field investigation in 1990 found the sites to be badly disturbed, and the chapel site 'unintelligible'. There may be a stratigraphic relationship between the two sites. (PastScape)

This moated site with its associated triangular enclosure is highly unusual for its class. The Well Wood site is made unusual through its association with the Chapel Wood site. Imported Caen stone ware indicates that the Chapel was not merely an ancillary place of worship but that it was a religious site of major significance, reflecting the wealth and status of the landowner. Both sites demonstrate the high potential for the survival of archaeological remains.
The monument includes the remains of a medieval moated enclosure next to a contemporary non-moated enclosure of high religious status. The Well Wood moated site consists of an irregular rectangular enclosure orientated NE-SW and measuring 175m by 90m in overall dimension including the 10 m wide moat. There is an inner bank which survives in places up to a height of 2.5m. There appears to be an entrance causeway on the SW side. No internal earthworks are visible although oyster shells and medieval pottery have been noted in the centre of the island suggesting (earlier) occupation. Immediately to the south of the moat is the Chapel Wood site. This monument includes the remains of a double enclosure with a small chapel standing in the middle of it. The outer enclosure is triangular in shape with its longest side measuring 270m. It consists of a dry ditch 5m wide with an internal bank 1m high. There is an entrance on the NW side opposite the entrance to the second inner enclosure. The latter is subrectangular in form measuring some 50m by 65m with an inner bank and ditch of similar shape and size to the external earthwork. The entrance to the inner enclosure is through slightly inturned earthworks which lead to the remains of a small stone faced chapel which has been partly excavated. Only a few pieces of masonry and a low hump mark the remains of the Chapel. Finds of imported stonework indicate this to be a very high status ecclesiastical site. (Scheduling Report)

'A scatter of early medieval pottery appears on the surface, and a 12C Caen-stone mortar was found' within the enclosure' (Herts HER ref Rook)

Clearly a high status Norman site with earthwork defences although, apparently, not of sufficient strength for this site to be considered a castle. Now isolated from settlement but close to Roman road. The tenurial history of Watton is complex with one sub-tenancy held by minor serjeanty service. However the Abbot of Westminster Abbey also had a manor here and it may be possible this site represents his manor house since such a cleric would be expected to have a notable chapel.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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