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Fortification Wood, Navestock

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Defence of Navestock; defensum de Nastok

In the civil parish of Navestock.
In the historic county of Essex.
Modern Authority of Essex.
1974 county of Essex.
Medieval County of Essex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ54979833
Latitude 51.66244° Longitude 0.23931°

Fortification Wood, Navestock has been described as a Fortified Manor House although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Uncertain.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


In Fortification Wood in Navestock is a low bank and shallow moat, measuring 350 ft. by 240 ft. and surrounding about 4 acres. Within these confines, at the southern end, is a later excavation which is now a pond. The earthwork existed in 1222, and may have been for military use or merely to protect growing timber (VCH 1903; VCH 1956).
The Fortification Wood enclosure falls in the category of earthworks loosely described as "manorial enclosures." The main enclosure is only part of a complex suggested by further banks and ditches leading away to the NW and SE, but all traces elsewhere have been destroyed. The main enclosure is not homogenous and the depth of the enclosing ditch varies from 2.0m. to 0.5m., with seemingly original causeways separating different stretches at different levels. The site, however, is almost certainly an occupation site as there can be little doubt the partly water-filled depression in the SW corner is a fishpond. (Field Investigators Comments-F1 CFW 03-SEP-69). (PastScape)

Enclosure on high ground, dropping sharply from south to north. A rectangular site, c350 x 240ft, enclosed by a shallow ditch c30ft wide at the strongest point. There are traces of an inner rampart but much has gone. The ditch is also partly destroyed and was not made to hold water. A deep cutting across the south end is probably later than the enclosure. The work appears to be defensive (RCHME 1923).
OS 1969 considered it to be in the category of "manorial enclosures". The main enclosure was probably part of a larger complex suggested by other banks and ditches leading away to the north west and south east. All traces elsewhere of these features have been destroyed. The main enclosure is not homogeneous and the depth of the ditch varies. There are seemingly original causeways at different levels. "The site however is almost certainly an occupation site as there can be little doubt the partly filled depression in the south west corner is a fishpond". There was no change by the 1975 survey (OS cards).
Appears defensive rather than domestic, therefore cannot be classed as certainly medieval. Plan and profile do suggest a medieval date, however. The site is thickly overgrown so the dimensions given by the RCHM could not be checked. The ditch is interrupted by causeways, a large pond is in the centre and a considerable bank and ditch along the south east side, also a 20m extension to the ditch on the south east side (Scheduling Report). (Essex HER)

NAVESTOCK: Fortification Wood. - About 4 acres are enclosed by a low bank, with shallow moat traceable on three sides and part of the fourth. At the southern end of the enclosure is a deep excavation forming a pond nearly across from east to west, possibly more recent work than the banks. During some period long past, the bank was more exposed to weather and it is consequently reduced in height, while its moat or fosse has been partially filled up by the deposit of leaves of many summers. The dense growth of tangled wood has of late prevented further destruction of the bank, but at the same time it renders detailed examination of the work very difficult. The late Rev. S. Coode Hore, in a paper read before the Essex Field Club in 1894, said he was 'strongly inclined to think this earth- work and wood may be identified with a certain wood known in the year 1222 as The Defence of Navestock. . . .' We find in an ecclesiastical visitation of that date known as the Domesday of St. Paul's the following entry: 'Stephen son of Robert holds . . . half an acre, juxta defensum de Nastok . . .' The expression might suggest the existence of some military work in Navestock, but that the word defensum was applied to any enclosure or fenced ground (see Bailey's Dictionary, 1733). We may fairly conclude that so long ago as 1222 the area was producing timber, but whether the earthwork had previously an independent existence or was simply formed to protect the wood is not apparent.

The site lies midway between the three manor houses recorded in the VCH tenurial history for the parish of Navestock. It does not appear to be a precursor site to any of these manors. It does not seem to be a manorial site and despite the apparent strength of the defenses and the name given to the site it can not be classified as a fortified manor house. It seems to be a woodland/fishpond enclosure of early date. Perhaps the site was contested between the three manors and, as a result, was more strongly defended than usual for such enclosures. However it may be a pre-exisiting enclosure of some early date was converted into a woodland enclosure and later adapted to also be a fish pool site.
What was the conclusion of Sharp and Leach review of 2011?
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This record last updated 27/08/2017 07:06:41

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