Moated Sites in Medieval England: A Reassessment
thesisposted on 22.10.2015, 15:17 by Natasha Coveney
This thesis sets out to reassess medieval moated sites in England in light of up-to-date information, and to investigate a number of key areas: where moated sites were located, why they were dug, who had them dug, and their relationship with their localities. Variations between sites and whether it is possible to make overriding conclusions about moated sites are also considered. A new dataset of moated sites was created for this thesis, to take into account information not used in previous studies. This new dataset of 8452 sites has been used to create a new distribution map of moated sites in England. The thesis explores the implications of this, and the reasons behind the distribution, including the influences of topography and geology, areas of Forest Law, settlement patterns, and social emulation. A new chronology of the construction of moated sites has been created from this new dataset. This chronology has been used to look at how the distribution of moated sites may have changed over time, and who was responsible for the moats dug at different periods. The study then questions whether there is evidence for a single motivation for the use of moats or whether there were multiple influences, and how this may vary from site to site. As well as motivations associated with defence and status, those examined included factors such as the use of moats as fishponds. This study concludes that there is no simple explanation for the presence of a moat at a site. In addition moated sites are considered in relation to the particular social groups responsible for their creation. The evidence is examined to see whether moats were seen as particularly desirable or important for one of these groups, and where there are and are not correlations between size and date, and the social group the moated sites are associated with. Finally, the complex relationship between medieval moated sites and their local landscapes is studied. This includes the location of moats in relation to features contemporary to and older than them, high status features such as parks, and the use of a moat to separate the ‘island’ from the immediate locality. The continued variety between sites is considered in these contexts. The study concludes that moated sites are a highly varied and complex group. This means that there is no one set of rules and explanations that apply to all moated sites, and no simple explanation to why one site was moated while a similar site was not.