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Moated sitesFor most people moats bring to mind impressive expanses of water with the towering walls of a substantial castle on the far side. Here's one of the smaller examples, at the sixteenth century brick-built castle at Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire.
Kirby Muxloe castle.
But people in the twelfth to the sixteenth century would have been more familiar with an abundance of 'domestic' moats. These served a number of purposes. Clearly they helped protect against 'vagabonds' – although not against serious military attack. As with the moats at castles they would have been well-stocked with fish and water fowl. Indeed it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the remains of a moat from a large fish pond. But above all they were status symbols. Someone who made it big in the medieval era needed a moat around his house in the same way their modern counterparts need a gravel driveway with a fleet of 'Chelsea tractors'.
The moat and house at Bardon Hill.
At the risk of too many examples from Leicestershire, here is the much-restored moat and house to the south of Bardon Hill in Charnwood Forest. The medieval house would have been posh for its time. But as well as adding status and providing fish the moat is defending the occupants from ne'er-do-wells.
And the tenant would have needed all the protection he could get because the original house was built for the steward or bailiff responsible for stopping the landowner's deer and such like being poached. Just imagine – you're living in an isolated location and, apart from your employees, everyone living within miles hates you. The moat hopefully made it easier to sleep at night...
Barrowby's medieval moats
So we should not be surprised that there were once at least four and maybe five medieval moats in and around Barrowby.
On the 1888 Ordnance Survey map two sides of a moat are shown clearly to the west of Barrowby Old Hall. Whether the moat originally continued to form a rectangle is unknown – later in the medieval period when moats were mostly for status and for use as rather ornamental fish ponds then 'L'-shaped moats were constructed.
The moat at Barrowby Old Hall in 1888.
According to current OS maps only a short section of the most north-easterly part has survived. From the nearby footpath running along the crest of the ridge the 'cross-section' of a significant earthwork can be glimpsed. Note that the moat is on private property.
Another moat survives at Stenwith, immediately to the north of the remains of a brick-built windmill (and the putative site of an eleventh century water mill). It is to the immediate west of the River Devon.
The moat at Stenwith.
Top: Bing maps (image retreived August 2021).
Above left: Google maps (image retreived August 2021).
Above right: Redrawn from the 1971 OS map. Note the circular structure to the south which is the base of the windmill.
Aerial photographs showing crop marks and earthworks of a moat, crofts, building, platform, fishpond, ridge and furrow and stack stand around Casthorpe House, the site of West Casthorpe. Source.
L.R. Cryer, in his 1979 booklet, refers to another moat near Casthorpe and Newbo, but says that this had been lost to modern road building. (Cryer 1979 p6). Sadly the remains of this moat are not shown on old OS maps so the exact location is not known.
There is also a well-preserved moat at Sedgebrook, very close to the railway line and to the east of the River Devon. This is also on private land.
The moat at Sedgebrook in 1888.
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Articles about BarrowbyBarrowby's location and geology
Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Articles and web links for nearby places
rare seventeenth fonts at Muston, Bottesford and Orston from Project Gargoyle Newsletter 2020
Ironstone quarries of Leicestershire
The Grantham Canal
Croxton Kerrial manor house excavations