Archaeological investigations at a moated site near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, have shed light on the original extent of the medieval enclosure, as well as uncovering material spanning the 12th century almost to the present day.

The remains of the bridge unearthed in the moat
The medieval stone abutments and exposed timbers of the bridge crossing the eastern arm of the moat. [Image: Cotswold Archaeology]

The moat was largely filled in during the late 20th century, and the post-medieval buildings that once lay inside the enclosure were demolished after a fire in 2005, but Cotswold Archaeology uncovered an array of medieval and post-medieval features in the autumn of 2019, and post-excavation analysis has now led to greater understanding of the material uncovered.

Excavation on the western side of the site revealed the remains of 18th- and 19th-century domestic structures. The moat in this area is relatively shallow, just 2m deep in most places, and was found to contain only artefacts dating to the 18th-20th centuries.

In contrast, the northern and eastern arms of the moat turned out to be much deeper, up to 3.5m, with fills rich in organic material below the post-medieval deposits. The earliest fills contained 12th- to 14th-century pottery, while the remains of a medieval bridge were uncovered crossing the eastern arm. This latter construction consisted of finely worked stone abutments and several upright timbers incorporated into large base timbers with mortice and tenon joints. Interestingly, the eastern stone abutment of the bridge was revealed to have suffered a significant failure, which would have made the bridge unusable.

Within the moated enclosure, several later medieval and early post-medieval ditches were identified. These ditches are all cut by the moat’s western arm, revealing that this section of the moat was not medieval.

This discovery suggests that the medieval moated site was originally much larger and that part of it may have been truncated or abandoned when an early post-medieval mill race was built on the western side of the site. The western arm, which survives today, is much later, possibly even 18th-century in date, and runs parallel with the mill race, indicating that it could have been part of a landscaped garden built at the same time as the post-medieval buildings, constructed in an attempt to reinstate the dynamics of a moated site.

A 3D model of the medieval bridge found in the moat can be seen at https://skfb.ly/6QWRH.


This news article appears in issue 363 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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