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CHER Number:00421
Type of record:Monument
Name:The Old Manor House, Cretingsbury


A Norman motte castle later incorporated into a large and elaborate moated site. The Old manor house was also know as Cretingsbury or Cottingsbury and belonged to Sir Adam de Creting who died in 1294.

Grid Reference:TL 115 630
Parish:Great Staughton, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

  • MOAT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOTTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds:

  • SHERD (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Events:

  • RCHME survey of Cretingsbury earthworks, 1999

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument () 1009590: The Old Manor House, Cretingsbury: a motte castle and moated manor house

Full description

The Old Manor House, Cretingsbury: a motte castle and moated manor house.

R1, Watson says the underground chambers are still to be found and that it is said the remains of the Old Manor House were used for building the walls of the Garden of Staughton and for Crown Farm in 1815.

S2, At Old Manor Farm, about 1 mile SW of the church, has an inner and outer ditch; the inner is of oval form and encloses a low mound, possibly a motte. The outer moat is quadrangular and double at the SW angle and at the S side.

S3, This interesting earthwork, although called a Manor House and not a castle, nevertheless partakes so much of the motte and bailey type that it may be included in class E. Its rectangular form no doubt betokens a late date. It was the manor house of Sir Adam de Creting (died 1294) and thereby became possessed of the greater part of Great Staughton. The earthwork stands on high ground, sloping away rapidly to the N and S, but fairly level on the other two sides, and comprises a rectangular space about 650 feet long by 430 feet wide, enclosed by a fairly wide and deep moat with a well defined bank both on inside and out. The outer bank, which varies considerably in width, stands some 4 feet to 5 feet above the adjoining ground and 6 feet to 8 feet above the dry bottom of the moat. On the inside the rampart averages 9 feet wide at the top and stands about 18in above the level of the ground inside the Inclosure. In the middle of the Inclosure, towards the N end, is a roughly circular inner moat inclosing a mound, very suggestive of the earlier motte, and itself some 5 feet or more above the level of the bailey. This inner moat has an extension at the NW corner which scarcely reaches the outer moat. The moat round the bailey is now dry except on the S side and part of the W where there is still water, and it shows a depth of 6 feet to 9 feet from the dry bottom to the top of the rampart, or 5 feet to 7 feet from the water line. The moat round the motte is still wet, and its water line is about 5feet below the level of the bailey and 10 feet below the top of the motte. Along the S side and SW corner of the bailey are two long ponds which have somewhat the appearance of a strengthening of the defences on these sides, but it is difficult to see how they could have served that purpose; perhaps they were fish ponds. The present entrance to the bailey is on the E side, where the moat is filled up to form a roadway in, and a similar entrance, close to it, has been made into the motte. At the NW corner a cart path has been cut through the outer bank into the bottom of the moat and then up and over the inner bank. Some farm buildings and a cottage have been built in the NW corner. Subject to these slight alterations this earthwork appears to be in a very perfect condition. The motte is now surrounded with a hedge and a belt of trees on the edge of the moat, and the space within this hedge is now a stack yard. The ground here is highest towards the NE, and at the SW corner it shelves down rather rapidly towards the moat, a configuration possibly due to the removal of buildings. The place is now known as the Old Manor House.

S4, This site although called a Manor House seems to have much of the character of a motte and bailey fortress. It was the Manor House of Sir Adam de Creting (d 1294), who married one of the three co-heiresses of William de Croll (d 1274). It stands on high ground and the fine outer moat encloses an area of about 198m by 131m. Near the middle of the enclosure a low mound very suggestive of the earlier motte. Some farm buildings and a cottage have been built in the NE corner of the outer enclosure, but there is now no other building on the site. The name Cottingsbury does not seem to be known locally, now it is called the Old Manor House. Interior platform stands to 3m - 4m approximately from the ditch bottom in several places. There is a slight internal bank. The moat which is dry throughout most of its length is approximately 2m wide at its base and fringed with mature oak, ash, sycamore and hawthorn except to the N where there is low hawthorn scrub only on outer edge. Trees are pollarded to the S where the moat is broader and deeper. To the SE moat is filled with weed and bulrushes and edged with grass. The entrance to the enclosure would seem to be on the NE side where the foundations and the jumbled back show the site of the buildings mentioned in (1). The interior of the enclosure is covered in rough grass and thistles, there is a pond in the SW corner of rectangular shape. The circular inner moat wet throughout 3m wide in places encloses a motte approximately 50m across which rises approximately 4m from ditch bottom. The interior of the motte is covered by rough grass low scrub and nettles elder and hawthorn with a few mature trees. Entrance is to NE aligned with outer enclosure entrance. An arm or long pond stretches N from motte ditch some 4m - 5m broad and wet with rushes. There appear to be earthworks in the outer enclosure to the N. I would agree that the site would appear to be that of a motte and bailey complex rather then a manor house. Now that the buildings are no longer extant, should this excluded area now be included in the whole complex?

O6, Visit following alert by neighbouring farmer via Hunts DC. Hedges around site have been removed, exposing outer bank. Some scrub clearance inside, using heavy machinery. Paterson H has been notified and will be visiting new owner.

O7, The motte is c 2m in height and 50m in diameter. Building materials including stone and handmade brick fragments are scattered on the top. The mound is surrounded by a waterfilled ditch c 12m wide by up to 3m deep. A channel leaves the W arm of the ditch at a tangent and runs N towards the outer moat. Access to the motte is via a causeway on the NE side. The castle was later enclosed by a large sub-rectangular moated site measuring up to 260m N - S by 165mE - W and is defined by a waterfilled ditch 12m wide and 3m deep, The N arm is linked to the motte ditch, the flow originally controlled by a sluice. The N, W and S arms of the ditch have an outer bank 7m wide and 1,5m high, while on the E arm the outer bank has been eroded so that it is only clearly visible near the N end. There are minor entry points to the island at the NW and SW corners and on the S arm, but the main access is via a causeway on the E arm. The W, S and E arms of the ditch have an internal bank 1m high and 5m wide. At the S of the island is a complex of six fishponds. In the NE corner of the moat are the remains of buildings associated with the former Old Manor Farm, now demolished down to its foundations. There is an open well shaft in the vicinity of the ruins surrounded by a post and wire fence. The modification of a castle motte into a manorial moated site is rare, in this case the latter being particularly complex in form. Environmental evidence enabling reconstruction of the economy of the site may be recovered from waterlogged silts of the ditches, fish ponds, well shaft and also from buried land surfaces beneath the motte mound and moat banks.

O9, Reports building debris including bricks, timbers, metal work, possibly remains of field barn, though some woodwork shows traces of white paint. Old box trees on the inner bank may be the remains of a hedge. Box not thought to be indigenous to Huntingdonshire. Coppiced sycamore also on the site. Many oyster shells seen lying on the surface.

R4. Madingley Hall student project found remains of CBM in moat
Function: domestic
Finished? yes
Occupation: C13?
Relationship to surrounding in high, commanding position

Walsh, S., An Archaeological Survey of The Old Manor House, Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire (Unpublished report). SCB19017.

Taylor, A., Castles of Cambridgeshire (Bibliographic reference). SCB19242.

RCHME, 1999, RCHME Survey (Unpublished report). SCB19018.

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SCB3188.

OS Corr 6in (Map). SCB9906.

Watson, Rev HG, 1916, A History of the Parish of Great Staughton (Bibliographic reference). SCB15653.

<4> Bedford Borough NMP, 2018, LIDAR TL1163/TL1162 Environment Agency 1M DTM Jan 1998 - Sep 2014 (Geospatial data). SCB54317.

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished report: Walsh, S.. An Archaeological Survey of The Old Manor House, Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire.
---Unpublished report: RCHME. 1999. RCHME Survey.
---Bibliographic reference: Taylor, A.. Castles of Cambridgeshire.
<R1>Aerial Photograph:
<R2>Map: OS Corr 6in.
<R3>Bibliographic reference: Watson, Rev HG. 1916. A History of the Parish of Great Staughton.
<4>Geospatial data: Bedford Borough NMP. 2018. LIDAR TL1163/TL1162 Environment Agency 1M DTM Jan 1998 - Sep 2014.