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HER Number (PRN):00140
Name:High Ercall Moat
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Conservation Area: High Ercall

Monument Type(s):

  • MOAT (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1901 AD)
  • MOATED SITE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1901 AD)
  • SIEGEWORK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1901 AD)
  • FIELDWORK (17th century to Early 20th century (pre-war) - 1600 AD? to 1901 AD?)


High Ercall medieval moat, recut and enlarged to form Civil War defences.

Parish:Ercall Magna, Telford and Wrekin
Map Sheet:SJ51NE
Grid Reference:SJ 5943 1739

Related records

11870Part of: Ercall Hall, Ercall Magna (High Ercall) (Building)
05596Part of: Medieval manor site, High Ercall (Monument)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA15 - 1991 building recording, survey and excavation at Ercall Hall by BUFAU
  • ESA4346 - 1977 field observation by Shropshire County Council
  • ESA4347 - 1982 field observation by Shropshire County Council
  • ESA4348 - 1965 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA4773 - 2001-2002 WB on Groundworks by SCCAS
  • ESA4902 - 1998 evaluation of SW end of Ercall Hall grounds in advance of development by Cambrian Archaeological Projects Ltd (Ref: CAP Project 110)
  • ESA5085 - 1998 WB on mains and drainage installation in the church and churchyard
  • ESA6105 - 2001 Geophysical Survey at High Ercall by GSB Prospection for Time Team
  • ESA6108 - 2001 investigation of Ercall Hall by Time Team


Large, roughly rectangular moated site surrounding Ercall Hall (dated 1608). Only the N half now survives and the moat is of massive proportions-up to c20m wide and up to c 1.8m deep at its outer face. An enormous inner bank edges the enclosure on its N and E sides, standing up to c 2.5m high. This may date from the C17 Civil War fortifications. At the NE corner are the foundations of a square stone tower or turret. The moat ditch is dry and has a substantial outer retaining bank along its E. side . The S half of the moat has been completely destroyed by buildings and infilling and only a slight scarp survives which represents the S arm of the moat. The moat is probably medieval in origin though greatly altered and enhanced in the C17. M Watson FI 1981 <2>

A skeleton was found in the moat on the SE (churchyard) side in April 1977. The stratification suggested the following sequence: Moat dug in red sand with rapid silt followed by darker slow silt. Above this was a ?destruction level with brick, mortar and sandstone fragments surmounted by walling running SW/NE and SE/NW, possibly a revetment for later landscaping. The male skeleton was orientated with burials in the churchyard and seems to have been cut through from the destruction level, although its exact stratigraphic position had been destroyed . It seems probable that the burial post-dates the destruction of the fortifications subsequent to the C17 Civil War, but antedates the construction of the churchyard wall (SA 16927), which appears to be C18 or C19… I Burrow FI 1977 <3>

Drawbridge alluded to <4>

In 1991 BUFAU were commissioned to excavate trial trenches and survey the earthworks at the Hall (PRN 11870), as well as record the building, in advance of various works proposed for the site. Trenches 1 to 3 were dug to investigate the line of the moat, north of the Hall. Logistical and safety problems prevented total excavation. In all three trenches the outer edge of the ditch was defined, but not the inner edge or the bottom. The ditch was interpreted as one element of a Civil War defensive fortification (documentary evidence of the strengthening of the fortifications in the Civil War is discussed in the report, with the moat being probably deepened, and a drawbridge and defensive towers perhaps constructed). It was not possible to establish whether it followed the line of a pre-existing medieval moat. Instructions to drain the moat after the capture of the Hall imply that it had been water filled. Evidence from Civil War siegeworks elsewhere suggests that beyond the inner edge of the moat would have been an open area and then a substantial earthen rampart. A short stretch of this survives, built of natural sand, probably upcast from the moat. Its outer face is likely to have been reinforced with a gabionage revetment and its inner face revetted, probably with stone. It is possible that the lower stone coursing of the north and west walls of the garden (PRN 16929) to the north of the Hall represent the surviving remnants of that revetment wall with an eastern stretch of wall now only partially visible. The absence today of any trace of a rampart to the west of the Hall indicates its total levelling, whether after its capture or at a later date during the laying out of a garden over the ditch line. Trenches 4, 5 and 7 investigated areas between the Hall and the Arcade (PRN 16928) to the SE. Trench 5 uncovered a massive wall foundation which may be part of a stone tower, perhaps of medieval origin, which is depicted on a watercolour by TF Dukes dating to the late C18/ early C19.Trench 7, adjacent to the arcade, probably indicated that it is a late garden feature, with no structural function. Trench 6 provided evidence for a well preserved yard area, probably of C18 or C19 date, to the rear of the house. The earthworks were surveyed and a hachure plan with spot heights was produced at 1:200 scale. <5>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1: Low score as one of 133 Moated sites; One of less than 10 Fieldworks <9>

A watching brief on a pipe trench along the northwest side of the churchyard in 1998 found the remains of a medieval building and adjacent natural sands across what might otherwise have been presumed to be the missing section of moat. This demonstrated that there was no moat between church and manor either in the medieval period or later; if the moat ever formed a complete circuit then it must either have run further to the west of the church (unlikely) or (more likely) included the churchyard. The Civil War moat seems to have stopped on the northern side of the church and incorporated the building itself as part of the defences <10>

In September 1998 an archaeological evaluation was carried out on an area of grounds in which the southwestern arm of the moat was expected. Two trial trenches both encountered remains of the moat on the expected alignment respecting the estate boundary, and identified three phases of activity relating to its cutting, infilling, and subsequent levelling. The bottom of the moat was not reached during the excavation, but it was at least 4 metres below present ground level. Since no medieval finds were recovered, it is argued that the moat cut encountered in this evaluation was most likely a post-medieval cut, forming a substantial remodelling and enlargement of any pre-existing medieval moat. The excavators note that this may not be the case in other parts of the moat, as it is possible that the 17th century moat may have extended the manor area, thus potentially leaving parts of the medieval moat preserved within its line <11>

In June 2001 a geophysical survey was carried out as part of a Time Team investigation of the High Ercall grounds. An area north of the Hall (Area C) was surveyed in order to establish whether a defensive tower may have stood on the northwest corner of the defensive circuit. Though geophysical survey results initially supported this possibility, it was discounted after excavation. A radar transect of the moat just south of Area C was also surveyed in order to provide a sample of the moat's cross-section using this technique. More survey work was carried out in the churchyard, east and north of the church, to see whether a moat and rampart had ever been put around the church. Resistivity results were inconclusive, but when a radar transect of the area was compared with the sample transect, the surveyors concluded that there was no evidence for a moat and rampart in the surveyed area of the churchyard. They concluded that it was more likely that the church tower itself had been incorporated as a defensive feature in the Civil War defences than that the moat had been extended around the church <12>

The Time Team investigation also cut a trench into the earthworks around the Hall. The results indicated that the massive earthwork rampart (which produced brick material possibly datable to the Civil War period) lies over the former boundary which consisted of a wall rising from a moat. The bank was most likely raised during the Civil War. A further trench was cut in the northwest corner of the earthworks over the anomaly in Area C. This produced evidence of stonework probably belonging to an internal wall of some structure (not identified) <13>

The moat is shown north and south of Ercall Hall on John Rocque's 1746 survey of the manor of High Ercall (<14>, reproduced in <15>). There is no clear indication of a continuous moat alignment at this date, and the southern arm of the moat appears to be partially overlain by farm buildings <16>

A 2001-2002 watching brief on the southern part of the moat (the area evaluated in 1998) confirmed the presence of the southern and part of the western arm of the moat. Again, the bottom of the moat was not reached: only the upper fills were disturbed by the works. Results of the watching brief suggested the moat was somewhat narrower than suggested in 1998 (7m to 8m rather than c14m). A trench cut across the western arm of the moat revealed the presence of a revetment wall on the inner (eastern) side of the moat at that point <17>

In June 2001 Time Team carried out an investigation at Ercall Hall [same event as <13>]. Trench 1 was located on the well preserved moat and bank earthworks, near the stone tower at the corner of the ramparts. The trench confirmed that the ramparts had been raised in height during the civil war. The tower, constructed of well-faced red and yellow sandstone sat on irregular coursed foundations, formed of large pebbles and roughly hewn sandstone blocks including 16th to 17th century brickwork. The foundations were over 2m deep below the make up of the rampart. The tower was horseshoe shaped with the open end facing north and is likely to be part of the garden design of Richard Newport (c 1608), although the solid foundations may suggest a more defensive function. In Trench 8, south of the tower, it was found that the construction of the tower had truncated an earlier wall of roughly hewn red sandstone bonded with yellow sandy mortar, likely to be the curtain wall around the medieval moated manor. A buried soil horizon representing the former rampart surface was c.3.5m lower than its civil war level. A further trench was dug across the moat but this was unable to reach the bottom. Trench 5 sited to test the notion of additional towers along the early curtain wall, found no archaeological deposit, despite the geophysical response in the area (Area C [<12>]. <18>

<00> Shropshire County Council SMR, Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards, SMR Card for PRN SA 00140 (Card index). SSA20722.

<01> Ordnance Survey, 1965, Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ51NE4 (Card index). SSA676.

<02> Watson Michael D, 1982-Dec-17, Site Visit Form, 17/12/1982 (Field recording form). SSA680.

<03.1> Burrow Ian, 1977-Apr-15, Visit Notes, 15/04/1977 (Site visit report). SSA681.

<03.2> Burrow Ian, 1977, Report on Skeleton (TEXT). SSA19962.

<04> Stackhouse-Acton F (Mrs), 1865-1869, Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire (Monograph). SSA675.

<05> Ferris Iain & Litherland Steve J, 1991, Archaeological work at Ercall Hall, High Ercall, Shropshire, in 1991 (Archaeological fieldwork report). SSA674.

<06> Burrow Ian, 1977, Inhumation in Moat (Photograph). SSA678.

<07> Burrow Ian, 1977, Revetment Wall at Edge of Moat (Photograph). SSA679.

<08> Burrow Ian, 1977-Apr/May, High Ercall Hall (Photograph). SSA677.

<09> Horton Wendy B, 1990/ 1991, MPP Evaluation File (TEXT). SSA20084.

<10> Hannaford Hugh R, 1998, A watching brief at St Michael and All Angels' Church, High Ercall, Wrekin (Watching brief report). SSA21072.

<11> Halfpenney I, 1998, Ercall Hall, High Ercall, Shropshire: evaluation report (Excavation report). SSA20916.

<12> Gater J et al, 2002, High Ercall, Shropshire: Geophysical Survey (Geophysical survey report). SSA22871.

<13> Time Team, Time Team webpages (Webpage). SSA22898.

<14> Rocque J, 1746, Survey of the Manor of High Ercall (Map). SSA22899.

<15> Hannaford Hugh R, 2002, A Watching Brief at High Ercall, Telford and Wrekin (Watching brief report). SSA20777.

<16> Gathercole E Clare, 1999/ 2002, Comments by SMR compiler in SMR database (SMR comment). SSA20725.

<17> Hannaford Hugh R, 2002, A Watching Brief at High Ercall, Telford and Wrekin (Watching brief report). SSA20777.

<18> Time Team, 2001, High Ercall Hall, a civil war garrison, Shropshire: an archaeological evaluation (Archaeological fieldwork report). SSA23077.

<19> Newman J & Pevsner N, 2006, Buildings of England: Shropshire, P298 (Monograph). SSA23518.


[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 00140.
[01]SSA676 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1965. Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ51NE4. Ordnance Survey record cards. SJ51NE4.
[02]SSA680 - Field recording form: Watson Michael D. 1982-Dec-17. Site Visit Form, 17/12/1982. SMR site visit form.
[03.1]SSA681 - Site visit report: Burrow Ian. 1977-Apr-15. Visit Notes, 15/04/1977.
[03.2]SSA19962 - TEXT: Burrow Ian. 1977. Report on Skeleton.
[04]SSA675 - Monograph: Stackhouse-Acton F (Mrs). 1865-1869. Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire.
[05]SSA674 - Archaeological fieldwork report: Ferris Iain & Litherland Steve J. 1991. Archaeological work at Ercall Hall, High Ercall, Shropshire, in 1991. BUFAU Rep. 171.
[06]SSA678 - Photograph: Burrow Ian. 1977. Inhumation in Moat. Black and white. 35mm.
[07]SSA679 - Photograph: Burrow Ian. 1977. Revetment Wall at Edge of Moat. Black and white. 35mm.
[08]SSA677 - Photograph: Burrow Ian. 1977-Apr/May. High Ercall Hall. Black and white. 35mm.
[09]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File.
[10]SSA21072 - Watching brief report: Hannaford Hugh R. 1998. A watching brief at St Michael and All Angels' Church, High Ercall, Wrekin. SCCAS Rep. 139.
[11]SSA20916 - Excavation report: Halfpenney I. 1998. Ercall Hall, High Ercall, Shropshire: evaluation report. CAP Rep. 61.
[12]SSA22871 - Geophysical survey report: Gater J et al. 2002. High Ercall, Shropshire: Geophysical Survey. Geophysical Surveys of Bradford Rep. 2001/34.
[13]SSA22898 - Webpage: Time Team. Time Team webpages. See associated files for address.
[14]SSA22899 - Map: Rocque J. 1746. Survey of the Manor of High Ercall.
[15]SSA20777 - Watching brief report: Hannaford Hugh R. 2002. A Watching Brief at High Ercall, Telford and Wrekin. SCCAS Rep. 210.
[16]SSA20725 - SMR comment: Gathercole E Clare. 1999/ 2002. Comments by SMR compiler in SMR database.
[17]SSA20777 - Watching brief report: Hannaford Hugh R. 2002. A Watching Brief at High Ercall, Telford and Wrekin. SCCAS Rep. 210.
[18]SSA23077 - Archaeological fieldwork report: Time Team. 2001. High Ercall Hall, a civil war garrison, Shropshire: an archaeological evaluation. Time Team Series.
[19]SSA23518 - Monograph: Newman J & Pevsner N. 2006. Buildings of England: Shropshire. Buildings of England. P298.
Date Last Edited:Jun 16 2015 10:59AM