Rennesley Garden Wood, Hertfordshire

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameRennesley Garden Wood, Hertfordshire
Alternative NamesRennesley Gardenwood; Wadesmill; Standon
Historic CountryHertfordshire
Modern AuthorityHertfordshire
1974 AuthorityHertfordshire
Civil ParishThundridge

Circular earthen mound 12.5m diameter and 1.3m high surrounded on N, S and E sides by a ditch. This is square in plan, c9m wide and up to 1.8m deep, and now dry. Age and function unclear; it has been described as a moat or a barrow and on the OS 6" map as the site of a castle. In good condition (KAT (HCC). Site visit, Jan 1995).

It was already considered to be a 'Moat' and '(Site of) Castle' in 1880. The 1880 map shows the 'moat' as three arms, apparently still water-filled. The two corners were not quite at right-angles (so it was not quite square), and the arms were 21, 26, and 22m long.

The Scheduled Monument description calls this 'the most interesting of the moated mounds in Herts… a mound c11m square and 1.87m in height, standing on a square platform… (and) surrounded on three sides by a moat'. The moat is dry; the site is covered in woodland (which is not ancient). Its date is unknown, and its form peculiar.

It stands on high ground overlooking a slope down to the river to the east. It may be an elaborate post-medieval prospect mound, but the topography suggests it might be an older earthwork adapted for this purpose. Further earthworks lie to the west and north (Secker), and may extend into Rennesley Garden Wood. Secker suggests that the earthworks to the west could be a medieval manorial centre; a manor of Rennesley is documented. (Hertfordshire HER)

A rectangular enclosure with a ditch on the west side and a moated mound in the SW corner, lies to the south of Rennesley Garden Wood. The moat is square and the mound, in fairly good condition and probably sepulchral, does not appear to have been excavated

(Aylott; RCHME)

On a ridge within a wood, is a circular earthern mound, enclosed on the NS and E sides by a ditch, square in plan, and now dry.

The mound is 12.5m in diameter and 1.3m high. The ditch is c 9.0m wide and up to 1.8m deep, enclosing an area c 19.0m square. There is no evidence of it ever having continued on the W side. Outside the S and part of the E arm is a bank c 6.0m wide and 1.0m high, which is probably a linear spoil heap. This is an unlikely defensive structure.

According to the farmer at Rennesley, fragments of pottery have been found in the central area, but what type and by whom he did not know.

The mound is typical of a BA bowl barrow in shape size and the enclosure has the appearance of an incomplete homestead moat. But taken together no logical explanation is forthcoming (F1 NKB 12-NOV-71).

In January 2001, English Heritage carried out a Level 1 field investigation of the site, which is essentially as described by previous investigators. The enclosure is formed in part by a series of rectangular fishponds, all of which have been subject to relatively recent cleaning and recutting.

Source 4 (NKB 12-NOV-71) is correct in asserting that the so-called Bronze Age bowl barrow cannot be logically explained in the context of the surrounding medieval moat. This is because the mound is almost certainly a post-medieval windmill mound. It shows no signs of having been disturbed, which might be expected were it a barrow. It occupies a position on the brow of the hill, which would be ideal for a windmill. A mature oak tree at least ?150 years old standing on the side of the mound suggests that the windmill cannot have survived into the mid 19th century (Field observation at Level 1 on TL 31 NE 15). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

On low hill side overlooking Thundridge, where the Ermine Street crosses the River Rib. 900m from Thundridge parish church. Probably the site of the manor house of Rennesley. The records for this manor are scant. Does this suggest early abandonment as a residence with the manor merely become the income from rented land? Regardless of the tenurial history the physical topography is not suggestive of a motte castle.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL354180
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 49 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 221
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1912, VCH Hertfordshire Vol. 3 p. 360 online transcription
  • RCHME, 1910, An inventory of the historical monuments in Hertfordshire (London: HMSO) p. 209 no. 11 online transcription


  • Aylott, 1906, 'Earthworks at Temple Chelsing and Rennesley' Transactions of the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society Vol. 3.2 p. 133-4


  • Secker, Dan, 1997, (Plan of) Rennesley Castle and Rennesley Furneaux manor.