Low Dinsdale Manor House

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameLow Dinsdale Manor House
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDarlington
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishLow Dinsdale

The moated site at the Manor House is of unusual form with the existence of the outer enclosure and related earthworks, all of which survive in an excellent state of preservation. The circular form of the inner moat suggests a very early date of construction. This form of moat is also rare north of the Humber estuary. This monument, together with other medieval sites of similar and different form which survive in the region, will greatly contribute to our understanding of medieval rural life and economy in Durham. The monument includes a medieval manorial site and related earthworks situated within a double moated enclosure on flat land which rises gently to the west and slopes down to the River Tees on the north. The inner enclosure is roughly circular in shape and is defined by a prominent ditch 15m across and 1m deep. It encloses a flat island which measures 50m east-west by 40m north-south. An entrance way, via a Listed Grade II late medieval bridge on the south-east side of the moat, may represent the position of an original causeway or drawbridge giving access to the island. The site of the medieval manor house is located at the southern end of the island. Although encased and extended, the medieval core of the main block survives in the fabric of the present house, a Listed Grade II-star building. Excavations in the late 19th century uncovered the foundations and lower vaulted storey of a gatehouse to the south-east of the present house. The outer enclosure, an irregular polygon in shape, is formed by a second ditch, shallow on the east side but varying between 1.2m and 2.5m deep on the west and north sides and measuring 8m across. Immediately inside this ditch is a prominent bank measuring 7m across and surviving in places to a height of 1.5m. An original entrance is visible in the south-east which survives as a deep hollowed path breaching the bank and ditch of the outer enclosure

In total, the area enclosed by the outer ditch and bank measures a maximum of 225m east-west by 240m north-south. The area between the outer and inner enclosures is occupied by numerous earthworks, remains of banks, ditches and hollow tracks, some of which appear to be earlier than the moated site as they are truncated by it. Several others are, however, contemporary with, or later than, the moated site and have the appearance of enclosures for holding stock or other agricultural purposes. Immediately north of the inner moat are the remains of an ornamental fishpond, the present form of which is the result of Victorian and later alterations but which may have had a medieval precursor. A large square bowling or croquet green immediately south of the inner moat, which survives as an earthwork feature, is also of relatively recent date. The moated site was the manorial seat of the Surtees family from the 12th century until the 19th century. (Scheduling Report)

In the last decade of the 19th century excavations were made near to the building, 'when the foundations and lower story of a large gate-house, a little to the north-east of the house, were uncovered. In it was a square newel stairway and chambers which had been vaulted. The whole was shortly after covered up again as the excavations were inconveniently near the house. No plans were made.' (VCH ref. Proc. Soc. Antiq. Newcastle, ix, 61)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ346110
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles and Tower Houses of County Durham (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 40
  • Vyner, B.E. (ed), 1990, 'Low Dinsdale, earthworks of the manorial establishment' Medieval Rural Settlement in North-East England (Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland Reserch Report 2)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 140
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus; revised by Elizabeth Williamson, 1983, Buildings of England: Durham (Harmondsworth) p. 356
  • Beresford, Maurice and Hurst, John G., 1971, Deserted medieval villages: studies
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1928, VCH Durham Vol. 3 (London) p. 217- online transcription
  • Gould, Chalkley, 1905, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Durham Vol. 1 (London) p. 357-8 online copy


  • 1899, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 9 p. 61 online copy
  • 1890, Transaction of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland Vol. 4 p. xxii


  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 50 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 49 online copy