Well and Chapel Woods, Watton

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameWell and Chapel Woods, Watton
Alternative NamesDanesfield
Historic CountryHertfordshire
Modern AuthorityHertfordshire
1974 AuthorityHertfordshire
Civil ParishWatton At Stone

Two adjacent earthworks in Well and Chapel Woods, the latter possibly the site of a chapel. When seen in circa 1908, Well Wood enclosure was described as sub-circular with a well-defined bank and ditch on the East, the ditch being the more oustanding feature. The enclosure in Chapel Wood appeared to be triangular with a double bank and ditch on the North, the banks being the more outstanding. At the time, it was considered that the earthworks represented a moat. An excavation within the Chapel Wood enclosure by Datchworth Local History Group in 1955 revealed a slight raised platform, the packed flint foundations of a building oriented ENE-WSW, measuring 8.0m by 5.5m: a scatter of Mediaeval roofing tile was present. It is possible that this is the remains of a chapel. Field investigation in 1990 found the sites to be badly disturbed, and the chapel site 'unintelligible'. There may be a stratigraphic relationship between the two sites. (PastScape)

This moated site with its associated triangular enclosure is highly unusual for its class. The Well Wood site is made unusual through its association with the Chapel Wood site. Imported Caen stone ware indicates that the Chapel was not merely an ancillary place of worship but that it was a religious site of major significance, reflecting the wealth and status of the landowner. Both sites demonstrate the high potential for the survival of archaeological remains.

The monument includes the remains of a medieval moated enclosure next to a contemporary non-moated enclosure of high religious status. The Well Wood moated site consists of an irregular rectangular enclosure orientated NE-SW and measuring 175m by 90m in overall dimension including the 10 m wide moat. There is an inner bank which survives in places up to a height of 2.5m. There appears to be an entrance causeway on the SW side

No internal earthworks are visible although oyster shells and medieval pottery have been noted in the centre of the island suggesting (earlier) occupation. Immediately to the south of the moat is the Chapel Wood site. This monument includes the remains of a double enclosure with a small chapel standing in the middle of it. The outer enclosure is triangular in shape with its longest side measuring 270m. It consists of a dry ditch 5m wide with an internal bank 1m high. There is an entrance on the NW side opposite the entrance to the second inner enclosure. The latter is subrectangular in form measuring some 50m by 65m with an inner bank and ditch of similar shape and size to the external earthwork. The entrance to the inner enclosure is through slightly inturned earthworks which lead to the remains of a small stone faced chapel which has been partly excavated. Only a few pieces of masonry and a low hump mark the remains of the Chapel. Finds of imported stonework indicate this to be a very high status ecclesiastical site. (Scheduling Report)

'A scatter of early medieval pottery appears on the surface, and a 12C Caen-stone mortar was found' within the enclosure' (Herts HER ref Rook)

Gatehouse Comments

Clearly a high status Norman site with earthwork defences although, apparently, not of sufficient strength for this site to be considered a castle. Now isolated from settlement but close to Roman road. The tenurial history of Watton is complex with one sub-tenancy held by minor serjeanty service. However the Abbot of Westminster Abbey also had a manor here and it may be possible this site represents his manor house since such a cleric would be expected to have a notable chapel.

- 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 ReferenceTL282190
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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
  • Renn, D.F., 1971, Medieval Castles in Hertfordshire (Chichester: Phillimore) p. 25 (doubtful)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1912, VCH Hertfordshire Vol. 3 p. 158-65 online transcription
  • Montgomerie, 1908, Page, Wm (ed), VCH Hertfordshire Vol. 2 p. 122-3


  • Anon, 1970, 'Chapel Wood, Well Wood' Herts Archaeological Review Vol. 1 p. 20
  • 1906, 'Danesfield, Watton' Transactions of the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society Vol. 3.2 p. 175-77


  • Tony Rook. 2004. Archaeological assessment, evaluation and watching brief: All Saints' churchyard, Datchworth (R1583). archaeological assessment.