Castlefacts

England - South East - Hertfordshire - Rickmansworth; The More

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The buried remains of the Manor of the More, a great house of the late medieval period (with antecedents in a moated site dating from C13) lie on the south side of the flood plain of the Colne Valley. The site was excavated between 1952 and 1955, demonstrating two main phases of occupation before and after 1426, when a royal licence was granted for the construction of a large building. Three main periods of construction were identified prior to this date as well as three successive periods of adaption and aggrandisement. The earliest reference to the site dates from circa 1182 when the Manor of the More was granted by the Abbot of St Albans to Adam Aignel. Excavation uncovered no evidence as early as this, although by circa 1250-1300 (Period I) a small double island moated site had been constructed. The intervening arm, separating the two moats, was filled in around 1300-1350 (Period II) and partly overlain by a kitchen building. The construction work in Period III (c1350-1429) may coincide with the death of John Aignel in 1364 and saw the development of a new timber house on the northern island. This house was swept away in 1426 when Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, William Flete and others (Bishop of Durham), obtained a charter licensing them to construct an elaborate moated manor house. The house, constructed shortly thereafter (period IV) overlay the former dwelling. licensed again in 1458 to Sir Ralph Boteler. In the 1460s the house passed to George Neville, Archbishop of York, who elaborated on the work of his predecessors up to 1472 (period V). In 1522 the manor was in the hands of Cardinal Wolsley and was thus greatly embellished (period VI) with the addition of new wings and formal gardens. In 1531, the year after the cardinal's fall from favour, the manor was ceded to the Crown. Work continued on the complex (period VII), perhaps completing projects begun by Wolsey which include reversing the effects of neglect in the gardens

Other changes included creating King's and Queen's lodgings and a hunting park. (PastScape)

The Manor of the More ranked amongst the most impressive of the later medieval great houses of noblemen and high churchmen, comparable in its prime with Hampton Court and other royal palaces such as Richmond. Although now buried beneath layers of imported soil, the archaeological remains survive well. The part excavations between 1952 and 1955 have demonstrated the wealth of structural evidence on the island of the inner courtyard, and reports of the appearance of the earthworks in the southern courtyard (the Base Court) prior to their burial clearly show that a similar degree of preservation is to be expected. The excavations also found that waterlogged conditions in the deep features allowed the preservation of organic remains from the period of occupation, including elements of timberwork as well as evidence for the diet, and even the clothing of the occupants. The moated gardens to the north and west are also considered to survive well in this buried condition. The ditches will contain further artefactual evidence for the date of construction and duration of use, and the islands are thought to retain evidence for the layout of the gardens which, from a reference in 1530, are likely to have included knot designs. The history of the manor is well documented and its development is thus associated with some of the most influential members of society in the late 15th and 16th centuries, including Archbishop Neville and Cardinal Wolsey, and later Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. During this latter period the manor may technically have become a royal palace, although most of the essential construction work leading to the final appearance of the complex had been started, if not completed, in Wolsey's time. The evidence of earlier occupation on the site is also of considerable significance. The combination of evidence from documentary sources and limited excavation demonstrates a continuity of habitation spanning nearly three centuries and provides detailed information on the evolution of the character of the site throughout this time. Apart from where the remains of earlier structures and other features were destroyed by the construction of the great house, the physical remains of the early phases have been shown to survive remarkably well.

The buried remains of the Manor of the More, a great house of the late medieval period (with antecedents in a moated site dating from the 13th century) lie on the south side of the flood plain of the Colne Valley, some 2km upriver from the centre of Rickmansworth, in an area now used as the sports fields for Northwood Preparatory School which lies immediately to the east. The circuits of moats surrounding the main house, its courtyards and gardens, remained visible as earthworks until 1937, after which it was first partly infilled and then completely overlain by imported soil by 1957. Recent work has shown this overburden to be anything up to 1m in depth, and only slight undulations now mark the position of the principle features. The site (specifically the central island) was partly excavated between 1952 and 1955, demonstrating two main phases of occupation before and after 1426, when a royal license was granted for the construction of a large and elaborate building. Three main periods of construction were identified prior to this date as well as three successive periods of adaptation and aggrandisement, all of which can be linked to documentary sources reflecting the changing use and status of the site. The earliest reference to the site dates from c.1182 when the Manor of More was granted by the Abbot of St Albans to Adam Aignel, whose family retained the property for nearly two centuries. Excavation uncovered no evidence as early as this, although by c.1250-1300 (Period I) a small double island moated site had been constructed, in which the northern island (within the area of the later inner courtyard) served an ancillary purpose with traces of superficial building, and the southern island (largely destroyed by the later moat surrounding the inner courtyard) probably contained the principle dwelling. The intervening arm, separating the two moats, was subsequently filled in around 1300-1350 (Period II) and part overlain by a small rectangular building with dwarf flint walls containing two ovens suggesting use as a kitchen, probably still associated with a main dwelling to the south. The construction work in Period III (c.1350-1429) may coincide with the death of John Aignel in 1364 and the hiatus in the succession which followed until 1366 with his widow's marriage to Andrew Bures. This period saw the development of a new timber house on the northern island, with a main hall separating a kitchen to the west from a solar to the east and several other rooms including an upper storey over the eastern end. This house was swept away after 1426 when Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, Thomas, Bishop of Durham, William Flete and others, obtained a charter licensing them to 'enclose, crenellate, enturret and embattle with stones, lime and brik, their manor of More in Rykmersworth'. This house, constructed shortly thereafter (period IV), enclosed three sides of a courtyard which overlay the former dwelling and was entered via a gate house and drawbridge on the south side. Only on this side did the courtyard front directly onto the new moat, which measured up to 17m across; elsewhere the building was separated from the ditch by a berm of c.10m. The earlier moats were infilled, and where the new foundations coincided with these features the builders constructed relieving arches founded on piers of chalk rubble. The lower parts of the walls were faced with dressed chalk, above which was a string course of tile and then brick in English bond. Corner turrets have been supposed from traces found during excavation. The manor passed through several hands after 1456, including those of the Abbot of St Albans (the titular lord) and Sir Ralph Boteler, before being sold to George Neville, Archbishop of York, in the 1460s. The Archbishop elaborated on the work of his predecessors during this period up to 1472 (when Neville was arrested for treason and the property sequestered by Edward IV). A vaulted cellar was inserted beneath the east range, additions were made to the plumbing system and doubtless to the decoration of the apartments (period V). The manor and the goods therein, seized at the time of his arrest were said to value at least 20 million lire. In the years leading to the end of the 15th century the manor passed between the King, the Dean and Canons of St George's, Windsor and the Earl of Oxford. Reverting to the Crown on Oxford's death in 1513, the manor was granted to the Bishop of Durham, and in 1520 the lease was held once again by the Abbot of St Albans. In 1522 Cardinal Wolsey was confirmed in this position, and thus the manor came into his possession and was greatly embellished (period VI). New wings, also in brick, were added to the east and west and a further range constructed on the berm to the north. An outer walled courtyard (the Base Court) was added to the southern side of the moat, with lodgings on three sides, corner towers and a gatehouse. A second rectangular moat, broadly symmetrical to that surrounding the inner courtyard, was created on the north side (now partly overlain by a railway embankment) enclosing a formal garden which was bisected by a timber covered walkway or gallery leading from the main island. Further moated garden areas served by interconnecting leats extended to the south west of the great house, the main rectangular enclosure measuring in total some 130m by 60m with a smaller triangular island abutting the western end. These features, also infilled before 1957, may have been created at this time. The important 'Treaty of the More' introducing a period of peace with France was signed at The More in 1525. The French ambassador Du Bellay visiting The More two years later considered it more splendid than Hampton Court. Henry VIII visited the More on several occasions during Wolsey's tenure and, in 1531, the year after the cardinal's fall from favour, the manor was ceded to the Crown by the next Abbot of St Albans. Work continued on the complex (period VII), perhaps completing projects begun by Wolsey and certainly reversing the effects of neglect in the gardens which were so evident at the time of Catherine of Aragon's sojourn there in the winter of 1531-2. Henry continued to use The More as an occasional residence and frequent meetings of the Privy Council took place there in 1542. Accounts of decoration, embellishment and repair are recorded between 1534 and 1541. During this time the royal apartments in the inner court were divided into a 'King's Side' and 'Queen's Side', connecting in the centre of the north range and containing the usual sequence of public and private chambers, many of which were elaborately decorated with ornate plasterwork and gilt. Other features, probably originating with Wolsey, included galleries and a chapel. After the death of Edward VI in 1553 the manor entered a period of decline, hastened by structural problems no doubt exacerbated by the subsidence of the earlier ditches. A last attempt at remedial work is recorded between 1547 and 1552, and although a detailed survey of the buildings in 1568 reflects their former magnificence, it is clearly a record of decay. The house was leased to the Earl of Bedford in 1576, but by 1598 it was recorded in ruins. The third Earl, built a new house, the forerunner of the present More Park mansion, on the hill to the south west around 1617, within the area of deer park which formerly accompanied The More. The scheduling includes the known extent of the buried remains of the great house complex of 1426 onwards, together with the associated garden areas and the remains of the earlier manor buildings and related features which it replaced. (Scheduling Report)

The licence of 1426 also allow the emparking of 600 acres of land in Rikmersworth and Watford. Site covered with dumped clay.