Castlefacts

England - East Midlands - Northamptonshire - Braybrooke Castle

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The earthwork remains at Braybrooke are well preserved and at least two major periods of activity are represented, the first by the settlement remains, the second by the moated manor and its associated features. Structural and artefactual evidence will survive within both moated sites providing evidence for the original layout of buildings, whilst the accumulated fill of the moat ditches and the fishponds will retain information about the economy and environment of the site's inhabitants. Our understanding of the moated manor and the settlement is enhanced by the survival of documentary sources which offer dates and descriptions of the activities which occurred at the site.

The monument, which is divided into two areas, is situated on the eastern outskirts of the village of Braybrooke and includes the earthwork and buried remains of a medieval moated manor known as Braybrooke Castle and its associated enclosures and water control features. The monument also includes parts of a medieval settlement site and a second moated site which is situated to the south east.

In the early 14th century Thomas de Latimer was granted a licence to strengthen his manor house at Braybrooke and documentary sources indicate that the moated house was constructed at this time. The manor passed to the Griffin family in the early 15th century, but by the mid-16th century the buildings were in a poor condition. They were finally pulled down in 1633 and replaced by a farmhouse which was itself demolished in 1960.

The earthwork and buried remains of the moated site, which measures approximately 80m square, lie within a larger rectangular enclosure which is bounded by a ditch to the east, by a ditch and bank to the south and a pond to the west and north

These enclosure ditches form part of the water management system associated with the moated manor and include ponds, fish breeding tanks and further water channels, originally fed from a west-flowing brook situated to the north. To the north of the moated site is a large rectangular pond which is bounded along its west and north sides by a large retaining bank. It is now dry and the interior retains evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation. At its eastern end is a smaller pond, almost 3m deep, which is joined to the former by two channels which in turn form two sides of a small raised island. To the west of the moated site, and adjacent to the southern side of the large pond, are a series of inter-connecting fishponds that take the form of rectangular flat-topped mounds surrounded by ditches. Three have shallow depressions or ponds within them which have been interpreted as fish-breeding tanks where small fish were kept until they were large enough to be transferred into the main pond. A further dry, rectangular pond is visible immediately to the south. The area to the east of the moated site is divided into a number of small enclosures or paddocks by a sequence of ditches which also formed part of the manor's water control system.

To the north and south of the moated manor are the remains of a former settlement believed to have either been abandoned as result of shrinkage or deliberately cleared prior to the construction of the moated site. The earthworks to the north of the brook include hollow ways, one of which connects with an existing village lane at its west end, a number of linear crofts and several building platforms. Ridge and furrow is visible within some of the crofts and also to the north and east of the settlement earthworks. A sample area of these associated remains is included in the scheduling in order to preserve the relationship between the settlement and cultivation remains.

Approximately 100m to the south east of the moated manor site are the remains of a further, smaller, moated site represented by a rectangular mound surrounded by a shallow ditch. This feature is within a separate area of protection. (Scheduling Report)

The castle was apparently situated in an area known as East Hall, so-called to distinguish it from the existing village which was usually called West Hall. The capital messuage, later to be the castle, is first mentioned in an undated document of the mid 12th century. Around 1200 'Henry de Braybroc released to the Abbot and Convent of Pipe well all his rights in the dam which Robert de Braibroc his father had made in Braibroc ... so that the water of the dam may have its course to Henry's fishpond as it used to have'. This suggests that part of the existing fishponds was constructed in the late 12th century. In 1213 the same Henry de Braybrooke was given timber from the Forest of Leicester for build ing 'a fair chamber' at Braybrooke. At the end of the 13th century the manor passed by marriage to the Latimer family and in 1292 they were holding a capital messuage with a garden. In 1303–4 Thomas de Latimer had 'licence to strengthen his manor house at Braybrook with a stone wall and to embattle it' and soon afterwards had 'the roof of his great chamber at Braybrooke of the timber of the Abbot and Convent of Pipewell'. These documents suggest that the existing moated castle site was constructed at this time. Certainly by 1329–30 there was 'a capital messuage inclosed by water, with a close outside the gates', while the 'fishing around the inclosure' was worth nothing. There are a number of later references to the castle, as in 1334–5 when the 'houses within the moat' are mentioned. The castle and manor passed to the Griffin family in the early 15th century, but by the mid 16th century the castle buildings were in poor condition. The Griffins moved to their new home at Dingley in 1549–50 and the castle became a farmhouse. The buildings were finally pulled down in the early 17th century and in 1633 some stone from them was re-used in repairs to Walgrave church. A new farmhouse was then built and this stood until 1960 when it was demolished. This was an L-shaped stone building with mullioned windows of mid 17th-century date.

The castle itself lies in the centre of the site. It has been much damaged by recent agricultural activity and farm buildings, and an old garden still exists on its S. side. The remains suggest that it was little more than a simple square moated island, completely surrounded by a wide ditch. This is still largely undamaged on the E. and N. sides where it is nearly 2 m. deep, though on the W. it is only a shallow depression less than 0.5 m. deep. N. of the castle and lying parallel to the stream is a large pond bounded on the N. and W. by a massive bank up to 2 m. high which retained the water. It is difficult to see from where the water was obtained, for it is considerably higher than the adjacent stream, and a gap through the bank on the N. side, leading to the stream, appears to be an overflow leet. The interior of the pond is covered with ridge-and-furrow up to 7 m. wide but extremely short, especially at the E. end where it is only 15 m. long. This is later than the pond for not only does it ride over the base of the bank on the N. side but in the S.W. corner it also crosses a clear scarp which apparently marks the edge of the former water. At the E. end of the pond is another smaller one, nearly 3 m. deep, joined to the first by two channels which form either side of a large quadrilateral island. To the W. of the castle is a series of rectangular flat-topped mounds, three large ones surrounded by ditches up to 2.5 m. deep, and two small ones bounded by shallow ditches only 0.5 m. deep. The latter have small depressions in them, 1 m. deep, while the easternmost of the large mounds has a rectangular depression 2.5 m. deep. No explanation for these mounds can be given, though it has been suggested that they are fish-breeding tanks (Northants. P. and P., 4 (1971), 306). S. of the mounds, parallel to the modern road, is a large rectangular pond, now dry, extending N. to join the ditch of the easternmost mound. This appears to be a former fishpond. E. of the castle is a series of low banks and shallow ditches forming a set of irregular paddocks. One of them has a small area of ridge-and-furrow within it (Air photographs in NMR and CUAP, AGU 46). (RCHME)

The extensive surviving earthworks make Braybrook seem a large site which is often called a castle. In fact the area of the house is a fairly small square moat of a size usually described as a fortified manor house. The other earthworks probably represent gardens and fish pond complex designed for fish breeding.