Alkborough Countess Close

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameAlkborough Countess Close
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLincolnshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Lincolnshire
1974 AuthorityHumberside
Civil ParishAlkborough

The buried and earthwork remains of a fortified medieval manor house. The monument includes a main enclosure, defined by a bank and external moat ditch, with an annex or second enclosure on the south western side. The moat ditches were almost certainly dry moats and never water-filled. The bank and ditch between the main enclosure and the annex was levelled in 1965-6, but their position can be seen as soil marks and the course of the moat ditch is marked by a slight depression. The north eastern side is the best preserved section of bank and ditch. Here the moat ditch is up to 1.5 metres deep and measures up to 15 metres wide from the top of the internal bank to the outer lip of the ditch. The internal bank runs alongside the ditch and stands up to 3 metres above its base, 1.5 metres above the interior of the enclosure. On the north western side, the level of the interior rises so that there is only a slight bank when viewed from inside the enclosure. From the outside it appears to be up to 3 metres high with the moat ditch continuing with a low external bank. The level of the annex is generally about 0.2-0.3 metres below that of the main enclosure. It has a moat ditch on its north western side up to 2.5 metres deep and 6-8 metres wide with a 1 metre high bank defining its north western side. The main enclosure, which measures 80 metres by 90 metres internally, has a raised area on the western side. This is considered to be the building platform for the main hall. (PastScape)

Countess Close includes substantial upstanding medieval earthworks and will retain additional buried remains including building foundations, rubbish pits, and evidence of both agricultural and small scale industrial activity. Its historical association with Countess Lucy implies that it is an early example of a moated site

The monument's importance is further enhanced by its proximity to Julian's Bower, a rare survival of a medieval turf maze and the subject of a separate scheduling.

The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a fortified medieval manor house located at the top of the scarp above the River Trent floodplain on the south western edge of Alkborough. Antiquarians from Abraham de la Pryme in the 17th century onwards thought that Countess Close was a Roman fortification. Small scale excavations in 1879 failed to find evidence of Roman occupation, but uncovered arch stones and pottery now thought to have been medieval. Stray finds of pottery found since confirm the medieval dating of the monument. Countess Close is thought to owe its name to a Saxon heiress, Lucy, who was countess in her own right of Leicester, Lincoln and Chester and is thought to have been the daughter of William Mallet, recorded as the main land owner in Alkborough by the Domesday Book. She married Ivo Taillebois, nephew of William the Conqueror, who was Peterborough Abbey's tenant at Walcott and who was given land in Alkborough by the abbey sometime before his death in 1104. Countess Lucy went on to remarry twice, with her manor in Alkborough passing to the son of her second husband who in turn gave property to Spalding Priory. In 1147 a chapel was built following the arbitration of a dispute between Spalding Priory and Peterborough Abbey. It is thought that this chapel was built in or near to Countess Close. The monument includes a main enclosure, defined by a bank and external moat ditch, with an annex or second enclosure on the south western side. The moat ditches were almost certainly dry moats and never water filled. The whole monument is aligned with the edge of the 30m high steep scarp above the floodplain of the Trent. The bank and ditch between the main enclosure and the annex were levelled in 1965-6, but their position can be seen as soil marks and the course of the moat ditch is marked by a slight depression. The north eastern side is the best preserved section of bank and ditch. Here the moat ditch is up to 1.5m deep and measures up to 15m wide from the top of the internal bank to the outer lip of the ditch. The internal bank runs immediately alongside the ditch and stands up to 3m above its base, 1.5m above the interior of the enclosure. On the north western side, the level of the interior rises so that there is only a slight bank when viewed from inside the enclosure. From the outside it appears to be up to 3m high with the moat ditch continuing with a low external bank separating it from the steep scarp. The level of the annex is generally about 0.2m-0.3m below that of the main enclosure. It has a moat ditch on its north western side up to 2.5m deep and 6m-8m wide with a 1m high bank defining its north western side before the edge of the scarp. On the western side of the annex there is a slightly raised level area which is considered to have been a building platform for a range of buildings. In the eastern part of the annex there is a broad depression which is characteristic of areas used for holding livestock. The main enclosure, which measures approximately 80m by 90m internally, also has a level raised area on the western side. This is considered to be the building platform for the main hall and associated buildings, possibly including the chapel built in 1147. The stonework found in 1879 came from the south western corner of the main enclosure. On the eastern side the ground is quite stony, which may indicate further building remains or yard surfaces. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Dramatic site on top of steep bank overlooking the mouth of the Trent where it enters the Humber. The location is not as strategic as this may suggest. Clearly a high status site, with evidence of Saxon and earlier occupation.

- 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 ReferenceSE879216
Latitude53.6838188171387
Longitude-0.669350028038025
Eastings487980
Northings421640
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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Books

  • Pevsner, Nikolaus and John Harris; revised by Nicholas Antram, 1989, Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (Harmondsworth) p. 96
  • Loughlin, Neil and Miller, Keith, 1979, A survey of archaeological sites in Humberside carried out for the Humberside Joint Archaeological Committee p. 179-80
  • Dudley H. E., 1949, Early Days in North West Lincolnshire p. 171-3
  • Stukeley, William, 1724, Itinerarium Curiosum Vol. 1 p. 96 Vol. 2 Pl.17

Journals

  • Knowles, G.C., 1974, East Midland Archaeological Bulletin Vol. 10 p. 11, 37

Guide Books

  • Anon, nd, South Humber Heritage Trail Alkborough (South Humber Collection) online copy

Other

  • Bradley, J., Fraser, J. & Steedman, K., 2004, An Archaeological Evaluation at Countess Close, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire
  • Allan Hall, Deborah Jaques, John Carrott and Kathryn Johnson, 2004, Evaluation of biological remains from excavations at Countess Close,
  • Alkborough, North Lincolnshire (site code: CCA2003)_ (Palaeoecology Research Services 2004/13) online copy
  • Alan Vince and Barbara Precious, 2004, Identification of pottery from fieldwalking at Countess Close, Alkborough (CCA 2003) (AVAC Report 2004/48) online copy