Fozy Moss moated site

Has been described as a Rejected Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameFozy Moss moated site
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishSimonburn

The earthwork at Fozy Moss is a possible motte. Its oval-shaped ditch is 18 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep, with an outer bank up to 6 ft. high. There is no evidence of a wall on the inside lip of the ditch. On the internal platform, which is raised above ground level, are traces of a dwelling. To the north is a well-formed circular depression, about 9 ft. deep - seemingly original work: possibly a pond. 'The ditches now stop short on either side of the pond, but the precise value of the intervening bridges of earth could be determined only by excavation'. The feature is connected by a slight causeway to the ridge leading to Sewingshield Castle (Jobey 1961).

The strength of the earthwork suggests a medieval origin, and it is probably a slightly unusual ring motte (F1 WDJ 18-JAN-62).

NY 8176 7069. Moated site and fishpond 1km ENE of Sewingshields on Fozy Moss. Scheduled RSM No 20981. An unusual moated site and an associated causeway situated in a flat, low-lying position on an area of open moorland. The moated site, roughly oval in shape, is enclosed by a ditch 5.5m wide and 1.8m deep, with a well-preserved outer bank standing up to 1.8m high. There is an entrance 3.5m wide through the ditch and bank at the SW. The interior of the enclosure has been raised substantially above ground level; on it, there are traces of buildings represented by three circular depressions and faint traces of banks. One of the depressions is particularly well formed and is situated at the extreme S point of the monument. The N part of the moated site contains a waterlogged circular depression 2.8m deep and 20m in diameter; this is interpreted as a fishpond. A slightly raised causeway 3.5m wide leads away from the entrance of the enclosure in a SW direction across the surrounding marsh for 60m before it is truncated by a drainage ditch. The moated site was probably associated with the medieval manor of Sewingshields and Sewingshields Castle, 600m to the W

(Scheduling Report).

The moated site and fishpond are visible as earthworks on air photographs. It was possible to detect a ditch scoop surrounding the outer bank, which presumably provided material for the construction of the bank. A straight bank extending from the entrance, which Ts on to a drainage ditch, has the appearance of a sodcast boundary bank (recorded in NY 87 SW 292), but has been interpreted as a 'causeway'. However, investigations on the ground, during a field visit did find traces of a bank further west, which may be the remains of a causeway linking the site to Sewingshields Castle (Oblique aerial photograph reference number NMR NY8170/11 (TMG 13885/45) 13-MAY-1992).

The site was briefly perambulated during a reconnaissance visit to the Hadrian's Wall area to examine sites and landscapes for possible survey. Although detailed assessment of the earthworks was not possible due to time and the obscuring effect of lying snow, enough was seen to suggest that the monument is more likely to be some form of prehistoric enclosure, probably non-utilitarian or ceremonial as suggested by Welfare (Welfare, H, 2002, 'The Uplands of the Northern Counties in the First Millennium BC', 74, in Brooks, C, Daniels, R and Harding, A (eds) Past, Present and Future: The Archaeology of Northern England (AASDN Res Rep 5)), perhaps with later re-use of the interior, than a medieval defensive or domestic site.

The enclosure occupies a low knoll surrounded on all sides by bog. Although previously described as defined by a ditch or moat with external bank, the impression on the ground is rather that the ditch has been cut slightly upslope of the base of the knoll, implying that the alleged 'bank' is actually little more than the initial rise-up of the ground surface isolated from the remainder of the knoll by the ditch. The resulting 'rim' of in-situ knoll material has perhaps been enhanced by upcast from the ditch, but much/all of the latter seems to have been thrown inwards to heighten and/or level the interior. The pond at the north is probably a post-medieval beast pond - or just possibly a fishpond as suggested by the scheduling report - but is definitely secondary; the bank that defines it extends beyond and clearly overlies the original course of the enclosure ditch. This stratigraphical relationship is plainly visible on APs (TMG 13892/57 18-MAY-1992, reproduced in Gates, T, 2004, The Hadrian's Wall Landscape from Chesters to Greenhead: an Air Photographic Survey, plate 21 (unpub report for EH and The NT)) and, indeed, on George Jobey's survey plan although he failed to draw the obvious conclusion.

Jobey's survey and accompanying brief account otherwise seem on the whole accurate and well-observed (internal detail could not be checked on account of the lying snow), although it is important to correct the impression given above by compiler 1 (RWE) that Jobey thought the earthwork was a motte. What Jobey actually wrote was that previous authorities had suggested the site was a motte, and that the suggestion was 'probably nearer the mark in a chronological if not structural context' (ie: he believed the site was medieval but not necessarily a motte). The idea that the site might be a motte appears to have originated with Hogg in 1947. Before that it seems to have been classified as a 'camp' (eg, OS survey 1920-46), probably due to Maclaughlan's description of it in 1858 as possibly 'one of those irregular Saxon or Danish camps'. Maclaughlan seems also to have been the first to survey the site - admittedly at small scale - although the site was first recorded by Hodgson in 1840. It was sketch-surveyed at the scale of 8 yards to 1 inch (1:288) by Lt Col G R B Spain on 16 June 1921, but the survey was never published and the plan now only exists in private possession; the plan seems poorly observed and contains obvious inaccuracies anyway.

The knoll lies at the eastern end of a long ridge that extends westwards as far as Sewingshields Castle and beyond, but there seems no reason to link the two sites functionally or chronologically as implied by Jobey and the Scheduling Report: the slight causeway mentioned as linking the monument to the ridge has the appearance of a post-medieval sodcast bank/field boundary. (Marcus Jecock/02-FEB-2010). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Marked as Ring and Bailey on OS map. The dismissal of this as a medieval castle by Marcus Jecock in 2010 is pretty clear but it should be noted that none of the usual accepted castle studies authorities (especially David King's Castellarium Anglicanum ) recorded this even as a possible castle site. This may be because it had been overlooked by them (possible, although King did know Hogg and had worked with him) or because it was dismissed by them. Although sometimes called a 'motte' there is no mound associated with the site. There is nothing to suggest the area has ever been ploughed and this may be the reason possible pre-historic earthworks had survived with a degree of freshness that has suggested a medieval date to some who have viewed the site. The link to Sewingshields Castle is probably contingent although use of this ancient earthwork as a landscape feature, hunting lodge etc. can not be excluded.

- 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 ReferenceNY817707
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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  • MacLauchlan, H., 1858, Memoir written during a Survey of the Roman Wall (London) p. 36-7 online copy
  • Hodgson, J., 1840, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 3 p. 286 online copy


  • Jobey, G., 1961, 'Further notes on rectilinear earthworks in Northumberland: Some medieval and later settlements.' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 39 p. 96-7
  • Hogg, A.H.A. 1947, 'A new list of the native sites of Northumberland' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser4) Vol. 11 p. 176