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A moat is a wide, water-filled ditch partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground which provided the site for one or more buildings (domestic, religious or agricultural), or for horticulture, or for both. Moats may be situated in open countryside or within rural settlements.


Documentary and archaeological evidence suggests that the construction of moats began in the mid-late 12th century and continued into the early 16th century; the peak of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350. The origins and inspiration for the moat building tradition probably lay in the ring-works and castles of the early medieval period, and it is possible that moats with a round ground plan represent the earliest form. Some moats continue to be used today and the buildings found within moats range in date from the medieval period through to the 20th century.


Hartley Court Moat in Burnham BeechesMoats are widely scattered throughout England, but by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern parts, particularly in the Midlands, and in Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Buckinghamshire. Beyond these core areas the frequency of examples is much less. They cluster in northern Buckinghamshire but there are a few examples in the south as well, such as at Burnham Beeches or at Wooburn Manor.


Broughton Farm moatPairs of moats are not uncommon, and small groups of up to five or six may occur in close proximity. In such cases the sites may be functionally or chronologically separable, or simply clustered to take advantage of a suitable location. There are three within close proximity to the east of Aylesbury north of the A41 at Broughton Farm in Weston Turville, Vatches Farm on the west side of Aston Clinton and at Drayton Beauchamp on the east side of Aston Clinton. Others are more widely spaced and there is nearly one moat per village in the Vale of Aylesbury.