Although earthworks are the most durable of all man's handiwork when exposed to Nature alone, they cannot withstand
the encroachments of the builder. With the continual spread
of habitations for the workers of commercial London, and the
surrounding cultivation of the land for the vegetable supply of so great a
host, there is little cause for wonder that the few works which are known
to have existed in the county of Middlesex have been all but obliterated.
When we consider the exceptionally small size of Middlesex as a county,
that it contains the two cities of London and Westminster, and the amazing
extension of their borders, the marvel is that any ancient works remain.
The natural features of the county lent themselves to no mighty
defensive works; it was no locality for habitations, seeing that it was
generally of a marshy nature and subject to great inundations, it was itself
a defence for more inland territories. Guest remarks, 'I have little doubt
that between Brockley Hill (fn. 1) and the Thames all was wilderness from the
Lea to the Brent.' Prehistoric and Roman camps were apparently few; the
Roman stations at Staines (Pontes) on the Thames, and Brockley Hill (Sullonicae) near Elstree, have no earthworks to indicate their former sites; while
the fosse formerly surrounding the walls of London now no longer remains.
One great dyke in part remains to record the boundary line between
British tribes or Saxon provinces; but the only type of earthwork much in
evidence in the county is that of Homestead Moats, and those are fast
disappearing beneath the foundations of houses.
Moats are more thickly clustered on the north of London than elsewhere; they surround the sites of manor houses and farmsteads in close
proximity to the neighbourhood of Barnet. When it is remembered that
this was the scene of two engagements during the Wars of the Roses, that
two other battles were fought within a short distance at St. Albans, and
how marauding bands were the certain accompaniment of fighting forces in
those days, it will be seen how necessary a precaution it was for people of
substance to safeguard their property by the best means then known.
The surface of the county, however, has altogether changed since
Nichols described the moated mansion of Balmes within the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch. Whilst passing over Willoughbys and other demolished
earthworks, we cannot ignore those that have disappeared in more recent
years, otherwise our task would be light; yet the few remaining works are apparently doomed in the near future unless the growth of London be arrested.
From the general classification of earthworks it is needful to quote
those classes only which are represented in this county.
Class C.-Rectangular or other simple inclosures, including forts and towns of the
Class F.-Homestead Moats, such as abound in some lowland districts, consisting of
simple inclosures formed into artificial islands by water moats.
Class G.-Inclosures, mostly rectangular, partaking of the form of F, but protected
by stronger defensive works, ramparted and fossed, and in some instances provided with
Class X.-Defensive works which fall under none of these headings.
To which is added T for Tumuli.
Out of the four examples of Class C until recently existing one only
in part remains, the other three have been obliterated, one of them as
late as the year 1906.
The greatest number of earthworks remaining are of Class F, among
them are some representative examples, whether surrounding the grounds
as that at Fulham Palace, or washing the walls of the house, as Headstone.
In class G two examples are placed, one of them surrounding the
formerly strong fortress of the Tower.
The most stupendous earthwork of Middlesex is found in Class X,
and the Grimes Dyke will
probably survive all other
works of this nature.
One tumulus survives,
possibly the most ancient
earthen monument in the
SIMPLE DEFENSIVE INCLOSURES
Enfield (vii, 6 and
7).-In Old Park, nearly
a mile south-west of Enfield Town Station, is the
most extensive fragment of
a camp in the whole county.
Its existence is due to a
situation in private grounds
whilst its partial demolition
is owing to the laying out
of a garden to the house
within the circuit of the camp over a century ago.
A little more than a semicircle-the north, west, and south-west-
remains of a circular camp upon the top of a shallow hill. The extant
portion consists of a vallum and fosse. The vallum rises from the ground
level on the south and quickly attains a height of 5 ft.; in the middle
of the western side it rises to 8 ft., declining somewhat towards the
north it again rises towards
its termination at the northeast. The vallum is broad
and a path has been made
on the top, probably at the
expense of a greater original
height, which is now about
2 ft. above the interior area
except at the north where
the vallum stands boldly
above the ground which is
the same internally and externally at this spot. A path
pierces the vallum at the
north-east, but a very small
portion of the latter remains
on the eastern side of the
path. The plan of the works
in the neighbourhood of the
path is in perfect harmony with an original entrance between an inturned
vallum, containing a guard-room within the curve and a platform
obtained by the widening of the vallum; at the same time this arrangement may possibly have been made when the house was built, whereby
an even pathway might be obtained, and by the removal of soil from
the interior area a garden bower formed-on the site of the possible
guard-room-for which purpose this hollow is now used. Around the
north-west is a portion of the fosse, from 3 ft. to 4 ft. deep, which has
been raised above its original depth to form a gravelled path. On
the south-east is a modern
pond, fed by a spring in its
northern part, at a spot
which would have been immediately outside the original circuit of the vallum,
and therefore in the fosse.
Thus the constructors of the
camp may have provided a
water-girt stronghold in addition to a water supply. A
bank on the north-east of
the pond is modern.
8).-Three quarters of a mile
north-east from Heath Row,
immediately south of the
Bath Road, a small square camp, about 380 ft. square, was extant until
the autumn of 1906. It is now ploughed perfectly flat, leaving no trace
of the work. Stukeley supposed it to have been one of Cæsar's stations
after he crossed the River Thames in pursuit of Cassivellaunus; a
conjecture that has become local tradition, firmly held by the inhabitants
of the neighbourhood.
Isleworth (xx, 3).-To the east of Osterley Park was a small
circular earthwork 200 ft. in diameter inclusive, with the entrance on
the eastern side.
Twickenham (xx, 10).-A circular camp 200 ft. in diameter was
situated on Hounslow Heath against the boundary of the cemetery,
south of the railway. It has now all but perished, the slightest depression
in the ground is only just discernible.
Acton (xvi, 9): 'Friars' Place Farm.' Within a quarter of a
mile north of Acton Station on the Great Western Railway are the
remains of two moats, of which one will be classified under G. That
which we now consider is a water moat, but only two sides remain, the
southern, which is about 50 ft. wide, and the western, which is considerably narrower. Lysons, in the Environs of London, considers this to have
formed part of the lands given by Adam de Hervynton to the prior and
convent of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield.
Edmonton (vii, 12): Moat House Farm, Marsh side, to the
east of Lower Edmonton. The old Moat House was demolished in
1906 but the moat at present remains. This is a large oblong in plan,
and although varying in breadth it averages about 20 ft., and is 8 ft. deep.
The south-western side has been narrowed by the formation of a road.
Near the north angle the water of the moat intrudes into the central
area in a semicircular course, thus forming an islet. In the Ordnance
Survey two small islands are erroneously inserted.
Edmonton (vii, 16).-A small quadrangular moat to the west of
Angel Road Station has recently been filled up with earth.
Edmonton (vii, 15).-At Weir Hall, south-west of Millfield
Training School, in the district of Upper Edmonton, is a moat, averaging
30ft. wide. The banks-a foot above the water-gently slope upwards
towards the centre of the interior site, where a modern house now stands.
At the south-eastern angle the water cuts off a corner of the inner area,
thereby forming an island. It is fed by Pymmes Brook.
Enfield (vii, 8).-' Durant's Arbour,' half a mile north of
Ponders End, was the name of the manor house of the Durant family in
the fourteenth century. The name has survived the house and is now
applied to the large square moat with the bridge on the north-eastern
Enfield (vii, 7).-A large moat formerly situated on the southeast of Enfield Town Station has recently been filled in and is now built
Enfield (vii, 6).-West of Old Park Farm, upon the Golf Links,
is a diamond-shaped moat surrounding a small elevated area. At the
western end is a cutting through which the moat is fed by a small
stream which flows into the River Lea.
Enfield (ii, 16).-North-east of Enfield Lock Station, on Plantation
Farm, is a quadrangular moat crossed by two bridges on the southern and
eastern sides respectively.
Enfield (ii, 13): 'Camlet Moat.' In Moat Wood, north of
Trent Park and south of Enfield Chase is a large moat, oblong in plan,
with the entrance on the east. The house has long since been demolished.
In the time of Sir Walter Scott it must have presented a similar appearance
as now, for he mentions it as a place 'little more than a mound, partly
surrounded by a ditch, from which it derived the name of Camlet
Moat.' (fn. 2)
Finchley (xi, 8).-One mile south of Finchley is the long
rectangular moat of the ancient manor house. It incloses a large oblong
area but is divided by a public road. To the south of it, traces of other
artificial work are being obliterated and it is difficult to determine their
original form or use; but it is possibly the site of fish ponds.
Finchley (xii, 10): 'Ducketts' or 'Dovecots,' north-east of
St. Mary's Church, Hornsey. The site of the manor house is surrounded
by a narrow moat which is fed by water from the New River. A
portion on the east has been filled in, and the bridge is on the western
Finchley (xi, 8).-Norden, in his Speculum Britannica, 1593, states that a hill or fort in Hornesey Park, and so called Lodge Hill, for that thereon for some
time stood a lodge, when the park was replenished with deare; but it seemeth by the
foundation it was rather a castle than a lodge, for the hill is at this time trenched
with two deep ditches, now olde and overgrown with bushes.
This lodge, which was the property of the See of London from the
twelfth to the fourteenth century, occupied a site to the south-west of
the Manor Farm house on the north-east of Bishop's Wood, between
Highgate and Finchley. Although it appears that the lodge was pulled
down in the fourteenth century on account of its great age, traces of the
moat are visible, from which it would seem that it was square in plan
with sides 210 ft. in length. The moat was fed by a spring which still
Fulham (xxi, 7).-The grounds of the Bishop of London's palace
at Fulham are entirely surrounded by a moat which is crossed by two
bridges. The moat is nearly a mile in circuit and incloses an area of
37 acres. It has been suggested that the moat was originally the fosse
made for the protection of the Danish camp in A.D. 879; a conjecture
formed solely on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, wherein it is stated that
this year a body of those pirates camped at Fulham.
Hanworth (xxv, 2): Hanworth Castle Moat.-Why the
moat should be known by this name is not apparent. It is situated in
the grounds attached to the ruins of the Tudor building in which some
of the youthful days of Queen Elizabeth were spent. A large square
area, perfectly flat, and at a slightly lower level than the exterior banks,
is surrounded by a moat averaging 45 ft. in width; each angle being
broadened by the rounding of the angles of the interior site. At the
south-eastern corner is a culvert, at which point the moat is supplied by
water through a cutting locally called the 'Queen's River,' from its
associations with Elizabeth, and the 'Cardinal's River,' from the belief
that it was made by the order of Wolsey.
Harefield (ix, 12).-At Brackenbury Farm, 1 mile north-west
from Ickenham, near the western bank of the River Pinn and fed by its
waters, is a quadrangular moat inclosing a considerable area. The
widest and deepest part is on the south, where it is 24 ft. broad, but it
narrows to 9 ft. in width around the western side. The outer bank
rises above the general level on the north side. The eastern side has
been filled in within the last fifty years to enlarge the surface of the
Harefield (ix, 12).-A quarter of a mile south-west of the last
mentioned a small but perfect moat lies within a bend of the River Pinn,
by which it is supplied. By being thus situated the eastern side and its
two angles of the interior area are protected by two widths of water.
The moat, which is walled on the inner side to a height of 6 ft., is 18 ft.
wide, broadening to 28 ft. at the south-eastern corner. Access to the
interior is gained on the western side.
Harmondsworth (xix, 3).-On the site of an Alien Priory-a
cell to Rouen-and west of the ancient Tithe Barn, the course of a large
rectangular moat may yet be traced, although all but a small portion at
the north-east has been filled in. The remaining fragment is nearly 24 ft.
wide. Although situated close to the River Colne the moat was
supplied with water from the 'Duke's River,' on the west, and a spring
rising on the southern side flows into the former, by which the interior
site was doubly protected on the south-west.
Harrow On The Hill (x, 11).-On the west side of the hill, on the
lower ground of the slope and west of the Northolt Road, a small moat
remains in a perfect state in the grounds of The Grange. It is square
with slightly rounded angles, 20 ft. wide between the sloping banks,
which gently rise to 4 ft. 6 in. above the water.
Hayes (xv, 13).-One mile south-east of Hayes Station, and on
the eastern side of the River Crane, a small moat surrounds the remains
of the old house which was formerly the property of the archbishop of
Canterbury. Rectangular at its two southern angles-where the
entrance is situated-the moat narrows on the northern side, where
it assumes an almost semicircular course.
Ickenham (ix, 16).-At Manor Farm, to the south-east of
Ickenham village, a narrow moat takes a somewhat eccentric plan,
and is evidently the work of two periods. The earlier moat was
quadrangular, with the northern side joining the western at an acute
angle. At some later date the eastern extremity of the northern trench
appears to have been extended, while the eastern side of the moat-
about 120 ft. from the south-eastern angle-was also turned eastwards in
a line parallel to the northern extension; a fragment of the original
moat remaining between them.
Isleworth (xx, 7).-To the west of Isleworth and of the River
Crane is a square moat with the entrance on the east side.
London: Highbury (xii, 14).-The site of a moat in this parish is
described by Nichols, (fn. 3) who, however, could not but associate it with the
Romans. He says that in fields north-west of White Conduit House is
a large inclosure called the Reedmote, or Six Acre Field, and supposed
to have been a Roman camp; and at the south-east corner was the site
of a square moated mansion, commonly called Jack Straw's Castle.
London.-Highbury Barn was also a moated site in the same
London: St. Mary Islington (xvii, 2).-Beyond Bowman's
Lodge, on the west side of Holloway Road, were the demesnes of
Barnsbury Manor. The lines of the moated site of the manor-house
could be traced until recently at the back of some houses fronting
the Hercules Road. In 1835, when the outline was distinct, it was
described as of irregular form.
London: St. Mary Islington (xvii, 2).-Some eighty years ago
an earthwork was discernible in the gardens of the houses on the west
side of Barnsbury Square. It was the moat of Mountfort House; but
the southern side-almost in a line with the south side or the square-
was so pronounced, being about 20 ft. wide and 8 ft. deep, that it gave rise
to the idea that it was the southern fosse of a Roman camp, while about
a century before this it had exercised the minds of the antiquaries of the
eighteenth century. In those days the outer margin of the west side of
the moat was apparently surmounted by a bank. (fn. 4) A fragment of the
trench remains in the garden of Mountfort House.
Northolt (xv, 2).-At Down Barns, one and a half miles west
of Northolt, a rectangular site is surrounded by a moat, of regular form
except on the east, where, south of the entrance, it is of wider dimensions, and from it an irregular projection provides a pond.
Northolt (xv, 3).-A moat is situated quite near to the church
which, from its exceptional character, demands a more detailed description. It stands upon high ground, and its banks are built up instead of
having been excavated around the protected site. At the southern
angle the moat is 12 ft. wide, and the central area rises to a height of
5 ft., overlooking the outer bank which is 4 ft. 6 in. high. The south
eastern side varies in width from 9 ft. to 12 ft. The western angle is
36 ft. wide, narrowing towards the northern corner, where it is from
28 ft. to 30 ft. broad. On this north-western side the interior ground
continues its former height; but the external bank is only 4 ft. in
height. At the north the moat is again about 36 ft. wide, but the inner
area attains a height of 7 ft. 6 in., while the outer bank is but 3 ft. At
this point the water of the moat is drained into a pond 60 ft. distant,
and although water is retained in the north-eastern side it is reduced in
bulk. On the north-east, between the angle and the entrance, the moat
is from 9 ft. to 10 ft. wide, the interior site is 8 ft. high, but this is the
highest point in the outer bank, which is 6 ft. to 7 ft. 6 in. in height.
The entrance is by a causeway 21 ft. broad. The site of the ancient
house commands an extensive view of the surrounding country.
Perivale (xv, 4).-In a field west of the church and north-east of
Horsendon Farm, may be seen the depressions in the land which mark
the site of the old manor-house of Greenford Parva. The house has
long since been demolished, but the moat still remains on three sides.
The northern portion was filled up some fifty years ago.
Pinner (x, 3).-'Headstone' Manor, about a mile west of Holy
Trinity Church, Wealdstone, was part of the archiepiscopal manor of
Harrow. A notice of the house in 1344 opens the probability of the
moat dating from about that time.
Pinner (v, 15).-A fragment of a circular moat is crossed by a
road from Pinner to Harrow Weald. The southerly portion is 20 ft.
wide, the northerly is serpentine in form, and the north-eastern has been
filled up and farm buildings cover the site.
Ruislip (x, 9).-At Manor Farm, on the site of an Alien Priory
that was a cell of the abbey of Bec, is an oval moat, surrounding an
area of 350 ft. by 200 ft. The two entrances are on opposite sides of the
Ruislip (x, 9).-At Southcote Farm, half a mile south-west of
Ruislip Reservoir is a quadrangular moat inclosing a site about 200 ft.
long by 100 ft. broad; with the bridge on the south-western side.
Southgate (vii, 14).-In the grounds of Bowes Manor, northeast of St. Michael's Church, is a small irregular square moat around an
islet measuring about 100 ft. across.
South Mimms (vi, 3).-Old Fold Manor Farm, north-west of
Hadley Green, occupies ground formerly protected by a well-defined
moat. The eastern side has been filled in and cow-houses occupy the
site; but otherwise it retains its ancient appearance. On the southern
side the moat is 18 ft. broad, increasing to 28 ft. on the west and the
north. The depth to the water is from 4 ft. on the north, to 5 ft. on the
south, the banks prettily clothed with wood and undergrowth.
South Mimms (vi, 3).-At Old Fold Farm, about one and a half
miles from the last mentioned, in a westerly direction and close to the
county border, is another moat of smaller size but more complete in its
extant four sides. It is of oblong plan with a rounded broadening at the
north-west corner. The entrance is on the east towards the southeastern angle.
South Mimms (i, 10).-At Blanche Farm, to the south of St.
Monica's Priory, are the remains of that which was undoubtedly a moat,
although the north-west and south-east are the only two extant sides.
ottenham (xii, 3).-Bruce Castle and Bruce Park formed onethird of the ancient manor of Tottenham. The spread of London's
population is responsible for the recent levelling of the moat.
Tottenham (xii, 3).-'Mockings' was a sub-manor formed from that of Bruce, lying north of the high road. The moated manor-house stood on the south side of Marsh Lane.
Willesden (xvi, 6).-A moat similar to that in the moated
meadow at Acton was situated near Willesden Junction until finally
obliterated about the year 1890.
Acton (xvi, 9).-A quarter of a mile north of Acton Station on the
Great Western Railway, in a field called 'Moated Meadow,' two fields
westward of 'Friars' Place Farm,' are the remains of an earthwork
which the Ordnance Surveyors have marked as a moat. From the slight
indications extant it might possibly have formed a camp; but not enough
remains to decide its original use.
The work occupies a slight eminence and consists of a shallow
fosse, or dry moat, surrounding a quadrangular area. The two short
sides-the western and eastern-are nearly parallel, the west is 89 ft.
long, the east 136 ft. Of the two long sides the southern, 235 ft., is at
right angles to the east and west; but the northern, 240 ft., takes a
course to the north-east-by-east. The fosse varies from 41 ft. broad at
the south-east, to 60 ft. at the north-west. On the north side, where the
higher ground on the exterior makes it more assailable, is found the
deepest part, which is 6 ft. A bank has surmounted the outer edge of the
fosse, this is still discernible on all sides but the south, and averages 15 ft.
wide. The latter feature may have led Lysons to speak of it as 'a deep
trench enclosing a parallelogram (sic) . . . supposed to have been a
London: The Tower Moat.-The precincts of the Tower of
London are partly within London, but the greater eastern portion is in
Middlesex. The first castle on this spot was built by the conquering
No account of earthen ramparts has been bequeathed to us, and
the earliest mention of a fosse is of the twelfth century.
In 1190 William Longchamp, bishop of Ely and justiciary of
England, while acting as regent during the absence of Richard in
Palestine, caused a deep trench to be dug round the Tower of London,
hoping to bring the waters of the Thames into the City, but after
expending much from the treasury his labours proved fruitless. (fn. 5) It
would be interesting to know the cause of this failure; possibly
Longchamp could not complete the circuit on the river side, where it was
exposed to the force of the tide, a difficulty overcome by the engineers of
Henry III, who constructed the embankment and wharf, and protected
it by piles; a work completed by his son Edward I.
The Tower of London
When the Duke of Wellington was constable of the Tower he
cleansed and deepened the moat; but its stagnant waters became so
offensive that it was finally drained in 1843. The fosse is an irregular
hexagon in plan, but it has been greatly altered from its original
appearance in the sides and base to provide a drilling-ground for the
A vallum, of unknown dimensions, apparently a revetment, formerly
occupied a position on the west side of the moat, for we are told that in
1316 the citizens pulled down a mud wall between the Tower Ditch
and the city, which was supposed to have been constructed by Henry III;
they were, however, compelled to restore the same, and were fined 1,000
marks for their
Tottenham (xii, 7).
-A rectangular moat, surrounding an
area now broken into two
portions, is situated on
'Down Hills,' immediately
south of the River Moselle.
On the exterior of the western and eastern sides are
broad banks 2 ft. in height.
Plan of Grimes Dyke Through Harrow Weald And Pinner
Brentford (xxi, i).-
A possible line of defence
to the Brent Ford is traced
by Mr. Montague Sharpe,
of which no definite signs
exist; even the 'Old
Ditch,' two sides of a rectangular fosse on the slope of Cuckoo Hill
at the western extremity of Hanwell Ridge, and in a curve of the
River Brent, is no more.
Harrow Weald And Pinner (v and x): Grimes Dyke.-Fragments of a boundary earthwork are in evidence over a distance of three
miles within, and close to, the border of the counties of Middlesex and
Hertfordshire, extending from Pinner Green to Bentley Priory. It
consists of a vallum and fosse, the latter on the south-eastern side suggests
that it was part of the south-eastern defence of the territories of the
British tribe of the Catuvellauni.
The dyke appears to have been supported at the south-west extremity by the woodland of the Colne valley, and the other end was possibly
connected with the ancient works on Brockley Hill. Thus the position
of the dyke looked out upon the marshland which extended generally to
the River Thames, and from the Brent to the Lea.
The work is most clearly to be seen to the south of Wealdstone
Common, where the vallum rises 5 ft. from the interior, on the Hertfordshire side, is 63 ft. wide at the base, and has an escarpment of 12 ft. into
the fosse; the latter has been too greatly disturbed to form an adequate idea
of its former strength, but it is 5 ft. at its deepest part, and averages
15 ft. broad.
Passing the common, where the rights of carrying gravel have
injured the configuration of the land, the most perfect section is found
in private grounds; here the base of the vallum retains the same width,
but is 15 ft. in height-now broken by a path on its escarpment, and the
fosse widens to 21 ft; at one part this has been doubly dammed to form
an artificial lake.
Pinner.-See Harrow Weald.
Wembley (xv, 4).-Horsa-Dun Hill, south-east of Harrow, shows
slight traces of defensive works in two terraces on the southern side.
London: St. Pancras (xvii).-On Hampstead Heath, between
Hampstead Ponds on the west and Highgate Ponds on the east, on a ridge
of hill running north and south is a bowl-shaped tumulus, known as
'Boadicea's Grave.' It is a gradually sloping mound 10 ft. in height,
with diameters-including the surrounding ditch-north to south 145 ft.
and east to west 135 ft. The original ditch was within the cincture
of the present one, which is modern. It was opened in 1894 by
Mr. C. H. Read, who thinks it is a monument of pre-Roman burial
Teddington (xxv, 8).-Formerly situated in a field known as
'Barrow Field,' between Hampton Wick and Bushey, was a bowlshaped barrow, 96 ft. in diameter and 12 ft. 3 in. high. The tumulus,
composed of burnt sand, was explored in 1854, when three interments
were found, two after cremation and one by inhumation. The first on
the ground level was accompanied by flint flakes and the bronze blade of
a weapon; with the second, 4 ft. below the apex, were fragments of a
very large half-baked urn and a flint hatchet-head; whilst in the third case
the bones of an adult were buried superficially.
||F, F, F|
||C, F, F, F, F, F|
||F, F, F|
|Islington, St. Mary
||F, F, X|
|St. Pancras (London)
||F, F, F|
||F, F, G|