In the early Middle Ages, a very good way to defend one's property was to put a ditch round it: such a moat, when filled with water, might also be a splendid place to fill with fish. No doubt, in days of inferior hygiene, a moat would also become a cesspond. A moat, therefore, was extremely useful.
Most castles had moats; and very necessary they were in the days when barons sometimes fought each other and sometimes their king. Lesser lords who lived in fortified manor houses copied the barons and encircled their homes with protective moats.
We have quite a few local examples. The Midlands, as a whole, has very many, as a look at any Ordnance Survey map will reveal. In the immediate locality we had two castles, the Corbizuns? at Studley and the Dotilers' at Oversley. Neither remains and neither was on the same scale as Conway or Harlech. Oversley may have been a wooden one set on a small incline, a motte and bailey type but there is no evidence of a moat. Studley's moat is still to be son and the castle eventually became a stone one, for Dugdale in the 17th century remarked on some remains still standing. An excavation of the moat by the author revealed that it was, in fact, a double moat (two nearly circular concentric ditches).
Other important early moats in our area surrounded manor houses, all now gone. We have the impressively deep moat at Wyke, off Sambourne Lane; if filled with water, as is most likely, it would have been a fearful obstacle to cross. Beauchamp Court, at King's Coughton, is another early mediaeval site. Most of the moat has been filled in but the remaining water-logged portion seems quite wide and an obvious deterrent.
Kinwarton moat (near the dovecote) has also suffered farming interference, with only two obvious sides left but it had its own spring to keep the water topped up In Bidford parish the lines of the old moat round Broom Court may still be seen: the present house is not the mediaeval one.
There were probably many more early mediaeval moats in the Alne and Arrow valleys than are now apparent. Coughton Court is an example, although the present court is not early mediaeval.
When England had settled down and the monarchy safely in charge the need for moated castles and manor houses receded. However, traditions die hard and people continued to build moats around their homes although they were not strictly necessary.
'Gentlemen' who were not manorial lords but perhaps. wealthy yeomen aped their superiors There are small moats on O.S. maps dotted all over the countryside, a reminder that as the Middle Ages drew to a close there were those who wanted a status symbol, a late mediaeval 'Jaguar': so they moated their farmhouses.
Winter 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991