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Remnants of the wooden bridge over the medieval moat found in Tewkesbury, England. Source: Cotswold Archaeology

Medieval Moat and Bridge Found Protecting Farmhouse in England

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Driving through the business parks of Tewkesbury, you might miss the hidden pieces of a medieval past that lie discreetly among the modern structures. One such gem, Cowfield Farm, reveals a rich history beneath its 18th-century facade. This habitation originated in medieval days and is proof that moats were not just for castles. Excavations have shown this farmhouse was originally surrounded by a moat, with the site unveiling its past life following redevelopment after a fire in 2004. It has revealed a bygone era of medieval farming and lifestyle that might otherwise have remained concealed.

A Glimpse into Medieval Agrarian Life

Cowfield Farm's history is deeply entwined with the medieval landscape, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Initially built within a rectangular enclosure, the farm was primarily focused on cattle rearing, indicated by a vaccary or cowshed. This specialization came to light through meticulous archaeological and documentary research, highlighting the farm's importance in providing dairy and meat products to the nearby 12th-century Tewkesbury Abbey and its urban surroundings.

Interestingly, the earliest records linking the farm to Tewkesbury Abbey date back to 1535, suggesting a longstanding relationship aimed at mutual benefit.

The layout and remains of the farm offer a glimpse into a self-sufficient medieval establishment, complete with a farmhouse, cowshed, and other essential outbuildings, all managed under the watchful eye of the abbey's monks.

The stone footprint of the farmhouse, with a contemporary bridge visible in the foreground. (Cotswold Archaeology)

The stone footprint of the farmhouse, with a contemporary bridge visible in the foreground. (Cotswold Archaeology)

Architectural Insights and Daily Life

The remnants of Cowfield Farm, particularly the substantial medieval moat encircling the stone foundation of a more recent farmhouse, paint a picture of the architectural ambitions of the time. A large aisled building, likely serving as a cowshed, signifies the quality and grandeur associated with the abbey's estates. These features, along with the discovery of a mid-15th-century wooden bridge, offer a tangible connection to the farm's historical residents and their daily activities.

The artifacts unearthed, including a ceramic dripping tray, a pilgrim badge, and a medieval book clasp, narrate the social and spiritual dimensions of the inhabitants' lives. These findings suggest a community striving for a balance between worldly duties and spiritual pursuits, a typical hallmark of the Middle Ages.

Medieval book clasp or hinge plate found at the site. (Cotswold Archaeology)

Medieval book clasp or hinge plate found at the site. (Cotswold Archaeology)

Symbolism and Security: The Role of the Moat

The moat surrounding Cowfield Farm was not merely a defensive feature but a significant social symbol. It represented status and security, reflecting the societal hierarchy and the delineation between different social classes. This water barrier not only protected the residents physically but also symbolized the protection of lineage and the sanctity of the household, particularly for the women within.

The story of Cowfield Farm neatly shows the change between past and present, offering a vivid portrayal of medieval agriculture, architecture, and societal norms, now placed within a modern industrial setting. As the layers of history are peeled back, the farm serves as a reminder of the farming life that once thrived in this part of the Severn vale.

Top image: Remnants of the wooden bridge over the medieval moat found in Tewkesbury, England. Source: Cotswold Archaeology

By Gary Manners

 
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Gary

Gary is an editor and content manager for Ancient Origins. He has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. He has worked in education, the educational sector, social work... Read More

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