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June 2005

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PYNCHESTER MOAT, ICKENHAM: THE ARCHAEOLOGY

Pynchester moat lies along the River Pinn in Ickenham in public open space to the east of Copthall Road West (Map 1). It is one of approximately 16 such sites in Hillingdon Borough and one of at least 5,000 in Britain. The term 'ancient moated site' usually refers to a site where a wealthy medieval farm or manor house was built with a square or rectangular water filled ditch (moat) dug around it. By digging the ditch the farm or house appears on a platform and usually has to be accessed by a bridge across the moat. Whilst the general form of moated sites is relatively constant the size and complexity can vary. The square platform at Pynchester is approximately 29 x 30 metres. The ditch can still be seen but in recent times has been almost dry.

Map 1 - Map of Pynchester Moat: Scheduled Ancient Monument


The name 'Pynchester Ferme' is mentioned in a deed of 1531 naming properties owned by the Swakeleys Estate and is associated with this site. The exact date of Pynchester is not known but moated sites in Britain are known to have been constructed approximately between 1150-1500AD, though some later examples have been found.

Information is known about Pynchester and other ancient sites because of archaeological work that has been completed on them. Pynchester was partially excavated 1966-67 when archaeologists dug through the main platform area in the middle of the moat and recorded their finds. The excavated area revealed remains of the medieval building that would have stood on the site. Flint wall foundations and a floor made of roof tiles were recovered as well as an 11foot square hearth, an oven and curing-chamber set into the floor. The excavated area is thought to have been that of the kitchen. Pottery was also recovered from the site, the main type being Surrey Ware, which is known to have been of medieval date.

Whilst archaeological and historical research can provide us with some information about ancient sites there are still unanswered questions. Archaeologists do not know why so many moated sites were constructed. The majority of sites are too small to be for defensive purposes. Social prestige appears to be the most likely reason, though there are other options. Moats may have been the fashion at that time or they may have been built for drainage and sanitation, especially where sited on poorly drained soils. The moat was probably used to keep fish and would have helped to protect animals and people on the site. Only by gathering more information and by reanalysing what we already have will it be possible to try to gain greater and fuller understanding.

Pynchester is important because it is now the only complete moated site in Hillingdon Borough. It is nationally protected by designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), one of 5 in the Borough and of 200 in Greater London. Two other important moated sites in the Borough are Ickenham Manor and that at the Ruislip Manor complex.

Since 1996 L.B Hillingdon and English Heritage have been working in partnership to carry out a programme of works to preserve and improve the appearance of the site using British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

In 2005 conservation volunteers are working at the moat on Thursday 30th June and Sunday 6th November, starting at about 10.30.

If you are interested in joining in please contact Alan Preece, Nature Conservation Officer, L.B Hillingdon: 01895 250456 or BTCV: 020 7278 4294.

South west corner of the moat (square on Map 1)



BREAKSPEAR SCHOOLS TRAVEL PLAN

The 11,000 residents of Ickenham have been asked to back a school travel plan designed to cut local traffic levels and make the journey to school safer.

The Safe Routes Steering Group of Breakspear Junior & Infant Schools has called on local residents and parents to support the school’s initiative to help unclog congested local roads.

The group has published its ground-breaking first School Travel Plan and has submitted it to Hillingdon Council for assessment prior to forwarding to Transport for London for support. The document has been distributed to Ickenham councillors, the Ickenham Residents’ Association, which numbers nearly all residents in Ickenham as members, and other local groups. It will also be made available in Ickenham Library.

Kevin Malam, Safe Routes Co-ordinator, said: “Ickenham has a great community spirit but its roads are terribly clogged, especially in the morning rush-hour. With four large local schools in a relatively small area traffic can be a nightmare hence our initiative. We are urging all local residents to support this plan as well as parents. We believe we can really make a difference if we get both parental and community support.”

The School Travel Plan addresses the subject of safe and healthy travel to and from the schools in Bushey Road, Ickenham. It includes ideas on how to improve safety, promotes healthy options such as walking through “walk to school” days and other initiatives, and sets targets to reduce the number of children who travel all of the way to school by car.

In association with the Travel Plan, a Drivers’ Code of Conduct has been developed which gives helpful advice and guidelines for those who have no alternative but to use a vehicle to bring their children. It tells them how to minimise risk to others en-route to school and how to reduce disruption and inconvenience to local residents by taking more care on the narrow roads near the school. Nearly 1000 copies of the Code of Conduct have been distributed to all parents and carers of children at the school.

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