Taynton is rather unusual, having within its boundaries five known Moated sites which date back to medieval times. The Moat building period started around 1150 AD and was at its peak during the 13th century. It is believed that many moats were dug during the deforestation of the land, when a settler would lay claim to a site, build a dwelling and later surround it with a moat. These simple moats would not have given much protection against a determined enemy attack, but would have been built as security against vagabonds, robbers or even “unfriendly” neighbours.
The 1840 Tithe map of Taynton, clearly shows a rectangular Moat of 0.6 acres, in an area called Moat Piece, Moat Brake and The Moat, the land is now part of Elliots Farm. The Moat was not supplied with water from a stream but would have relied on natural seepage to fill it. A “leat” or ditch connected the moat to a nearby stream, but this would only have been used to drain the moat for cleaning.
At one time this land belonged to the Huntley Estate and in the early 1950’s the site was levelled. Mr Watkins of May Hill who is now 96 years of age was farm manager at the time and well remembers this work being done. He described the Moat as: “having an enclosed area or platform that was raised higher than the surrounding ground and that there was still some water in places. The area was very overgrown and many Alder trees were growing there”.
Mr Alan Woodhouse now farms the land. He said: “that whilst ploughing the field he could see evidence of stonework and that when flying over the site on a pleasure trip some years previously, the moat outline could still be clearly seen”.
There is very little to be seen there now except for some shallow depressions. A large shaped stone lies in the hedgerow nearby but its origins cannot be ascertained. There is no visible track directly to the site today. It would probably have been approached from Moat Lane via Moat Farm and up an old sunken track- now filled in, which passed by a barn and then through a field called Huntley Piece.
So far no written history has been found concerning this area. One can only wonder for how many years this site was inhabited, what kind of dwelling stood there, who occupied it and what those people were like. Fortunately they did leave some evidence behind which gives us a very small glimpse into their lives. Whilst detecting on the site in the autumn of 1966 an unusual 13th century Annular Brooch, complete with pin was unearthed. It is of a type having ten hollow turrets that would have originally been inlaid with coloured stones or gems. A brief description of these brooches says:
“Although annular brooches served a practical purpose, they would also have been a statement of rank and prestige – especially those set with precious stones. Such brooches would have been worn by both men and women, and were normally worn at the throat as a means of fastening the undergarment. A tuck of material was pulled through the ring, and then the pin was pushed through two prepared slits. The excess loose material was then pulled back in order to tension the fastening”
Also found at the site was a brass thimble dating 1350 to 1450 AD. Due to its shape it is referred to as a “beehive thimble” and it is believed to be one of the earliest type found in Britain.
These thimbles were made by pouring molten metal into a mould that had a supported central core that allowed the metal to flow around it. Once the metal had cooled down, the thimble would have been removed from the mould and small indentations applied to it by means of a hand punch.
Among other objects found at the site were several pieces of medieval pottery, a lead button – possibly medieval, a very worn farthing of William III – 1695 – 1699 and several eighteenth century pewter buttons.