Brocket Hall in Yorkshire
Brocket Hall—now consisting only of a double moated site, but well preserved and identified as the best surviving moated site in North Yorkshire—lies at the east end of Appleton Roebuck, c 6 m SSW of York City centre.1
The manor house itself occupied much of the south side of the rectangular moat enclosure in the first photo below.2 The extension to the moat west and south-west served as fish ponds. The size of the moat enclosure can be appreciated by comparing it to the neighbouring two-storied detached houses:
The ancient ridge and furrow formations in the surrounding fields are evident. As they are in the following sketch plan of the site by archaeologist Richard Cross supplied in a lecture in Nov 1981:3
Nowadays a closely planted wood abuts hard up against the ridgeway surrounding the moat. Cross’ sketch also shows that the manor house occupied much of the south side of the rectangular moat enclosure.
Historic England, under Reasons for Designation, says:4 “The moated site at Brocket Hall is well preserved and has been identified as the best surviving moated site in North Yorkshire. As there are no modern buildings on the interior the below-ground remains of medieval buildings on the eastern island will be well-preserved while the accuumulated silts of the moat ditch and associated fishponds also favour the survival of evidence which would assist the study of the medieval environment and the economy of the site.” Its Details begin “The monument includes a moated site known as Brocket Hall which lies to the south-east of Appleton Roebuck village. It is a double moated site in that it comprises two adjacent moated islands. The eastern island is interpreted as the site of the hall, since fragments of stone, tile and medieval pottery have been found there; the island is rectangular, measuring 85m long and 55m wide and is surrounded by a ditch 3m wide and up to 2m deep.” Le Patourel mentioned “Indications of foundations on E. Enclosure. Banks on both sides of deep moat. Fragments of stone, tile and mediaeval pottery from enclosure.”5 Also a 2002 Review report of Appleton Roebuck Conservation Area refers to it as Brocket Hall.6
Beyond referring to its medieval characteristics, neither source speculated about its date. Harrison, the late historian of Bolton Percy/Appleton Roebuck, sensibly suggested that the moat may have first been dug by the Fauconbergs in the 2nd half of the 12th C,7 a time when Wharram Percy was also flourishing, see below. But what might the manor house or hall itself have looked like?
Over time it of course would have been renovated, added to and even rebuilt, but for the 12th C Harrison continued that it “would no doubt have held a large timber framed house, a gate house and other buildings. It had a huge platform and was capable of housing the entire population [of Appleton] and their stock if necessary during the troubled times of the 12th and 13th century.”8 This looks accurate apart from the timber frame to the hall, which is anachronistic. It was perhaps caused by Harrison’s view that the hall would probably have looked like the gatehouse near the Church,9 which is timber-framed but no doubt 16th C, see below.
Some 32 miles NE of Bolton Percy was the related Percy settlement of Wharram Percy which “flourished between the 12th and early 14th centuries, when members of the noble Percy family lived in the village.”10 This is a reconstruction of its main ??? manor house:11
According to Dr David Andrews, who worked on the excavation of the Wharram Percy site in the ??? 1980s, “The normal components of a 12-13th C manorial site were a chamber over a cellar, and a grand semi-private residential space at first floor. There should have been an open single storey hall as well, which is what we could not find. Bolton Percy would very probably have had them as well as other buildings such as a kitchen.12
The charming depiction of the Hall in this snip from Jeffrey’s 1596 map of Bolton Percy,13 appears similar to the Wharram Percy manor house above, but this will probably be coincidence—the map’s representation of the shape of the moat enclosure and the Hall’s position in it appear to be inaccurate and stylised. The catalogue description says, “Buildings are shown in crude elevation.”14
At any rate, 1596 was nearly two centuries after the initial Broket occupation and renovation of Brocket Hall and it may well have needed renovation again by the 16th C. The new owners may have done so in a style more like that of contemporary oak-framed houses in York City,15 and the oak-framed 16th C gatehouse near the Church:16
An early 20th C local historian wrote:
“Brockett Hall is a goodly moated site at the head of Daw Lane—of rectangular form, and divided in the centre by a deep trench and rampart, each space measuring within the inner bank about one hundred and twelve yards by sixty.”17
The manor’s earliest recorded name was Southwood Manor18 and would have become known as Brockethall at some stage after Thomas Broket inherited it by marriage to the heiress Dionisia Sampson. Deriving its name—and Brocket Hagg‘s—simply from the late Middle English word broket meaning a red deer in its 2nd year unconvincingly misses out this surname stage.19
Thomas appears to have rebuilt or extended the manor house, perhaps inserting a storey into the single medieval hall open to the rafters.20 The Abbot of Selby paid him 60 ash trees c 1401 for pleading on his behalf as his attorney in the court of the Exchequer. The next entry in the Abbot’s accounts shows the same number of trees being given to a prior at York to renovate a house.
Brocket Hall was sold by Sir John Brockett of Herts to Thomas Fairfax of Nun Appleton, son of Sir William, in 1565 and the last known occupant was his son Charles Fairfax in 1602, whereafter the buildings decayed.21
Page Last Updated: September 25, 2020