Dog walker uncovers mystery behind medieval moat in Stevenage woods

A model of the house and moat in Stevenage Museum.

A model of the house and moat in Stevenage Museum. - Credit: Archant

If it hadn’t been for his dogs, Phil Wadner might never have written his first book.

Philip Wadner with his pamphlet.

Philip Wadner with his pamphlet. - Credit: Archant

Walking for miles through Stevenage’s Whormerley Woods almost every day for half a century, the 65-year-old passed the site of a medieval moat.

And eventually curiosity got the better of him. Phil, who lives in Bedwell, said: “The moat fired up my imagination, I was fascinated by thoughts of who might have lived there all those years ago and would sometimes stand in the middle of the island and wonder at what the buildings might have looked like.

“About a year ago I thought: ‘I should find out more about that’.

“So I did some research at the library and at Stevenage Museum but I couldn’t find much, so I did some more and then I brought it all together in this pamphlet.”

The moat as it is now.

The moat as it is now. - Credit: Archant

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Believed to have been the home of the de Homeley family in the late 13th century, the moat site is about 11/2 miles south of the original Saxon settlement around where St Nicholas Church stands today.

Evidence of medieval life has been found there, and excavations on the island have also uncovered relics from Roman times.

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Stevenage Museum has a collection of some of the items, and a model showing what the moated homestead might have looked like.

Phil said: “We are so fortunate to have this much history in what is still a young New Town.”

Front cover

Front cover - Credit: Archant

Speaking about his pamphlet he said: “I am quite proud of it and it does look nice. This is the first time I have published a whole thing, I have written for various publications but this is much longer at 40 pages.

“I have also dedicated the book to my dogs, all of them who have been with us over the years, because without them we would probably never have walked through the woods in the first place.”

You can buy Phil’s £5.99 labour of love online at

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