Torpel Manor Field

Torpel Manor Field lies at the extreme west end of the village of Helpston, although it is in the parish of Bainton. The 8.5 acre field is a schedule monument, containing the visible remains of a fortified manorial residence – the ‘stately home’ of the medieval period. In addition to the motte, on which the main house would have stood, there is clear evidence of an outer protective bank and ditch, within which ancillary domestic and agricultural buildings would have been situated (the bailey).

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The site is associated with Torpel manor, which was an extensive and important holding during the medieval period.  Occupation at this site probably pre-dates the earliest documentary reference to Torpel manor in 1198, but almost certainly included the hamlet mentioned in 1276. From 1280 the manor was a royal park, owned first by Eleanor of Castille, wife of Edward I and later by the mother of the Black Prince.

The site is a Scheduled Monument, which means that it has been assessed to be of national importance and is protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. To put that in context, Scheduled Monuments comprise less than 5% of recorded archaeological monuments. In its local context, this is a very rare example of a high status medieval site that still survives in earthwork from in grassland.

Torpel Manor Field is also a County Wildlife Site, meaning it contains a range of locally uncommon species and is important for biodiversity. The field supports a range of wild-flower species and has in the past been the home to nesting barn owls. It also contains an old pond, probably the remains of the manorial moat, and some ancient ash and oak trees. In recent years the field has been used as a pony paddock and there has been little opportunity to manage the site sympathetically for either its heritage or wildlife value.

The Trust purchased Torpel Manor Field in 2009 with assistance from the Government’s Growth Area Fund and a local business. It will manage the site as a community nature and heritage reserve. The combination of the heritage and wildlife value of the site, plus its ease of access and proximity to a number of rural villages and schools offers a fascinating opportunity to create a valuable community asset.

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