Water Features in Historic Settings

A Guide to Archaeological and Palaeoenvironmental Investigations

Water features, such as moats, ponds and ornamental lakes, commonly form part of many historic places and are integral to the historic environment. Significant deposits of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental importance may be encountered during intrusive work on water features (both current and infilled) located within historic sites and landscapes. These deposits can provide a wealth of information on past activities and past environments, both on-site and in the wider surroundings.

This document describes their character and value, together with key historic environment considerations for planning and executing site works, in order that such archaeological and palaeoecological information is not lost irrevocably.

This document is aimed at:

  • owners and managers of historic properties and/or designed landscapes
  • historic- and natural-environment project managers and advisors
  • those contracted to undertake any clearance works

In order to ensure good practice is followed, it is recommended that advice is sought from the necessary historic environment specialists, starting at the pre-planning stage. Regular discussions throughout the process will help manage expectations and potentially conflicting interests. The principles of this guidance can also be applied directly to a range of wet or waterlogged deposits preserved within other feature types, be they artificial, natural, or modified. If the decision is taken to leave the deposits ‘in place’ (in-situ), information on preservation in-situ can be found in: Preserving Archaeological Remains: Decision-taking for Sites under Development.

This document is an update of the original version Moats, Ponds and Ornamental Lakes in the Historic Environment from February 2011.


  • Introduction
  • The potential
  • The deposits
  • Assessing the resource
  • Considering the threats
  • Mitigation
  • References
  • Where to get advice

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 24
  • Product Code: HEAG265


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