Buckland Priory fishponds


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Somerset West and Taunton (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 30147 28242


Fishponds forming part of Buckland Priory 230m north east of Buckland Farm.

Reasons for Designation

A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They may be dug into the ground, embanked above ground level, or formed by placing a dam across a narrow valley. Groups of up to twelve ponds variously arranged in a single line or in a cluster and joined by leats have been recorded. The ponds may be of the same size or of several different sizes with each pond being stocked with different species or ages of fish. The size of the pond was related to function, with large ponds thought to have had a storage capability whilst smaller, shallower ponds were used for fish cultivation and breeding. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system which included inlet and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices set into the bottom of the dam and along the channels and leats, and an overflow leat which controlled fluctuations in water flow and prevented flooding. Buildings for use by fishermen or for the storage of equipment, and islands possibly used for fishing, wildfowl management or as shallow spawning areas, are also recorded. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. They were largely built by the wealthy sectors of society with monastic institutions and royal residences often having large and complex fishponds. The difficulties of obtaining fresh meat in the winter and the value placed on fish as a food source and for status may have been factors which favoured the development of fishponds and which made them so valuable. The practice of constructing fishponds declined after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, although in some areas it continued into the 17th century. Most fishponds fell out of use during the post-medieval period, although some were re-used either as ornamental features or as watercress beds. Documentary sources provide a wealth of information about the way fishponds were stocked and managed. The main species of fish kept were eel, tench, pickerel, bream, perch, and roach. Large quantities of fish could be supplied at a time. Once a year, probably in the spring, ponds were drained and cleared. Fishponds are widely scattered throughout England. The majority are found in central, eastern and southern parts and in areas with heavy clay soils. Fewer fishponds are found in coastal areas and parts of the country rich in natural lakes and streams where other sources of fresh fish were available. Although 17th century manuals suggest that areas of waste ground were suitable for fishponds, in practice it appears that most fishponds were located close to villages, manors or monasteries or within parks so that a watch could be kept on them to prevent poaching. Although approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be only a small proportion of those in existence in medieval times. Despite being relatively common, fishponds are important for their associations with other classes of medieval monument and in providing evidence of site economy. The fishponds forming part of Buckland Priory 230m north east of Buckland Farm have a well documented history, survive comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, development, water control techniques, social, religious and agricultural significance, longevity and abandonment.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 25 August 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a series of interconnected fishponds which originally formed part of Buckland Priory situated to the north western side of the settlement of Lower Durston beside an un-named stream which now feeds into the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. The fishponds lie within a triangular area measuring approximately 152m long by 61m wide and bounded by a hedge bank and ditch. The ponds survive as largely in-filled features measuring up to 0.6m deep. There are three ponds, two rectangular and one triangular, the central pond has an island and all are connected with leats with an overflow channel to the east to prevent flooding.

Documents record John de Erleigh granted land for a house of canons between 1154-76 ‘which extends the whole length of the stream which divides the field which is called Wineshull and the land of Durston to make therein a pool, fishpond or mill’. Further documentary evidence describes a boat being kept on the fishponds in 1540 and records their apparent abandonment by 1725. Buckland or Minchin Priory, dedicated to St John the Baptist was first founded in 1166 for Augustinian Canons who were dispersed before 1180. Possession was granted to the Knights Hospitallers for a preceptory and house for the Sisters of St John of Jerusalem and the community began with eight sisters. The buildings burned down in 1234. After 1433 the Knights Hospitallers ceased to appoint preceptors and it closed in around 1500. From 1516 the priory became a distinct hospital of Augustinian Canonesses until dissolution in 1539.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
SO 422
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-191893


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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