Fishponds, 200m south west of Townfoot Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Jan-2020 at 02:41:14.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- NY 90259 86743
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
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 in terms of its protein
content and as a status food 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 as ornamental features in 19th and early 20th century landscape
parks or gardens, 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
Fishponds are widely scattered throughout England and extend into Scotland and
Wales. 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 at Townfoot Farm are extremely well preserved and contain significant archaeological and organic deposits. There are few well preserved fishponds in Northumberland and this set is a valuable addition to their number.
The monument includes the remains of a set of four fishponds of medieval date
situated on the floor of the Rede valley. There are two main ponds, situated
to the north of two smaller subsidiary ponds. The two main ponds, one
rectangular and the other more irregular in shape have been dug into the
ground and the resultant spoil of stone and earth cast up into banks on each
side; the banks range in height from 0.8m to 2.5m. The ponds are divided by a
substantial stone and earth bank 2m high and 10m wide which terminates in a
sub-circular stone revetted platform, 9m in diameter and 1.4m high. This
platform is thought to be the site of a building associated with the
fishponds. South of the main fishponds there are two small subsidiary ponds
orientated east-west; they are 10m-15m long and 12m and 18m wide respectively.
These are interpreted as feeder or breeding ponds. Lying adjacent to the two
smaller ponds and running into the main ponds from the south there is a narrow
leat from which water would be channelled into the ponds. The fishponds are
associated with the medieval grange of Hallyards, of which no surface trace
survives but which was first recorded in documents in 1293. It is said to have
been the family seat of the De Lisle family. The ponds have been truncated on
their northern side by a modern road. The metal shed situated at the northern
end of the monument is excluded from the scheduling although the ground
beneath it is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Hodgson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Northumberland: Volume 2 part 1, (1827), 171-174
NY 98 NW 04,
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