Fishpond, 400m south-west of Ray Cottages
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1011110
Date first listed: 02-Dec-1993
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 96698 85558
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 fishpond at Ray survives well and retains significant archaeological remains. Well preserved examples are not common in this area; and it is also associated with other remains of medieval settlement at Ray, including a bastle.
The monument includes a medieval fishpond, situated to the south-west of Ray
bastle, and to the north-west of the deserted medieval hamlet of Ray. The
fishpond, orientated north-south, is of simple form and consists of a single
rectangular pond 40m by 7.5m with a flat bottom. The spoil dug from the pond
has been used to form surrounding banks on the east and west sides which stand
to a maximum height of 2.1m and are an average of 7.5m wide. The northern end
of the pond is delimited by a scarped bank and the southern end by a slight
bank with gaps in the south-east and the south-west corners; it is here that
leats leading from the nearby stream and controlled by sluices would have led
water into and out of the pond. The remains of a dividing bank 3.5m wide is
visible half way along the pond. Immediately to the west of the pond, and
parallel to it, there is an earthen bank 3m wide. The nature of this bank is
unclear but it appears to be associated with the fishpond. The bastle at Ray
is the subject of a separate scheduling, and it is likely that construction
and use of the fishpond was closely associated with occupation of this
building. The bastle also provided a focus for medieval settlement at Ray
although the exact nature and extent of this is not yet fully understood, and
hence the settlement is not included in the scheduling.
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: 21006
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Beresford, MW, Hurst, JG, Deserted Medieval Villages, (1989), 199
NY 98 NW 07,
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