Fishpond, 400m south-west of Ray Cottages


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011110

Date first listed: 02-Dec-1993


Ordnance survey map of Fishpond, 400m south-west of Ray Cottages
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Kirkwhelpington

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 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 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 cleared. 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,

End of official listing