Fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015467

Date first listed: 26-Mar-1997


Ordnance survey map of Fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill
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This copy shows the entry on 23-Jan-2019 at 13:19:46.


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

County: Devon

District: North Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Filleigh

National Grid Reference: SS 66598 29059


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill survives well displaying a wide range of original features. It is one of several broadly contemporary monuments visible in the area.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


This monument includes a fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, part of the estate of Castle Hill, Filleigh. It is situated 690m north west of Castle Hill House, and 100m north of Winslade, in the base of a steep river valley on a tributary of the Filleigh Brook.

The monument includes a single fishpond with surviving dam, weir, overflow leat, island and incoming leat, although the main flow of water is provided by the unnamed tributary to the Filleigh Brook. The pond lies in the base of a steep river valley and measures 122m long and 22m wide. The source stream enters it from the western end. At the eastern end there is a dam which measures 35.1m long, 4.7m wide and up to 1.4m high. It is composed of stone and earth and is aligned in a south west to north east direction. On the southern side the dam lies directly across the original course of the stream. To the north east and set back from the dam itself is an overflow weir. This is triangular in shape, stone built and funnels water into an overflow leat which flows through a culvert under the dam. The weir measures 2m high, 3.4m wide at the top tapering to 0.8m wide when it enters the culvert, it is 2.7m long and is a stepped structure for up to 1.3m of its length. The culvert issues water into the overflow leat, which gradually turns to the south west where it rejoins the original course of the stream. This channel is 5.2m wide and up to 1.4m deep.

To the west of the dam located between the southern pond bank and the weir there is a small oval shaped island connected to the dam itself. This measures 18m long from east to west and 12.2m wide from north to south and is up to 1m high above the water line. To the west of the dam, and north of the island, at the eastern end of the pond is an incoming leat which measures 1.9m wide and 0.5m deep. There is a bridge and track over the leat as it enters the pond to facilitate access to the woods.

The fishpond is recorded on the 1903 revision of the 1886 OS map, but may also be indicated on the 1763 Field Map.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 28627

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Colvin, , Moggridge, , Castle Hill: Summary and evaluation of History, (1991)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS62NE72, (1988)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1995)

End of official listing