Two fishponds in Oddens Wood


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015696

Date first listed: 11-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Two fishponds in Oddens Wood
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This copy shows the entry on 10-Dec-2018 at 17:56:19.


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

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Abbotsbury

National Grid Reference: SY 58012 84863


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.

Despite some modification, the two fishponds in Oddens Wood survive comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. It is likely that these ponds were associated with the nearby St Peter's Abbey.


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


The monument includes a pair of fishponds situated on the southern side of Oddens Wood. The fishponds lie to the south of the precinct of St Peter's Abbey and to the north east of Abbotsbury Swannery and are likely to relate to the use of the Abbey. The fishponds, which are aligned north east by south west, were surveyed by the Royal Commission for Historical Monuments (England) in 1952. The north eastern pond is sub-rectangular in plan with maximum dimensions of 75m by 60m. It has been modified since 1952, with the addition of an artificial island in the centre. The south western fishpond is rectangular in plan with maximum dimensions of 75m by 42m. It is situated c.5m lower than the neighbouring pond and is no longer waterlain. Water was fed into the north eastern pond by means of a channel from the east, and then flowed into the south western pond by means of a two channelled weir which had two sluice gates. Water from the north eastern pond is now diverted into a drainage channel which leads to the south east and discharges into the West Fleet. Excluded from the scheduling are all fence posts relating to the modern boundaries, although the ground beneath these features 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: 29047

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 8
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 8
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7

End of official listing