Fishpond, enclosures and section of field system 165m north west of Elwick Hall
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016353
Date first listed: 08-Dec-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Hartlepool (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: NZ 45141 32298
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
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.
Most nucleated villages were surrounded by a series of unenclosed fields known as an open field system. Open field systems originated before AD 1000 and continued in use throughout the Middle Ages. However, recent work has shown that some open field systems preserve the fossilized remains of earlier Roman and prehistoric systems within their basic framework. From the late 16th century, the open fields began to be enclosed by banks and hedges into the more familiar fields of the present landscape. Formerly more extensive, open field systems generally survive as fragments in association with medieval settlements. They were the product of a communal system of farming in which each tenant held a share of the manor's arable and meadow land. The holdings of each tenant were scattered across the open fields, the basic unit of tenancy being the lande. Landes were parcelled together into larger groups called furlongs, whose length and the number of landes they contained varied greatly. Furlongs were grouped together into fields and an open field system usually included several such fields. Systems of crop rotation were employed, and these might be based on either the field or the furlong. The sides of the furlongs were marked by baulks of unploughed land which often survive as low banks and are known as furlong boundaries. The ends of the furlongs were marked by headlands which survive as prominent earthen banks. Ploughmen used the headlands as spaces on which to turn the teams of oxen or horses which pulled the plough. Headlands were usually ploughed after work on the rest of the furlong had been completed, though sometimes they were left unploughed and, along with the baulks between furlongs, provided access between furlongs. Such unploughed areas were grazed by livestock. The most characteristic feature of open field systems is ridge and furrow, a form of medieval cultivation produced by the action of a heavy plough with a fixed mould board. The fishpond near Elwick Hall is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Taken with the adjacent enclosures and a section of the surrounding open field system, it will add greatly to our knowledge of medieval settlement and economy in this region.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of a fishpond, two enclosures and a section
of open field system of medieval date. These features were situated to the
north west of the medieval village of Elwick with which they are associated.
Elwick has remained in occupation to the present day; this continued
occupation has obscured further evidence of the medieval settlement. The
fishpond, which is sub-rectangular in shape, is visible as a large depression
up to 1m deep. At its north western corner there are two roughly circular
islands used for fishing or wildfowl management purposes. Part of the water
management system associated with the pond is visible at its southern end;
here the pond narrows into a channel comprising three straight sections with
two right-angled bends; this arm of the pond formed part of the inlet/outlet
channel through which water was fed to the pond, controlled by a series of
sluice gates. The pond is flanked on the east by an earthen bank and on the
north and west by an earthen bank and an outer ditch which separates the pond
from the surrounding ridge and furrow. Also on the eastern side there is a
small enclosure attached to the outside of the bank. Both of these features
overlie medieval ridge and furrow, indicating that at least this part of the
area was under the plough when the fishpond was constructed. At the south end
of the first section of channel, a trackway leads eastwards in the direction
of the present 18th-century Elwick Hall. Immediately to the north of the
trackway are the earthwork remains of a roughly rectangular enclosure,
containing at its north eastern corner a square platform interpreted as the
base of a former building. It is thought that these enclosures are associated
with the former medieval Elwick Hall. A World War II pill box is situated to
the east of the fishponds and is 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: 28560
Legacy System: RSM
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