Three fishponds at Winslade


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Three fishponds at Winslade
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Torridge (District Authority)
East Putford
National Grid Reference:
SS 38204 18992, SS 38423 18756, SS 38601 18622

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 three fishponds at Winslade survive well and are relatively rare in Devon. This well preserved group lie in close association with a documented medieval settlement.


This monument includes three fishponds which are contained in three separate areas concentrated around the farm of Winslade, which has medieval origins. The three fishponds survive as earthworks, each one preserved as a rectangular pond surrounding a central island. All have strongly built outer banks and the two larger ponds have a revetted long side built into the natural hillslope. They all differ in size, the largest lies to the north west of the farm and the smallest to the south east. The largest pond also shows evidence of banks surrounding the perimeter of the island, and one bisecting it from north to south. The northernmost pond is aligned from east to west, measures 42m long by 31.5m wide and is 0.6m deep. To the west, east and south the pond is defined by major earthen banks. These attain basal widths of up to 6.7m, tapering to 2.2m wide on the tops and stand up to 1.2m high. These enclosing banks underlie the field boundaries to the south and east. There are breaks in the outer banks at the north west and south western corners. In the south eastern corner another break in the bank leads into a leat which flows downslope beside the field boundary and measures up to 1m wide and 1.2m deep. The central island measures 23.2m long and 12.7m wide and is up to 1.8m high. The second fishpond lies to the south east of the first and is aligned approximately east to west. It measures 30.7m long, 13m wide and is 0.5m deep. The pond is defined by banks to the west, south and east which measure up to 5m wide at the base, tapering to 2.6m wide at the tops and are up to 1.4m high. The central island measures 24.5m long, 4.8m wide and 1.6m high. On the southern and eastern sides the outer banks underlie the field boundaries. The third fishpond lies to the south east of the second. It is aligned north west to south east. The pond measures 17.2m long, 12.2m wide and is 0.2m deep. It is enclosed by banks on all four sides which measure up to 2.8m wide and 0.5m high. The central island measures 7.4m long, 2.4m wide and 1.2m high.

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:
Legacy System:


Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS31NE16, (1972)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS31NE16, (1990)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, Gerrard, H., (1997)


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

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