Fishponds 90m south east St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018117

Date first listed: 24-Jul-1998


Ordnance survey map of Fishponds 90m south east St Mary's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Nottinghamshire

District: Broxtowe (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: SK 51901 34246


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 series of fishponds at Attenborough are a very well preserved example of this type of monument in Nottinghamshire. The size and complexity of the ponds and their water management system is unusual. Important environmental evidence will be preserved in the basal silts of the ponds, channels and leats. The survival of documentary records is also important and taken as a whole the evidence goes some considerable way to improving our understanding of the workings and management of the ponds and the place they held within the wider landscape.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and below ground remains of a series of fishponds situated approximately 90m south east of St Mary's Church, in a field bounded to the east by the Erewash Stream. The fishponds are a series of six linear compartments which form a nucleated set. The ponds have not been excavated but they are thought to date to the early 13th century when the fishing rights of Attenborough are documented as belonging to Felley and Lenton Priories. Ireton House, which lies approximately 100m north west of the ponds and adjacent to the church, is believed to be on the site of a monastic lodge. It is thought that the ponds were constructed and managed by the inhabitants of the lodge. The ponds are aligned north west to south east, run parallel to each other and survive up to 1m in depth. In general the ponds increase in length from west to east, the smallest measuring approximately 39m long by 9.2m wide and the largest 65m by 9m. The longest pond is now incorporated into the field boundary and has a fence and hedgerow running along its length. Adjacent to this pond to the west is the widest of the six ponds which measures approximately 14.2m wide and 50m long. This is the only pond to retain water all year round, the others are now dry but remain boggy in their centre. Outlet channels are visible extending from the southern ends of four of the ponds into the Erewash Stream. The remaining two ponds, situated either end of the group, appear to extend right up to the field boundary with no evidence of outlet channels. A well defined gulley runs from a body of water at the north west of the pond complex, passes north of the ponds before curving towards the south east to meet with the Erewash Stream. This is interpreted as the inlet channel which would have supplied the ponds with fresh water and possibly acted as an overflow leat in very wet conditions. A second gulley extends from the same body of water towards the ponds but the exact relationship with the ponds is difficult to determine on the ground. The smallest pond has been partly infilled with material which was excavated when a swimming pool was constructed in the garden of Ireton House. All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 29922

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Howard, M, Ireton House, (1997)
Howard, M, 'The Nottinghamshire Historian' in The Discovery Of Medieval Fishponds in Attenborough, , Vol. 59, (1997)

End of official listing