Fishponds 220m south west of St Michael's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018148

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 23-Feb-1998


Ordnance survey map of Fishponds 220m south west of St Michael's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Nottinghamshire

District: Newark and Sherwood (District Authority)

Parish: Laxton and Moorhouse

National Grid Reference: SK7210066849


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 220m south west of St Michael's Church are well preserved examples of this type of monument. 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. Equally important environmental evidence and archaeological deposits will be preserved on the buried land surface beneath the dams and platforms. 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 in the bottom of a slight valley 220m south west of St Michaels Church. The fishponds, a series of at least seven compartments, are arranged in a linear pattern running roughly east to west through the valley. The ponds are believed to have belonged to the manor house of the Rous family built in 1400. The ponds, now dry, were cut out of the flat valley bottom and the excavated material used to enhance the banks and increase water retention. A small stream, which flows towards the east, runs along the length of the ponds to the south. The earthworks survive to a height of 0.5m. The westernmost pond is rectangular in shape, aligned north to south and measures approximately 15m wide and 32m long. An opening in the south west corner of the bank represents a water inlet channel. In the south east corner another narrow break in the ditch, the outlet channel, leads into the biggest pond compartment in the chain. The water flowing into the larger pond was probably regulated by a sluice across the narrow channel. This pond is aligned east to west and measures approximately 75m long and 23m wide. A break in the southern bank may represent the position of an outlet channel but some degradation to the bank makes this difficult to determine. The next pond in the sequence is roughly square in shape, measuring approximately 25m by 25m with a narrow break in the bank in the south east corner. The break in the bank probably served as an inlet or outlet channel. The next pond in the chain lies approximately 58m to the east of the square pond. This break in the chain is marked by a right angled diversion in the stream to the south. It is possible that this originally formed part of another pond to the south of the stream, a similar feature is evident at the eastern end of the pond series. A 19th century brick built septic tank, constructed to serve the vicarage (125m north of the ponds), is located beneath the ground surface between the ponds on the northern side of the stream. This will have distorted earlier evidence of the ponds structure in the area which is therefore not included in the scheduling. The next pond in the chain is sub-rectangular in shape measuring approximately 58m in length and up to 20m wide. It is defined on all sides by a clearly constructed bank with openings for the inlet and outlet channels in the south west and south east corners respectively. The outlet channel leads directly into the next pond, again a rectangular shaped feature, which is clearly marked to the south by a raised bank. This pond measures almost 100m in length by up to 18m in width but narrows considerably at its centre. It is possible that this was originally two ponds divided by a sluice. Approximately 27m south east of this pond and south of the stream is another small rectangular pond. This measures approximately 26m long and 10m wide and, although marked by a steep bank to the south, appears to use the north bank of the stream to mark its northern limit. Thirty metres to the north of this pond is another rectangular pond. This is detached from the other ponds, currently full of water and has been fairly recently landscaped. For these reasons and the fact that its contemporaneity with the other ponds is uncertain this pond is not included in the scheduling. All modern fences and gates and the footbridge are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 29913

Legacy System: RSM


Johnston, J.S., AM7, (1975)

End of official listing