Moated site and fishponds at the Bishop's Palace


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018334

Date first listed: 25-Oct-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Mar-1998


Ordnance survey map of Moated site and fishponds at the Bishop's Palace
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Worcestershire

District: Bromsgrove (District Authority)

Parish: Alvechurch

National Grid Reference: SP 03242 72515


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

Reasons for Designation

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great works of architecture and displays of decoration. Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated, containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls, chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or courtyards. The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post- medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are considered to be nationally important.

The moated site of the Bishop's Palace is associated with a complex of fishponds, a moat system and mill sites. Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow moving fresh water constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They were created by damming narrow valleys, embanked above ground or dug into ground level, and were fed by means of streams and leats. Sluices controlled the flow of water, and overflow channels prevented flooding. Ponds of different sizes and depths were used for different ages and breeds of fish and had separate functions such as storage or spawning. Islands were commonly used for wild fowl breeding, to provide shallow spawning grounds and for buildings used in the fisheries which might include provision for storage and processing and for equipment and accommodation of fishermen, water baliffs, or reeves. The practice of constructing fishponds began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century with some continuing in use until the 17th century. Many were reused as ornamental features into the 19th and 20th centuries. Fishponds were usually the property of the wealthier sectors of society, with magnates, monasteries and bishops often owning large complexes which acted as much as status symbols as practical resources. The moated site at the Bishop's Palace is a rare example of a manorial site with a documented history prior to the Norman Conquest. The associations with the Bishops of Worcester will provide an insight into the management of a large ecclesiastical estate. Part excavation on the moat island has confirmed that domestic remains survive on the platforms, and the waterlogged ditches will retain a high level of archaeological and environmental deposits. The moats provide an example of the engineering skills involved in providing water through a leat up slope from the River Arrow to the moat. The moated site's association with an extensive complex of fishponds and associated water management features increases its importance.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the palace of the Bishops of Worcester and the moat, fishponds and mill sites associated with it. The double-island moated site of the palace lies in the north western part of the monument and is rectangular in shape. To the south east of the palace lies a second, single-island, sub-rectangular moat. To the north, east and south of this moated site is a large area of fishponds and other water management features bounded on the west and south by the River Arrow. The palace is documented from around AD 1230, although the park is recorded from about AD 1160 and manorial records survive from the time of King Offa. In the 16th century Leyland recorded that the decayed timber palace had been recently restored by Bishop Latimer. An estate map of 1701 recorded both parts of the moat as orchards and the buildings had certainly been demolished by around 1780. A late 18th century house now stands on the site. The park had been divided into several farms by the mid-19th century. The palace site, now known as The Moat House, measures 190m by 80m and is orientated north west-south east. The northern island is the larger, measuring approximately 80m by 60m. The main domestic building was sited on this island in the vicinity of the modern house, and some traces of earlier structures have been recorded in the gardens. Part excavation on the moat island has confirmed that domestic remains survive on the platforms. The island to the south east has an uneven surface with large depressions indicating the survival of either building or garden remains. It measures approximately 60m square. The surface of both islands is lower than that of the surrounding land. The circuit of the moat is complete except along the north western arm, parallel with the road, where it has been partly infilled to provide access. The moat is waterlogged and is 5m to 10m wide across the top and 1m to 2m deep. There are traces of an external bank on the eastern and southern sides. To the south east of the palace, across a tributary of the River Arrow, lies a second sub-rectangular moated site, known as the `Bishops Garden'. This moated site is built into steeply rising ground and forms a terraced area adjacent to the gorge of the stream. The moat has substantial external banks and is steep-sided and waterlogged. The island measures approximately 15m by 10m and its surface is uneven. The moat was supplied by a substantial leat, terraced into the slope and leading off the stream to the east and running parallel to it. An outlet lies in the north western angle of the moat. A substantial earthen bank or dam measuring 4m to 6m high and 4m wide across the top, runs across the floor of the valley from the gorge of the stream on the north west towards the rising land opposite, curving to run parallel to the valley sides on the south east. This acted as a causeway across the fishponds and also retained the water of the fishpond system. A leat was formed between the valley sides to the south east and the earthen dam. Several sluices were cut through the earthen dam which widens to form building platforms adjacent to the sluices. The sluices served to feed the fishponds and may also have been used to power water mills. The platforms are believed to preserve building remains associated with the functions of the fisheries and mills. The floor of the valley formed the site of a series of three fishponds which survive as waterlogged hollows lying along the course of a second stream or leat which entered the site in the north eastern corner near the earthen dam and which may have also been fed from the sluices. The valley widens to the south providing a large area of low-lying waterlogged ground which could be flooded by sluices in order to create further fishponds and water meadows. On the rising ground to the south east are medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains with hollow ways providing routes between the fields and the fishpond sites. This area is important for understanding the economy of the community and is therefore included in the scheduling. The rising ground to the south west is bounded by the River Arrow and its tributary on the south and west, forming a broad, gently rising terraced platform above the flood plain, the surface of which has low level earthworks thought to represent the remains of building platforms. The 18th century house, associated structures and modern surfaces, the wooden footbridges and all modern fencing are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all 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: 30009

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Worcester: Volume III, (1913), 253
Aston, M, Earthworks at Bishops Palace Alvechurch, (1972)
Liegh J M, AM107, (1985)

End of official listing