Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Little Park Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018430

Date first listed: 15-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Little Park Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Wootton Bassett

National Grid Reference: SU 05434 80490


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 as a food source and for status 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 fishponds to the north of Little Park Farm survive well and are a good example of linear ponds of unequal size. They have not been substantially altered since they were first constructed as part of Vastern Park possibly as early as the 13th century.


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


The monument includes two medieval fishponds situated in a small wooded valley cut into Kimmeridge clay, north of Little Park Farm in the clay vale to the south west of Wootton Bassett. The fishponds are orientated south west to north east and are water filled. The larger pond, to the south west is rectangular and dug out of the clay. It is 92m long and up to 35m wide and has an oval island, about 3m long toward the north eastern end. An earth dam to the north east separates the ponds. It is 1.8m from the bottom of the larger pond and 2.5m from the bottom of the smaller pond which is at a lower level. A sluice through the dam which formerly controlled the flow of water between the ponds is now blocked and replaced with a modern overflow drainage system. The smaller pond is 14m wide, 21m long and bounded by an earthwork up to 2m wide and 1m high. The fishponds were built as part of Vastern Park which was created in 1229 when Alan Bassett was allowed to enclose 1.5ha of Wootton Wood. The park was stocked with royal gifts of venison and later enlarged and split into the Great and Little Parks of Vastern. All fence posts 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. 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: 31648

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gough, W, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 44, (1927), 41-42

End of official listing