Medieval fishpond complex 250m south of Laurels Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018538

Date first listed: 02-Dec-1998


Ordnance survey map of Medieval fishpond complex 250m south of Laurels Farm
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This copy shows the entry on 15-Dec-2018 at 17:19:07.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Lincolnshire

District: North Kesteven (District Authority)

Parish: Osbournby

National Grid Reference: TF 06655 37770


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 remains of the fishpond complex 250m south of Laurels Farm survive well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. The site has not been archaeologically excavated and deposits of both the medieval and post-medieval periods will therefore survive intact, including the part of the fishponds which has been infilled. The waterlogged silts surviving in the ponds will preserve evidence of environmental remains (such as seeds, pollen, or timber) providing information on the use of the pond and the local environment. Where the ground has been raised deposits associated with the land use prior to the construction of the fishpond complex will have been preserved.

The association of the fishpond complex with the site of a possible manorial centre contributes to an understanding of the interrelationship of contemporary components of the wider medieval landscape. Its reuse in the post-medieval period as a boating lake and recreational feature demonstrates its continued importance as a feature of the landscape.


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


The monument includes the remains of a medieval fishpond complex located on a gentle south-facing slope approximately 250m south of Laurels Farm, to the south west of the village of Osbournby. The complex is thought to have been associated with one of two major medieval land holdings which formerly belonged to the manor of Folkingham. From the 18th century the manor was held by the Whichcote family. The remains include the earthworks of two fishponds, with associated water control features, and are believed to be of medieval origin. The complex was formerly linked, via leats, to a medieval ditched enclosure and moated site to the north which no longer survives and is therefore not included in the scheduling.

The fishpond complex covers an area measuring approximately 100m by 50m. The principal fishpond is roughly rectangular in plan measuring approximately 48m by 23m and up to 1.5m deep, and includes a central rectangular island, measuring 26m by 6m, which may relate to fishing activites or wildfowl management. A broad channel, 6m to 8m wide, extends from the north western corner of the fishpond towards a second pond to the west which has been infilled but survives as a buried feature. The central portion of the island lies at approximately the same height as the ground to the south and west of the pond whilst the ground to the east of the pond is raised above the prevailing ground level, probably by material dug from the ponds or leats. The eastern and western ends of the island lie below the level of the central portion; this reduced level may have provided shallow spawning areas. The pond now contains a shallow depth of ground water.

The fishpond is surrounded on three sides by a leat which effectively defines the limit of the monument to the south and the east. The southern arm of the leat follows a slightly winding course which is interrupted at its western end by a modern drainage ditch. To the east the leat turns northwards continuing along the eastern edge of the fishpond. The northern arm of the leat feeds into two channels which in turn lead northwards from the fishpond complex. The leat arms surrounding the pond are between 2m to 3.5m wide and up to 0.6m deep.

The fishpond has been reused in the post-medieval period as a recreational feature and includes the remains of a brick-built boat house constructed at the centre of the complex, on the western edge of the pond.

All modern fences 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: 31601

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Kesteven Award 58, Osbournby, (1798)
Healey, RH, Roffe, DR, Some medieval and later earthworks in South Lincolnshire, (1990), 122-123
Anyan, Mr, (1997)

End of official listing