Medieval monastic fishponds immediately east of Park House


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Medieval monastic fishponds immediately east of Park House
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 26-May-2019 at 04:19:27.


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

North Yorkshire
Harrogate (District Authority)
Markington with Wallerthwaite
National Grid Reference:
SE 26757 67646, SE 26778 67729

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 six fishponds immediately east of Park House survive well and significant evidence of their original form and function will be preserved. Three of the ponds survive as upstanding earthworks. The other three ponds have been infilled, but will still retain important information including silts and other remains. The ponds were part of the Fountains Abbey estate and are important for understanding the wider monastic economy and the impact of the abbey on the medieval landscape.


The monument includes the remains of a series of six fishponds and associated structures formerly belonging to the nearby medieval Fountains Abbey. The fishponds lie on a tributary of the River Skell 600m south west of the abbey remains. The monument is divided into two areas of protection; one to the north containing the remains of the ponds and one to the south of the farm track containing the remains of a dam. The fishponds include six rectangular ponds arranged in pairs, but only three now survive as earthworks, the other three having been infilled over the years. The original arrangement included a pair of large rectangular ponds oriented north to south, with a further pair of smaller ponds oriented east to west lying to the north and to the south. The two large north to south ponds survive as substantial earthworks up to 2.25m high. The northern edge of the pond immediately to the north also survives as a shallow earthwork. To the east of the central ponds are two small rectangular platforms, the larger being 7.5m by 5.5m in size. These are thought to be the sites of fish processing buildings. In 1985 the three ponds surviving as earthworks were partially excavated. The results showed evidence of the construction methods in all three ponds and that the pond to the east retained significant organic remains, the other two ponds having been cleared out and partly backfilled in the past. A dam lies to the south of the ponds. It originally held back and controlled the flow of water into the fishponds and survives as a prominent bank 6m wide. The monument is located within Fountains Park, the former hunting park of Fountains Abbey. The adjacent farm was originally one of the home farms of the abbey, for which the fishponds provided an important food supply. All gates and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these 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:
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Books and journals
Coppack, G, Fountains Abbey, (1993), 87
Newman, M, Fountains Abbey, (1998)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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