Fishponds 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018947

Date first listed: 18-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Fishponds 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Nov-2018 at 21:22:46.


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

District: Hartlepool (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Hart

National Grid Reference: NZ 46996 35164


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 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church are very well preserved and retain significant archaeological and environmental deposits. Their association with the remains of a medieval manorial complex immediately to the south enhances the importance of the monument, and will add to our understanding of medieval manorial life.


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


The monument includes the remains of a set of fishponds of medieval date, situated immediately north of the associated medieval manorial complex at Hart. The manorial complex is the subject of a separate scheduling. The fishponds are visible as two ponds with a central linking leat. The most easterly pond is visible as a prominent rectangular depression 55m long by 25m wide and varying between 2m to 3m deep. The pond remains waterlogged. The fishpond is fed with water from a leat situated immediately to the west; the leat is 55m long by 15m wide and a maximum of 2m deep, and is embanked, with the banks 0.5m high and spread to 3m. At the western end of the leat is the second and most westerly fishpond. This pond, which is infilled, is visible as a slight waterlogged depression within a school playing field; it is also visible on aerial photographs and is about 46m long by 25m wide.

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: 32745

Legacy System: RSM


CCA, 06777,
CCA, Hart fishponds, (1978)

End of official listing