Coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019105

Date first listed: 06-Oct-2000

Map

Ordnance survey map of Coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

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

County: Essex

District: Maldon (District Authority)

Parish: Bradwell-on-Sea

National Grid Reference: TL 98728 08116

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

Coastal fish weirs are artificial barriers created within the inter-tidal zone, using stone walls, wattle or timber fencing to channel fish into traps. The most common form of weir (a term derived from `were' - an Anglo-Saxon word meaning fish trap) is a simple `V'-shaped arrangement of walls, frequently 100m or more in length. Baskets or nets would be placed at the point of the `V' which would normally be orientated seaward so as to draw in the fish with the receding tide. Weirs may also be rectangular or more linear in appearance with traps located either in corners or set within spurs attached to the main walls. Placed in gently shelving coastal or estuarine locations, the weirs would become sufficiently exposed at low water for the fish to be collected and, in some instances, for initial processing (gutting, filleting) to take place on site. Stationary fish traps are known to have been used since the Mesolithic period, although the earliest examples to leave strong visible traces around the coastline belong to a tradition dating from the early medieval or Anglo-Saxon period. Documentary evidence from the 10th century onwards suggests that fish weirs were largely the preserve of the upper echelons of medieval society, maintained either by larger manors or by religious houses. In addition to the obvious advantage of a constant food supply, the produce from the fish weirs provided economic benefit, indicated social status and could aid compliance with the religious dietary strictures of the period. Large fish weirs were still used in the Severn Estuary until the early 20th century, and their small-scale use persists here and in other parts of the British Isles to this day. In general, however, the practice reached its peak between the 12th and 14th centuries, hereafter declining in the face of growing commercial sea fishing. The remains of about 500 fish weirs are estimated to survive around England's coast. Those of medieval or earlier date which demonstrate a high degree of preservation, and particularly those which form groups or have demonstrable links with manorial or ecclesiastical estates, will normally be considered to be of national importance and worthy of protection.

The coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island is a large double weir and has substantial well preserved upright timbers which maintain the overall layout of the weir and provide clear evidence for its original design and the manner in which it operated. The weir is considered to be early medieval in origin, similar to several other fish weirs which have been identified through recent archaeological studies of the Blackwater Estuary. Elsewhere, the age of timbers has recently been established by radiocarbon dating, and in some cases shown to be as early as the seventh century AD. Furthermore, the fish traps at some sites have been found to contain extensive fishbone deposits, which may indicate the range of activities originally carried out on site. The Pewet Island weir has the potential for similar investigation; at the point or eye of the weir is an elongated trap area which is expected to contain preserved fish bone remains. Further comparative study between this site and others in the estuary, is expected to provide significant insights into the overall date range, development and relevance of these weirs to the social structure and economy of the early medieval period.

History

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

Details

The monument includes a timber-built, double V-shaped fish weir located near the southern shore of the Blackwater Estuary, some 440m north west of Pewet Island and some 500m north west of the sea wall at Bradwell Marina. The weir was first photographed at ground level in October 1997 by local amateur archaeologist and boatman Mr Kevin Bruce, who the following month, together with Essex County Council's Archaeological Advisory Group, surveyed the site from the air. The weir takes the form of a double V-shape, with the two elements one within the other. The weir is sited parallel to the current Mean Low Water Mark, and the arms running parallel to this are substantially elongated. The larger, external weir, is 390m (south west to north east) by 190m (north to south) and the smaller internal weir is 310m (south west to north east) by 100m (north to south). The two weirs may be contemporary, or the inner weir may represent a complete rebuilding of the weir after the outer one had fallen into disrepair. As with several other timber fish weirs in the Blackwater Estuary, some shown to have been constructed during the early medieval period, the weir is sited on the Mean Low Water Mark and was clearly designed to exploit the action of the tides in the inter-tidal zone of the day.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32405

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Strachan, D, C14 dating of some inter-tidal fish-weirs in Essex, (1997)
Other
black and white prints, Bruce, K, BESP Film 23-33, (1993)
black and white prints, Bruce, K, KBBW 12-26, (1993)
black and white prints, Rogers, P, SWBW15-12-18, (1993)
black and white prints, Strachan, D, BW-1994-1-14,15, (1994)
colour prints, Bruce, K, KBC15 to 57, (1993)
colour prints, Strachan, D, CP-97-4-6,7, (1997)
Ingle, C, TL90NE 1:10000 plot, (1995)

End of official listing