Medieval fishpond complex and associated features at North Kelsey Grange


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

West Lindsey (District Authority)
North Kelsey
National Grid Reference:
TA 04325 01035

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 medieval fishpond complex at North Kelsey Grange survives well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. The site has not been archaeologically excavated and medieval deposits will therefore survive relatively intact. The waterlogged silts in the ponds and channels 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 artifically raised, deposits associated with the land use prior to the construction of the fishpond complex will have been preserved.

The fishponds at North Kelsey Grange are associated with a monastic grange, or farm, owned and run by a monastic community to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house and also to provide surpluses to sell for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. A monastery might have more than one grange and granges could be established on lands adjacent to the monastery or wherever the monastic site held lands. The remains of the features associated with the grange, such as its closes, and ridge and furrow cultivation will contribute to an understanding of the relationship between contemporary components of the wider medieval landscape. The establishment of the grange and associated features over earlier ridge and furrow cultivation will provide evidence of land use prior to the construction of the complex. As a result of survey and documentary research the establishment and ownership history of the complex are quite well understood.


The monument includes a medieval fishpond complex and associated features located at North Kelsey Grange. The complex is believed to be associated with a grange of the Gilbertine priory of North Ormsby which was established at North Kelsey by the early 13th century. The grange, established over earlier ridge and furrow, is thought to have lain on the site of the present farm buildings and yards which were established in the early 19th century. The grange and its lands remained in the hands of the priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1545 the grange was in the tenure of John Fenbye. No archaeological remains are now evident in the area of the present farmhouse, outbuildings and yards at North Kelsey Grange and this area is therefore not included in the scheduling.

The fishpond complex lies to the west of the site of the grange with enclosures lying to the north of it together with medieval ridge and furrow cultivation, a hollow way, and a trackway known as `Grainge Lane'. The fishponds and enclosures are believed to have been established on land granted to the grange, specifically for the creation of enclosures or for cultivation, during the 13th century.

The remains of the fishponds and associated water control features lie on the floor of a shallow valley. The fishpond complex was supplied with water by a stream flowing in from the east; the water channel follows a curving course along the southern side of the ponds to join a trapezoidal pond at the western end of the complex. The trapezoidal pond, measuring 65m by 50m, is surrounded by banks, or dams, standing up to 1.5m high and includes a central island of similar shape measuring 35m by 20m. The island includes a rectangular hollow at the centre, connected to the pond via a narrow channel, and a mound at its western end. The hollow is thought to represent a breeding tank and the various levels on the island will have provided shallow spawning areas. Water entered the larger pond at the south east corner with outlets provided at the south west and north west corners. The outlet at the south western corner of the pond leads directly into a rectangular embanked pond, measuring 20m in length, thought to have been a holding or a sorting tank, which was also provided with an outlet at the south west corner. The narrowness of the inlets and outlets suggest that the water supply for the complex was controlled by a system of sluices.

To the east of the trapezoidal fishpond is a shallow, roughly rectangular, pond measuring approximately 75m in length, surrounded by banks and leats with the water supply channel lying along its southern edge. To the east, banks and leats surround another rectangular pond of similar size and a smaller shallow area, which also lie on the north side of the water course. An embanked channel following a course along the northern edge of the ponds and turning to the south on the eastern side of the trapezoidal pond represents a bypass leat.

A bank and ditch marks the southern extent of the fishpond complex. To the east of the fishponds this boundary is linked to a bank and ditch thought to be the southern boundary of the grange court which was constructed over earlier medieval ridge and furrow cultivation.

Rectangular enclosures also overlie the earlier medieval ridge and furrow cultivation to the north of the grange site, including low rectangular earthwork building platforms thought to represent dwellings. A low bank marks the northern limit of the ridge and furrow, and is interrupted by a hollow way which overlies the cultivation and enclosures. Another area of ridge and furrow lies immediately to the west of the fishpond complex. A former trackway, `Grainge Lane', lies along the northern edge of the fishpond complex and was still in use until the early 19th century.

All fences and water troughs 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:
Legacy System:


NMR, 891904,
NMR, 891904, (1998)
RCHM(E), Everson, P L and Taylor C C and Dunn, C J, Change And Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire, (1991)
RCHM(E), Everson, P L and Taylor C C and Dunn, C J, Change And Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire, (1991)


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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