Fishponds 260m north west of Mercaston Hall Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020944

Date first listed: 23-Apr-2003


Ordnance survey map of Fishponds 260m north west of Mercaston Hall Farm
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This copy shows the entry on 12-Dec-2018 at 16:49:50.


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

County: Derbyshire

District: Derbyshire Dales (District Authority)

Parish: Mercaston

National Grid Reference: SK 27818 42233


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 series of fishponds 260m north west of Mercaston Hall Farm are a very well-preserved example of this type of monument. Important archaeological and environmental evidence will be preserved in the basal silts of the ponds and channels and within and beneath the banks. Taken as a whole the evidence will improve our understanding of the working of the ponds and the place they held within the wider landscape.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and below ground remains of a series of fishponds situated 260m north west of Mercaston Hall Farm. They drain to the north east into Mercaston Brook but areas of the ponds still become waterlogged in wet weather. The fishponds survive as a series of three depressions aligned north east-south west along a shallow valley. The ponds have not been excavated and are anyway difficult to date, but it is thought they would have been managed as part of the medieval manor of Mercaston. Mercaston Hall Farm dates from the 16th century but may mark the site of the earlier medieval manorial centre. The ponds survive as a series of well-defined earthworks up to 1.5m in depth. The northernmost pond is rectangular in shape and measures approximately 60m long and 25m wide. It is bounded along the two longest sides by a low bank which is approximately 3m wide and 0.75m high. From the south western end of this pond and running for approximately 8m to the south west is a narrow channel which links the northernmost pond to the middle pond. The flow of water between the two ponds would have been controlled by a sluice which would have been set within the channel to act as a gate or weir. The second pond is smaller, sub-rectangular in shape, and measures approximately 18m by 25m. In contrast to the other two ponds, the long axes of which are aligned north east-south west, this pond is aligned south east- north west. It survives to a depth of about 1m. It is linked to the third pond by a wide, shallow channel measuring 5m long and approximately 3m wide. Again, this channel was probably part of the water management system and would have been used to control the flow of water between the ponds. The third pond is the largest, measuring approximately 75m by 34m but the edges are less well defined, particularly at the south western end. This pond has silted up more than the other two and may have suffered some slumping along the edges. On its northern edge, and approximately 45m from its south western end, is a gully measuring 7m which has been cut into the bank. The gully runs to the north but is thought to be post-medieval in origin and may have been dug to assist in the drainage of the surrounding field. Wooden posts set into the northern end of the northernmost pond 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: 35603

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing