Ancient Monuments

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The Lays fishponds, 265m south east of Dennington Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Dennington, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.2669 / 52°16'0"N

Longitude: 1.3589 / 1°21'32"E

OS Eastings: 629289.285938

OS Northings: 268505.334354

OS Grid: TM292685

Mapcode National: GBR WN3.VSY

Mapcode Global: VHL9Y.H9S1

Entry Name: The Lays fishponds, 265m south east of Dennington Hall

Scheduled Date: 9 November 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011333

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21305

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Dennington

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Dennington St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The monument includes two fishponds and associated earthworks, situated south
east of the moated site of Dennington Hall and in a line north-south on a
gradual, south-facing slope. The northern pond is water-filled and of reversed
`L' shape, approximately 1.5m deep and with overall dimensions of 92m
north-south by 65m east-west. To the south of this is an earthen dam
approximately 6m in width and 1m - 1.5m in height above prevailing ground
level, which separates it from a sub-rectangular pond with maximum dimensions
of 63m east-west by 45m north-south. The ponds are fed by a stream which
enters the northern end of the long arm of the `L' and were connected by a
sluice, the remains of which survive at the western end of the dam. The
overflow from the southern pond enters the lower course of the stream through
an outlet in the south side.

The boundary of an enclosure relating to the ponds is marked by a hedgerow
which runs parallel to them on the east side, and this boundary, together with
the area measuring approximately 10m wide, between it and the ponds, is
included in the scheduling.

The modern fencing around the ponds is excluded from the scheduling.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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
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
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 south east of Dennington Hall survive well and will
retain important archaeological information. The associated earthworks are
well preserved and evidence concerning the construction and use of the ponds
will be contained in the dam and sluice. Soils buried beneath the dam will
also preserve evidence of land use in the area prior to the construction of
the ponds. Organic material and environmental evidence relating to the later
use of the ponds will be contained in water-logged deposits in the southern

Source: Historic England


cited in NAR, Tithe Map, Dennington, (1840)
Rous, R C, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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