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Fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Filleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 51.0453 / 51°2'43"N

Longitude: -3.9043 / 3°54'15"W

OS Eastings: 266606.320401

OS Northings: 129052.108798

OS Grid: SS666290

Mapcode National: GBR KY.GGR9

Mapcode Global: FRA 26QC.0T0

Entry Name: Fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill

Scheduled Date: 26 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015467

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28627

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Filleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Filleigh St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, part of the estate of
Castle Hill, Filleigh. It is situated 690m north west of Castle Hill House,
and 100m north of Winslade, in the base of a steep river valley on a tributary
of the Filleigh Brook.

The monument includes a single fishpond with surviving dam, weir, overflow
leat, island and incoming leat, although the main flow of water is provided by
the unnamed tributary to the Filleigh Brook. The pond lies in the base of a
steep river valley and measures 122m long and 22m wide. The source stream
enters it from the western end. At the eastern end there is a dam which
measures 35.1m long, 4.7m wide and up to 1.4m high. It is composed of stone
and earth and is aligned in a south west to north east direction. On the
southern side the dam lies directly across the original course of the stream.
To the north east and set back from the dam itself is an overflow weir. This
is triangular in shape, stone built and funnels water into an overflow leat
which flows through a culvert under the dam. The weir measures 2m high, 3.4m
wide at the top tapering to 0.8m wide when it enters the culvert, it is 2.7m
long and is a stepped structure for up to 1.3m of its length. The culvert
issues water into the overflow leat, which gradually turns to the south west
where it rejoins the original course of the stream. This channel is 5.2m wide
and up to 1.4m deep.

To the west of the dam located between the southern pond bank and the weir
there is a small oval shaped island connected to the dam itself. This measures
18m long from east to west and 12.2m wide from north to south and is up to 1m
high above the water line. To the west of the dam, and north of the island, at
the eastern end of the pond is an incoming leat which measures 1.9m wide and
0.5m deep. There is a bridge and track over the leat as it enters the pond to
facilitate access to the woods.

The fishpond is recorded on the 1903 revision of the 1886 OS map, but may
also be indicated on the 1763 Field Map.

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 fishpond in Lower Beer Wood, Castle Hill survives well displaying a wide
range of original features. It is one of several broadly contemporary
monuments visible in the area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Colvin, , Moggridge, , Castle Hill: Summary and evaluation of History, (1991)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS62NE72, (1988)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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