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Two fishponds in Oddens Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Abbotsbury, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.6619 / 50°39'42"N

Longitude: -2.5954 / 2°35'43"W

OS Eastings: 358011.050213

OS Northings: 84856.370183

OS Grid: SY580848

Mapcode National: GBR PT.T13C

Mapcode Global: FRA 57GB.6P3

Entry Name: Two fishponds in Oddens Wood

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015696

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29047

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Abbotsbury

Built-Up Area: Abbotsbury

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Abbotsbury St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a pair of fishponds situated on the southern side of
Oddens Wood. The fishponds lie to the south of the precinct of St Peter's
Abbey and to the north east of Abbotsbury Swannery and are likely to relate to
the use of the Abbey.
The fishponds, which are aligned north east by south west, were surveyed by
the Royal Commission for Historical Monuments (England) in 1952. The north
eastern pond is sub-rectangular in plan with maximum dimensions of 75m by 60m.
It has been modified since 1952, with the addition of an artificial island in
the centre. The south western fishpond is rectangular in plan with maximum
dimensions of 75m by 42m. It is situated c.5m lower than the neighbouring pond
and is no longer waterlain.
Water was fed into the north eastern pond by means of a channel from the east,
and then flowed into the south western pond by means of a two channelled weir
which had two sluice gates. Water from the north eastern pond is now diverted
into a drainage channel which leads to the south east and discharges into the
West Fleet.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fence posts relating to the modern
boundaries, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

Despite some modification, the two fishponds in Oddens Wood survive
comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence
relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. It is
likely that these ponds were associated with the nearby St Peter's Abbey.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 8
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 8
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7

Source: Historic England

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