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Moated site and fishponds at Church Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Leckhampton, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8738 / 51°52'25"N

Longitude: -2.0865 / 2°5'11"W

OS Eastings: 394140.641159

OS Northings: 219474.812624

OS Grid: SO941194

Mapcode National: GBR 2MJ.FBD

Mapcode Global: VH94F.S59C

Entry Name: Moated site and fishponds at Church Farm

Scheduled Date: 7 May 1948

Last Amended: 10 August 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016994

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32363

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Leckhampton

Built-Up Area: Cheltenham

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Leckhampton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a moated site and two fishponds set on level ground at
Church Farm. It is visible as a rectangular four-armed moat enclosing an
island measuring about 42m by 22m, orientated north west-south east. The moat
is 13m wide at its widest point and up to 4m deep. There is an external bank,
about 0.5m high and 5m wide, running alongside the south western arm. The
south eastern arm and south corner of the moat have been infilled, but will
survive as buried features. The island is level with the surrounding fields,
and earthworks are visible on the island, indicating that earlier structures
will survive as buried remains. Earlier maps of the Leckhampton area show two
fishponds lying close to the north west corner of the moat. The northernmost
of the ponds measures 18m north east-south west by 7m, while the pond to the
south measures 16m north east-south west by 8m. These fishponds are no longer
visible at ground level, having become infilled over the years, but will
survive as buried features.
The moated site at Church Farm was partially excavated in 1933 by Major JGN
Clift. During these investigations, pottery of 12th and 13th century was
recovered, along with roof ridge tiles of 14th-16th century date. The remains
of a wooden bridge with stone abuttments dating from the first half of the
14th century were also revealed on the north east arm of the moat.
The wooden fencing on the island and to the north and west of the moat, the
wood and wire fence across the north eastern arm of the moat along with all
wooden stiles and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included.

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

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some
cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was
between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in
central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built
throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and
exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a
significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding
of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples
provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.

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 a 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 closes 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 moated site at Church Farm survives well and is unencumbered by later
buildings. Buried deposits on the island will include the remains of
medieval structures, and will contain archaeological information relating to
the construction and subsequent occupation and use of the moated site. Within
the moat and fishponds, waterlogged deposits will preserve archaeological
remains relating to the occupation and use of the site, along with organic
material which will provide information about the economy of the site and the
local environment during the medieval period. The partial excavation carried
out in the 1930s has shown that occupation of the site continued from the 12th
century to the 16th century and has given an indication of the archaeological
potential of the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clift, J G N, 'Trans. of the Bristol and Glos. Arch. Society' in Leckhampton Moat, , Vol. LV, (1933), 235-48
1:2500, (1970)

Source: Historic England

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