Ancient Monuments

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Fishponds 90m south east St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Attenborough & Chilwell East, Nottinghamshire

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Latitude: 52.9032 / 52°54'11"N

Longitude: -1.2298 / 1°13'47"W

OS Eastings: 451900.741545

OS Northings: 334249.315

OS Grid: SK519342

Mapcode National: GBR 8J1.V7M

Mapcode Global: WHDH4.29N6

Entry Name: Fishponds 90m south east St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018117

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29922

County: Nottinghamshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Attenborough & Chilwell East

Built-Up Area: Beeston (Broxtowe)

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Attenborough

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham


The monument includes the earthwork and below ground remains of a series of
fishponds situated approximately 90m south east of St Mary's Church, in a
field bounded to the east by the Erewash Stream. The fishponds are a series of
six linear compartments which form a nucleated set. The ponds have not been
excavated but they are thought to date to the early 13th century when the
fishing rights of Attenborough are documented as belonging to Felley and
Lenton Priories. Ireton House, which lies approximately 100m north west of the
ponds and adjacent to the church, is believed to be on the site of a monastic
lodge. It is thought that the ponds were constructed and managed by the
inhabitants of the lodge.
The ponds are aligned north west to south east, run parallel to each other and
survive up to 1m in depth. In general the ponds increase in length from west
to east, the smallest measuring approximately 39m long by 9.2m wide and the
largest 65m by 9m. The longest pond is now incorporated into the field
boundary and has a fence and hedgerow running along its length. Adjacent to
this pond to the west is the widest of the six ponds which measures
approximately 14.2m wide and 50m long. This is the only pond to retain water
all year round, the others are now dry but remain boggy in their centre.
Outlet channels are visible extending from the southern ends of four of the
ponds into the Erewash Stream. The remaining two ponds, situated either end of
the group, appear to extend right up to the field boundary with no evidence of
outlet channels. A well defined gulley runs from a body of water at the north
west of the pond complex, passes north of the ponds before curving towards the
south east to meet with the Erewash Stream. This is interpreted as the inlet
channel which would have supplied the ponds with fresh water and possibly
acted as an overflow leat in very wet conditions. A second gulley extends from
the same body of water towards the ponds but the exact relationship with the
ponds is difficult to determine on the ground.
The smallest pond has been partly infilled with material which was excavated
when a swimming pool was constructed in the garden of Ireton House.
All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath 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.

The series of fishponds at Attenborough are a very well preserved example of
this type of monument in Nottinghamshire. The size and complexity of the ponds
and their water management system is unusual. Important environmental evidence
will be preserved in the basal silts of the ponds, channels and leats. The
survival of documentary records is also important and taken as a whole the
evidence goes some considerable way to improving our understanding of the
workings and management of the ponds and the place they held within the wider

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Howard, M, Ireton House, (1997)
Howard, M, 'The Nottinghamshire Historian' in The Discovery Of Medieval Fishponds in Attenborough, , Vol. 59, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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