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Fishponds 170m south of Damstead Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Annesley, Nottinghamshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.0708 / 53°4'14"N

Longitude: -1.27 / 1°16'12"W

OS Eastings: 449006.808628

OS Northings: 352869.902463

OS Grid: SK490528

Mapcode National: GBR 7DQ.HQG

Mapcode Global: WHDGB.G2GN

Entry Name: Fishponds 170m south of Damstead Farm

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018119

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29925

County: Nottinghamshire

Civil Parish: Annesley

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Annesley with Newstead

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and below ground remains of a series of
fishponds situated approximately 170m south of Damstead Farm. The ponds lie in
a natural valley through which runs Cuttail Brook. The fishponds are a series
of three compartments which form a linear group. The ponds have not been
excavated but are believed to belong to the medieval period, when they formed
part of the Annesley Hall estate.
The ponds are aligned south east to north west and increase in size from the
south. The smallest measures approximately 40m long and 25m wide, the middle
pond approximately 53m long and between 15m and 38m wide and the largest
approximately 187m long and 50m wide. All three are dammed at their north
western ends. The dams consist of earth and clay banks. Pipes have been
inserted in parts of the dams to maintain the water flow through the ponds,
and metal revetting and sand bags have been used to reinforce the banks of the
dams. The dam to the north west of the largest pond is substantial, with a
considerable drop in ground level to the north. The outlet channel for Cuttail
Brook extends from the northern corner of this pond.
Two of the ponds retain water throughout the year; the smallest is very boggy
and has a small amount of surface water during the wettest months of the year.
The ponds are fed by Cuttail Brook and by springs which surface on the slopes
to the north and south of the ponds before draining into them. Although the
ponds take advantage of the natural lie of the land, their shape and size
may have been manually enhanced. Banks around the edge of the ponds indicate
that a level of enhancement or maintenance has taken place in the past.
All modern fences, metal revetting, sandbags, buildings and fishing platforms
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features
is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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
flooding.
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
cleared.
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 at Annesley are a well preserved example of this type of
monument in Nottinghamshire. The size of the ponds and their water management
system is unusual. Important environmental evidence will be preserved in the
basal silts of the ponds and beneath the banks and dams. Taken as a whole the
evidence will go some way to improving our understanding of the workings and
management of the ponds and the place they held within the wider landscape.

Source: Historic England

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