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Fishponds 220m south west of St Michael's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Laxton and Moorhouse, Nottinghamshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.1939 / 53°11'38"N

Longitude: -0.9224 / 0°55'20"W

OS Eastings: 472092.103924

OS Northings: 366854.654547

OS Grid: SK720668

Mapcode National: GBR BHM.MMP

Mapcode Global: WHFGV.SZYC

Entry Name: Fishponds 220m south west of St Michael's Church

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 23 February 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018148

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29913

County: Nottinghamshire

Civil Parish: Laxton and Moorhouse

Built-Up Area: Laxton

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Laxton

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and below ground remains of a series of
fishponds situated in the bottom of a slight valley 220m south west of St
Michaels Church. The fishponds, a series of at least seven compartments, are
arranged in a linear pattern running roughly east to west through the valley.
The ponds are believed to have belonged to the manor house of the Rous family
built in 1400.
The ponds, now dry, were cut out of the flat valley bottom and the excavated
material used to enhance the banks and increase water retention. A small
stream, which flows towards the east, runs along the length of the ponds to
the south. The earthworks survive to a height of 0.5m.
The westernmost pond is rectangular in shape, aligned north to south and
measures approximately 15m wide and 32m long. An opening in the south west
corner of the bank represents a water inlet channel. In the south east corner
another narrow break in the ditch, the outlet channel, leads into the biggest
pond compartment in the chain. The water flowing into the larger pond was
probably regulated by a sluice across the narrow channel. This pond is aligned
east to west and measures approximately 75m long and 23m wide. A break in the
southern bank may represent the position of an outlet channel but some
degradation to the bank makes this difficult to determine.
The next pond in the sequence is roughly square in shape, measuring
approximately 25m by 25m with a narrow break in the bank in the south east
corner. The break in the bank probably served as an inlet or outlet channel.
The next pond in the chain lies approximately 58m to the east of the square
pond. This break in the chain is marked by a right angled diversion in the
stream to the south. It is possible that this originally formed part of
another pond to the south of the stream, a similar feature is evident at the
eastern end of the pond series. A 19th century brick built septic tank,
constructed to serve the vicarage (125m north of the ponds), is located
beneath the ground surface between the ponds on the northern side of the
stream. This will have distorted earlier evidence of the ponds structure in
the area which is therefore not included in the scheduling.
The next pond in the chain is sub-rectangular in shape measuring approximately
58m in length and up to 20m wide. It is defined on all sides by a clearly
constructed bank with openings for the inlet and outlet channels in the south
west and south east corners respectively. The outlet channel leads directly
into the next pond, again a rectangular shaped feature, which is clearly
marked to the south by a raised bank. This pond measures almost 100m in
length by up to 18m in width but narrows considerably at its centre. It is
possible that this was originally two ponds divided by a sluice.
Approximately 27m south east of this pond and south of the stream is another
small rectangular pond. This measures approximately 26m long and 10m wide and,
although marked by a steep bank to the south, appears to use the north bank of
the stream to mark its northern limit.
Thirty metres to the north of this pond is another rectangular pond. This is
detached from the other ponds, currently full of water and has been fairly
recently landscaped. For these reasons and the fact that its contemporaneity
with the other ponds is uncertain this pond is not included in the scheduling.
All modern fences and gates and the footbridge are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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 series of fishponds 220m south west of St Michael's Church are well
preserved examples of this type of monument. 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. Equally important environmental evidence and archaeological deposits
will be preserved on the buried land surface beneath the dams and platforms.
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 landscape.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Johnston, J.S., AM7, (1975)

Source: Historic England

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