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Moated site and fishponds at the Bishop's Palace

A Scheduled Monument in Alvechurch, Worcestershire

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Latitude: 52.3507 / 52°21'2"N

Longitude: -1.9532 / 1°57'11"W

OS Eastings: 403281.514983

OS Northings: 272520.672506

OS Grid: SP032725

Mapcode National: GBR 3H6.QYP

Mapcode Global: VH9ZN.358R

Entry Name: Moated site and fishponds at the Bishop's Palace

Scheduled Date: 25 October 1974

Last Amended: 13 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018334

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30009

County: Worcestershire

Civil Parish: Alvechurch

Built-Up Area: Alvechurch

Traditional County: Worcestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Worcestershire

Church of England Parish: Alvechurch St Laurence

Church of England Diocese: Worcester


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the palace of the
Bishops of Worcester and the moat, fishponds and mill sites associated with
it. The double-island moated site of the palace lies in the north western part
of the monument and is rectangular in shape. To the south east of the palace
lies a second, single-island, sub-rectangular moat. To the north, east and
south of this moated site is a large area of fishponds and other water
management features bounded on the west and south by the River Arrow.
The palace is documented from around AD 1230, although the park is recorded
from about AD 1160 and manorial records survive from the time of King Offa. In
the 16th century Leyland recorded that the decayed timber palace had been
recently restored by Bishop Latimer. An estate map of 1701 recorded both parts
of the moat as orchards and the buildings had certainly been demolished by
around 1780. A late 18th century house now stands on the site. The park had
been divided into several farms by the mid-19th century.
The palace site, now known as The Moat House, measures 190m by 80m and is
orientated north west-south east. The northern island is the larger, measuring
approximately 80m by 60m. The main domestic building was sited on this island
in the vicinity of the modern house, and some traces of earlier structures
have been recorded in the gardens. Part excavation on the moat island has
confirmed that domestic remains survive on the platforms. The island to the
south east has an uneven surface with large depressions indicating the
survival of either building or garden remains. It measures approximately 60m
square. The surface of both islands is lower than that of the surrounding
The circuit of the moat is complete except along the north western arm,
parallel with the road, where it has been partly infilled to provide access.
The moat is waterlogged and is 5m to 10m wide across the top and 1m to 2m
deep. There are traces of an external bank on the eastern and southern sides.
To the south east of the palace, across a tributary of the River Arrow, lies a
second sub-rectangular moated site, known as the `Bishops Garden'. This
moated site is built into steeply rising ground and forms a terraced area
adjacent to the gorge of the stream. The moat has substantial external banks
and is steep-sided and waterlogged. The island measures approximately 15m by
10m and its surface is uneven. The moat was supplied by a substantial leat,
terraced into the slope and leading off the stream to the east and running
parallel to it. An outlet lies in the north western angle of the moat.
A substantial earthen bank or dam measuring 4m to 6m high and 4m wide across
the top, runs across the floor of the valley from the gorge of the stream on
the north west towards the rising land opposite, curving to run parallel to
the valley sides on the south east. This acted as a causeway across the
fishponds and also retained the water of the fishpond system.
A leat was formed between the valley sides to the south east and the earthen
dam. Several sluices were cut through the earthen dam which widens to form
building platforms adjacent to the sluices. The sluices served to feed the
fishponds and may also have been used to power water mills. The platforms are
believed to preserve building remains associated with the functions of the
fisheries and mills.
The floor of the valley formed the site of a series of three fishponds which
survive as waterlogged hollows lying along the course of a second stream or
leat which entered the site in the north eastern corner near the earthen dam
and which may have also been fed from the sluices.
The valley widens to the south providing a large area of low-lying waterlogged
ground which could be flooded by sluices in order to create further fishponds
and water meadows.
On the rising ground to the south east are medieval ridge and furrow
cultivation remains with hollow ways providing routes between the fields and
the fishpond sites. This area is important for understanding the economy of
the community and is therefore included in the scheduling.
The rising ground to the south west is bounded by the River Arrow and its
tributary on the south and west, forming a broad, gently rising terraced
platform above the flood plain, the surface of which has low level earthworks
thought to represent the remains of building platforms.
The 18th century house, associated structures and modern surfaces, the wooden
footbridges and all modern fencing are excluded from the scheduling although
the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury
accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although
some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great
works of architecture and displays of decoration.
Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated,
containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls,
chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or
The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied
throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post-
medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces
have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely
dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are
considered to be nationally important.

The moated site of the Bishop's Palace is associated with a complex of
fishponds, a moat system and mill sites.
Fishponds are artificially created pools of slow moving fresh water
constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to
provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They were created by
damming narrow valleys, embanked above ground or dug into ground level, and
were fed by means of streams and leats. Sluices controlled the flow of water,
and overflow channels prevented flooding. Ponds of different sizes and depths
were used for different ages and breeds of fish and had separate functions
such as storage or spawning. Islands were commonly used for wild fowl
breeding, to provide shallow spawning grounds and for buildings used in the
fisheries which might include provision for storage and processing and for
equipment and accommodation of fishermen, water baliffs, or reeves.
The practice of constructing fishponds began during the medieval period and
peaked in the 12th century with some continuing in use until the 17th century.
Many were reused as ornamental features into the 19th and 20th centuries.
Fishponds were usually the property of the wealthier sectors of society, with
magnates, monasteries and bishops often owning large complexes which acted as
much as status symbols as practical resources.
The moated site at the Bishop's Palace is a rare example of a manorial site
with a documented history prior to the Norman Conquest. The associations with
the Bishops of Worcester will provide an insight into the management of a
large ecclesiastical estate. Part excavation on the moat island has confirmed
that domestic remains survive on the platforms, and the waterlogged ditches
will retain a high level of archaeological and environmental deposits. The
moats provide an example of the engineering skills involved in providing water
through a leat up slope from the River Arrow to the moat. The moated site's
association with an extensive complex of fishponds and associated water
management features increases its importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Worcester: Volume III, (1913), 253
Aston, M, Earthworks at Bishops Palace Alvechurch, (1972)
Liegh J M, AM107, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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