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Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Little Park Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5233 / 51°31'23"N

Longitude: -1.9231 / 1°55'23"W

OS Eastings: 405433.815509

OS Northings: 180488.942137

OS Grid: SU054804

Mapcode National: GBR 3TB.DN1

Mapcode Global: VHB3J.MZ64

Entry Name: Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Little Park Farm

Scheduled Date: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018430

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31648

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Royal Wootton Bassett

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Wootton Bassett St Bartholomew and All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes two medieval fishponds situated in a small wooded valley
cut into Kimmeridge clay, north of Little Park Farm in the clay vale to the
south west of Wootton Bassett.
The fishponds are orientated south west to north east and are water filled.
The larger pond, to the south west is rectangular and dug out of the clay. It
is 92m long and up to 35m wide and has an oval island, about 3m long toward
the north eastern end. An earth dam to the north east separates the ponds. It
is 1.8m from the bottom of the larger pond and 2.5m from the bottom of the
smaller pond which is at a lower level. A sluice through the dam which
formerly controlled the flow of water between the ponds is now blocked and
replaced with a modern overflow drainage system. The smaller pond is 14m wide,
21m long and bounded by an earthwork up to 2m wide and 1m high.
The fishponds were built as part of Vastern Park which was created in 1229
when Alan Bassett was allowed to enclose 1.5ha of Wootton Wood. The park was
stocked with royal gifts of venison and later enlarged and split into the
Great and Little Parks of Vastern.
All fence posts 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.
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

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 as a food source and for
status 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 to the north of Little Park Farm survive well and are a good
example of linear ponds of unequal size. They have not been substantially
altered since they were first constructed as part of Vastern Park possibly as
early as the 13th century.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Gough, W, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 44, (1927), 41-42

Source: Historic England

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