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Latitude: 52.9268 / 52°55'36"N
Longitude: -0.4148 / 0°24'53"W
OS Eastings: 506659.671865
OS Northings: 337772.822141
OS Grid: TF066377
Mapcode National: GBR FRK.HY5
Mapcode Global: WHGKL.LPPM
Entry Name: Medieval fishpond complex 250m south of Laurels Farm
Scheduled Date: 2 December 1998
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1018538
English Heritage Legacy ID: 31601
Civil Parish: Osbournby
Built-Up Area: Osbournby
Traditional County: Lincolnshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire
Church of England Parish: South Lafford
Church of England Diocese: Lincoln
The monument includes the remains of a medieval fishpond complex located on a
gentle south-facing slope approximately 250m south of Laurels Farm, to the
south west of the village of Osbournby. The complex is thought to have been
associated with one of two major medieval land holdings which formerly
belonged to the manor of Folkingham. From the 18th century the manor was held
by the Whichcote family. The remains include the earthworks of two fishponds,
with associated water control features, and are believed to be of medieval
origin. The complex was formerly linked, via leats, to a medieval ditched
enclosure and moated site to the north which no longer survives and is
therefore not included in the scheduling.
The fishpond complex covers an area measuring approximately 100m by 50m. The
principal fishpond is roughly rectangular in plan measuring approximately 48m
by 23m and up to 1.5m deep, and includes a central rectangular island,
measuring 26m by 6m, which may relate to fishing activites or wildfowl
management. A broad channel, 6m to 8m wide, extends from the north western
corner of the fishpond towards a second pond to the west which has been
infilled but survives as a buried feature. The central portion of the island
lies at approximately the same height as the ground to the south and west of
the pond whilst the ground to the east of the pond is raised above the
prevailing ground level, probably by material dug from the ponds or leats. The
eastern and western ends of the island lie below the level of the central
portion; this reduced level may have provided shallow spawning areas. The pond
now contains a shallow depth of ground water.
The fishpond is surrounded on three sides by a leat which effectively defines
the limit of the monument to the south and the east. The southern arm of the
leat follows a slightly winding course which is interrupted at its western end
by a modern drainage ditch. To the east the leat turns northwards continuing
along the eastern edge of the fishpond. The northern arm of the leat feeds
into two channels which in turn lead northwards from the fishpond complex. The
leat arms surrounding the pond are between 2m to 3.5m wide and up to 0.6m
The fishpond has been reused in the post-medieval period as a recreational
feature and includes the remains of a brick-built boat house constructed at
the centre of the complex, on the western edge of the pond.
All modern fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
Source: Historic England
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 remains of the fishpond complex 250m south of Laurels Farm survive well as
a series of earthworks and buried deposits. The site has not been
archaeologically excavated and deposits of both the medieval and post-medieval
periods will therefore survive intact, including the part of the fishponds
which has been infilled. The waterlogged silts surviving in the ponds will
preserve evidence of environmental remains (such as seeds, pollen, or timber)
providing information on the use of the pond and the local environment. Where
the ground has been raised deposits associated with the land use prior to the
construction of the fishpond complex will have been preserved.
The association of the fishpond complex with the site of a possible manorial
centre contributes to an understanding of the interrelationship of
contemporary components of the wider medieval landscape. Its reuse in the
post-medieval period as a boating lake and recreational feature demonstrates
its continued importance as a feature of the landscape.
Source: Historic England
Books and journals
Kesteven Award 58, Osbournby, (1798)
Healey, RH, Roffe, DR, Some medieval and later earthworks in South Lincolnshire, (1990), 122-123
Anyan, Mr, (1997)
Source: Historic England
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