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Medieval monastic fishponds immediately east of Park House

A Scheduled Monument in Markington with Wallerthwaite, North Yorkshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.1046 / 54°6'16"N

Longitude: -1.592 / 1°35'31"W

OS Eastings: 426776.695431

OS Northings: 467716.311165

OS Grid: SE267677

Mapcode National: GBR KNBZ.4C

Mapcode Global: WHC80.J344

Entry Name: Medieval monastic fishponds immediately east of Park House

Scheduled Date: 12 April 1957

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018691

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31338

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Markington with Wallerthwaite

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Details

The monument includes the remains of a series of six fishponds and associated
structures formerly belonging to the nearby medieval Fountains Abbey. The
fishponds lie on a tributary of the River Skell 600m south west of the abbey
remains. The monument is divided into two areas of protection; one to the
north containing the remains of the ponds and one to the south of the farm
track containing the remains of a dam.
The fishponds include six rectangular ponds arranged in pairs, but only three
now survive as earthworks, the other three having been infilled over the
years. The original arrangement included a pair of large rectangular ponds
oriented north to south, with a further pair of smaller ponds oriented east to
west lying to the north and to the south. The two large north to south ponds
survive as substantial earthworks up to 2.25m high. The northern edge of the
pond immediately to the north also survives as a shallow earthwork. To the
east of the central ponds are two small rectangular platforms, the larger
being 7.5m by 5.5m in size. These are thought to be the sites of fish
processing buildings. In 1985 the three ponds surviving as earthworks were
partially excavated. The results showed evidence of the construction methods
in all three ponds and that the pond to the east retained significant organic
remains, the other two ponds having been cleared out and partly backfilled in
the past. A dam lies to the south of the ponds. It originally held back and
controlled the flow of water into the fishponds and survives as a prominent
bank 6m wide.
The monument is located within Fountains Park, the former hunting park of
Fountains Abbey. The adjacent farm was originally one of the home farms of the
abbey, for which the fishponds provided an important food supply.
All gates and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these 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 six fishponds immediately east of Park House survive well and significant
evidence of their original form and function will be preserved. Three of the
ponds survive as upstanding earthworks. The other three ponds have been
infilled, but will still retain important information including silts and
other remains. The ponds were part of the Fountains Abbey estate and are
important for understanding the wider monastic economy and the impact of the
abbey on the medieval landscape.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Coppack, G, Fountains Abbey, (1993), 87
Other
Newman, M, Fountains Abbey, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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