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Fishponds 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Hart, Hartlepool

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.7093 / 54°42'33"N

Longitude: -1.2721 / 1°16'19"W

OS Eastings: 446997.201365

OS Northings: 535164.406276

OS Grid: NZ469351

Mapcode National: GBR MFKZ.DM

Mapcode Global: WHD66.FWGN

Entry Name: Fishponds 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church

Scheduled Date: 18 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018947

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32745

County: Hartlepool

Civil Parish: Hart

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Hart

Church of England Diocese: Durham

Details

The monument includes the remains of a set of fishponds of medieval date,
situated immediately north of the associated medieval manorial complex at
Hart. The manorial complex is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The fishponds are visible as two ponds with a central linking leat. The most
easterly pond is visible as a prominent rectangular depression 55m long by 25m
wide and varying between 2m to 3m deep. The pond remains waterlogged. The
fishpond is fed with water from a leat situated immediately to the west; the
leat is 55m long by 15m wide and a maximum of 2m deep, and is embanked, with
the banks 0.5m high and spread to 3m. At the western end of the leat is the
second and most westerly fishpond. This pond, which is infilled, is visible as
a slight waterlogged depression within a school playing field; it is also
visible on aerial photographs and is about 46m long by 25m wide.

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 70m north of St Mary Magdalene's Church are very well preserved
and retain significant archaeological and environmental deposits. Their
association with the remains of a medieval manorial complex immediately to the
south enhances the importance of the monument, and will add to our
understanding of medieval manorial life.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
CCA, 06777,
CCA, Hart fishponds, (1978)

Source: Historic England

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