Ancient Monuments

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Coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island

A Scheduled Monument in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7367 / 51°44'11"N

Longitude: 0.8771 / 0°52'37"E

OS Eastings: 598750.7171

OS Northings: 208132.961674

OS Grid: TL987081

Mapcode National: GBR SQ2.0KZ

Mapcode Global: VHKGR.5M01

Entry Name: Coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019105

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32405

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Bradwell-on-Sea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Bradwell-on-Sea St Thomas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a timber-built, double V-shaped fish weir located near
the southern shore of the Blackwater Estuary, some 440m north west of Pewet
Island and some 500m north west of the sea wall at Bradwell Marina.
The weir was first photographed at ground level in October 1997 by local
amateur archaeologist and boatman Mr Kevin Bruce, who the following month,
together with Essex County Council's Archaeological Advisory Group, surveyed
the site from the air.
The weir takes the form of a double V-shape, with the two elements one within
the other. The weir is sited parallel to the current Mean Low Water Mark, and
the arms running parallel to this are substantially elongated. The larger,
external weir, is 390m (south west to north east) by 190m (north to south) and
the smaller internal weir is 310m (south west to north east) by 100m (north
to south).
The two weirs may be contemporary, or the inner weir may represent a complete
rebuilding of the weir after the outer one had fallen into disrepair.
As with several other timber fish weirs in the Blackwater Estuary, some shown
to have been constructed during the early medieval period, the weir is sited
on the Mean Low Water Mark and was clearly designed to exploit the action of
the tides in the inter-tidal zone of the day.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Coastal fish weirs are artificial barriers created within the inter-tidal
zone, using stone walls, wattle or timber fencing to channel fish into traps.
The most common form of weir (a term derived from `were' - an Anglo-Saxon word
meaning fish trap) is a simple `V'-shaped arrangement of walls, frequently
100m or more in length. Baskets or nets would be placed at the point of the
`V' which would normally be orientated seaward so as to draw in the fish with
the receding tide. Weirs may also be rectangular or more linear in appearance
with traps located either in corners or set within spurs attached to the main
walls. Placed in gently shelving coastal or estuarine locations, the weirs
would become sufficiently exposed at low water for the fish to be collected
and, in some instances, for initial processing (gutting, filleting) to take
place on site.
Stationary fish traps are known to have been used since the Mesolithic period,
although the earliest examples to leave strong visible traces around the
coastline belong to a tradition dating from the early medieval or Anglo-Saxon
period. Documentary evidence from the 10th century onwards suggests that fish
weirs were largely the preserve of the upper echelons of medieval society,
maintained either by larger manors or by religious houses. In addition to the
obvious advantage of a constant food supply, the produce from the fish weirs
provided economic benefit, indicated social status and could aid compliance
with the religious dietary strictures of the period. Large fish weirs were
still used in the Severn Estuary until the early 20th century, and their
small-scale use persists here and in other parts of the British Isles to this
day. In general, however, the practice reached its peak between the 12th and
14th centuries, hereafter declining in the face of growing commercial sea
fishing. The remains of about 500 fish weirs are estimated to survive around
England's coast. Those of medieval or earlier date which demonstrate a high
degree of preservation, and particularly those which form groups or have
demonstrable links with manorial or ecclesiastical estates, will normally be
considered to be of national importance and worthy of protection.

The coastal fish weir 440m north west of Pewet Island is a large double weir
and has substantial well preserved upright timbers which maintain the overall
layout of the weir and provide clear evidence for its original design and the
manner in which it operated.
The weir is considered to be early medieval in origin, similar to several
other fish weirs which have been identified through recent archaeological
studies of the Blackwater Estuary. Elsewhere, the age of timbers has recently
been established by radiocarbon dating, and in some cases shown to be as early
as the seventh century AD. Furthermore, the fish traps at some sites have been
found to contain extensive fishbone deposits, which may indicate the range of
activities originally carried out on site. The Pewet Island weir has the
potential for similar investigation; at the point or eye of the weir is an
elongated trap area which is expected to contain preserved fish bone remains.
Further comparative study between this site and others in the estuary, is
expected to provide significant insights into the overall date range,
development and relevance of these weirs to the social structure and economy
of the early medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Strachan, D, C14 dating of some inter-tidal fish-weirs in Essex, (1997)
black and white prints, Bruce, K, BESP Film 23-33, (1993)
black and white prints, Bruce, K, KBBW 12-26, (1993)
black and white prints, Rogers, P, SWBW15-12-18, (1993)
black and white prints, Strachan, D, BW-1994-1-14,15, (1994)
colour prints, Bruce, K, KBC15 to 57, (1993)
colour prints, Strachan, D, CP-97-4-6,7, (1997)
Ingle, C, TL90NE 1:10000 plot, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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