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Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Manor House

A Scheduled Monument in Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.3905 / 51°23'25"N

Longitude: -2.28 / 2°16'47"W

OS Eastings: 380613.969751

OS Northings: 165759.836504

OS Grid: ST806657

Mapcode National: GBR 0QF.LF2

Mapcode Global: VH96N.F9JV

Entry Name: Two medieval fishponds 170m north of Manor House

Scheduled Date: 24 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019504

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34181

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Monkton Farleigh

Built-Up Area: Monkton Farleigh

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Monkton Farleigh St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes two medieval fishponds set into a gentle south east
facing slope of Oolitic limestone to the north of Monkton Farleigh Manor. They
were built to provide for the Cluniac priory which was founded at Monkton
Farleigh soon after 1120 and dissolved in 1536.
The ponds are orientated north west to south east and separated by an earth
dam. The upper pond is 29m long and 14m wide at the dam, although tapering
slightly to the north west where the end is rounded. The lower pond is 24m
long and 14m wide with a rounded end to the south east. Both are approximately
1.5m deep. They are clay lined and the upper pond still holds water.
The earth dam stands to a height of 2m from the lower pond and 1m from the
higher. A brick sluice in the centre controls the flow of water between the
ponds.
The remains of the Cluniac priory to the south are incorporated into Monkton
Farleigh Manor House which is a Listed Building Grade I.
All fenceposts 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 two medieval fishponds 170m north of Manor House are well-preserved
examples which provide an important insight into the economy of the Cluniac
priory. They will contain archaeological and environmental evidence which
relates to their use and the landscape in which they were built.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Chettle, H F, Kirby, J L, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Monkton Farleigh, (1956), 262-268

Source: Historic England

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