0100…Harry Stoke, Medieval Fishpond and Mill

Edited by Adrian Kerton

There is considerable evidence that the water feature termed ‘Moat’ on later Ordnance Survey Maps is in fact a medieval fishpond, of which there are only two others in South Gloucestershire and is therefore of considerable historic importance.

On 19th September 2019 South Glos planners voted on a planning application which means Crest Nicholson will not retain our pond and it will be obliterated.

It is unlikely that the feature was a moat around the settlement because of the terrain, but as found at other manorial sites, it is almost certain that the original spring resource was harnessed to create a large fish pond. Fishponds are often found with dovecotes in medieval settlements of high status such as this complex.
This work makes reference to the identification of fishponds.
“Like field-ponds, fishponds have not been seriously studied. Popular legend links them exclusively with monasteries and monastic properties, but in fact the fishpond was a useful adjunct to any village. It provided a breeding place for the fish which augmented the meat diet, and there is evidence that villagers as well as manorial households drew from them. The earthworks of fishponds are mistaken for moats, but they can be differentiated without difficulty. Fishponds were rectangular excavations besides streams or near a spring.”
B. K. Roberts. “Medieval Fishponds: 1966.

This reference by Historic England to the Medieval fishponds near Thornbury is typical of the more than 50 medieval fishponds listed as Scheduled Monuments.
“Survival – the fishponds survive particularly well with many of the pools retaining water. They are an especially intact group retaining a range of features. Period – fishponds are very representative of large scale animal husbandry during the medieval and post medieval period. As such they have considerable historic interest. Potential – the likelihood of water-logged deposits means that the site has the potential to retain an especially good range of artefactual and environmental evidence.

“Although defunct for more than a century, the ponds are considered to be of national archaeological, cultural and natural significance and are now protected by a Scheduled Ancient Monument listing and open to the public via a series of footpaths.”

The Thornbury site was proposed for scheduling by South Gloucestershire Council on 12 February 2010, and available photographs on the internet suggest that the Harry Stoke fishpond is a much superior example with its extensive dry stone walling and this raises the question as to why the Harry Stoke site has not been proposed for scheduling as surely it is also of national archaeological, cultural and natural significance.

As shown on the maps below, the moat extends southerly where it meets the old Harry Stoke Farm dairy. The dairy is not shown on the earliest map of Harry Stoke so it is possible that the Stonelands pond and moat were originally one, though they could have been configured as two separate fishponds for different species. The connection is still maintained with the underground stone drain between the two.

Harry Stoke Google View of Moat

The Mill.
Whereby John le White, of Bristol, conveys to Margaret widow of John Giffard, of Brymefeld, a mill and carucate of land in “Stoke Henr’”. Consideration money, twenty pounds. Dated, Oct. of F. of St. John Bapt.
[1 July] 33 Edw. I [1304].”

Note ‘Stoke Henr’ is an early name for Harry Stoke and this is one of the earliest references to Harry Stoke post Domesday. The carucate was a medieval unit of land area approximating the land a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season.

John Le White was probably the Dyer or Iron monger of Bristol 1304. Perhaps he sold the land to pay off some of his debts?

The document does not give any clue to the location of the mill but as a mill requires a drop in the landscape to engineer a head of water, the only suitable location in Harry Stoke is on the east side where water is available and the ground slopes down towards Winterbourne. These maps from archaeological excavations show considerable earthworks in the vicinity of the water feature known as a moat on the early ordinance survey map. Any remains of the mill are likely to be mainly decayed wood, only visible by soil stains.


The Ordnance Survey map of 1879

Harry Stoke OS 1879

Moat now drained from east end shown on Ordnance Survey Map 1912Harry Stoke OS 1912

Ordnance Survey published 1951Harry Stoke OS 1951

This map shows the truncated moat which seems to have happened post 1951.Ordinance Survey Moat

Report SGSMR 1106 Moat and Earthworks

SMGR 1106 Moat and Earthworks

Finds from trench 41 have been pottery dated to the 15th and a piece of tile so perhaps the mill was located near this trench?

Some photos of the remaining Moat from February 2019 – Adrian Kerton

Harry Stoke Moat Stone Wall Close 3Harry Stoke Moat length Stone WallHarry Stoke Moat towards road 2

December 2018 – D Shore






This is the moat in October 2019, which when a Newt survey was produced in 2017 said;
” This pond is no longer suitable for Great Crested Newts, as it has succeeded to a scrubby swamp with no standing open water present.”

In September 2019, a site meeting, a local councillor lifted a carpet tile which was part of the newt study and found a Great Crested Newt. Shortly after, when the planning application was approved, the destruction of the pond began.

Harry Stoke Moat 20191013_093412.jpg

Also See 0090a…Excavations at Harry Stoke

Copyright Adrian Kerton 2018 and copyright of the individuals who have donated information