Ponds, Pools and Lochans

2.4 Historical and archaeological value of ponds

Ponds may be considered to be of historical significance for two main reasons:

  1. They may be important historic features in their own right e.g. moats, fish ponds, duck decoys, places with literary or community associations (see Table 3).
  2. Both their structure and their sediments may contain important historical information relevant to the history of the waterbody, its surrounds and the wider environment (pollen record, historical artefacts etc.). In some cases, particularly in more remote areas, these sediment records may span thousands of years.

In practice, the historical and archaeological interest of ponds is often poorly documented and overlooked.

In England and Wales, less than 1% of all ponds are listed on the National Monuments Record (NMR) as important historic features (no equivalent analysis has been undertaken on the National Monument Record for Scotland). However, even this listing is probably rather unrepresentative of the true interest of ponds as, of the 2500 records including the term pond in the NMR for England and Wales, 89% fall into just two classes: fishponds and unspecified ponds. All remaining pond types make up only 11% of total records.

In contrast, a survey undertaken by the Pond Conservation Group (PCG) in 1996 estimated that about 10% of all lowland ponds in England, Wales and Scotland had a historic value, and at least 30 different pond types of pond were identified (Table 3). In reality, it is probable that most ponds will have at least some archaeological or historical interest but, for the vast majority of sites, this is, as yet, unrecorded and unresearched.

Table 3.
Historical and cultural uses of ponds identified by the Pond Conservation Group (unpublished data)
Mill ponds Duck ponds Dye ponds
Old farm ponds Subsidence ponds Fish ponds
Ornamental garden ponds Livestock watering ponds Moats
Extraction ponds Peat ponds Marl pits
Reclamation ponds Straw ponds Dew ponds
Drinking water tarns Droving ponds Traction engine ponds
Artesian ponds Ice ponds silt ponds
Decoy ponds Pond bays Heathland ponds
Hammer ponds Forge/furnace ponds Distillery ponds
Curling ponds Watercress beds  
Flax ponds Swannery ponds  


Ponds_fig8.jpg (41541 bytes)

Figure 8. Curling ponds are a distinctive feature of the Scottish landscape. K Walker
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