MSO7933 - Three fish weirs to the east of Porlock Weir Harbour [marine] (Monument)


Three stone built medieval and/or post-medieval coastal fish weirs were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1946 and 1999. The weirs were later used as oyster beds in the 19th Century.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 8674 4790. A disused oyster perch. The perch is an angle of rough boulder walling, about 5 metres wide, some 90 metres long on the north side and about 50 metres long on the west side, built into the boulder strewn foreshore at Porlock Bay. A map c. 1710 [1] shows an oyster bank (MSO7934) in the bay some 850 metres due north of the perch. The oyster catch was kept in bags until needed in the pond which is formed by seawater retained in the near right angle of the perch. The perch is shown (unannotated) on the 1889 Ordnance Survey map [2] and as 'Tidal Pond' on the 1973 Revised map [3]. It is visible on aerial photographs [4] and at low water. The perch gives its name 'Oyster Perch' to a house built on the coast road in about 1903 for William and Noah Pollard, two local fishermen (MEM22239) [5]. 1:2500 survey [3] correct. [6] It is visible on air photos and at low water. [5] A map of Porlock dated 1710 shows an oyster bed in Porlock Bay [1]. Oysters were dredged for many years on both sides of the channel, but the beds shifted. In the mid 19th Century, Porlock beds proved poor and c.1870, Noah and William Pollard's uncle and his crew started to dredge in Porlock Bay. The resulting oysters were kept in a walled in area known as a perch where the tides left them at low water. They remained in the perch in bags of 600 until needed. Most of the oysters were sent to Bristol. Oyster fishing may have finished when boats from Whitstable and Colchester came from the East Coast and dredged the oyster beds in order to replenish their stocks. [5] The remains of three stone fish weirs lie in the intertidal area to the east of the harbour at Porlock Weir. The best preserved is centred at SS 8673 4793. The two arms of the structure of both are constructed of roughly coursed beach pebbles. The western arm is 70 metres long, 3.7 metres wide and 0.5 metres high.The arm is 2.5 to 6 metres wide and 0.8 metres high. The remains of a sluice arrangement 8 metres long and 2 metres wide are visible in the `V' of the weir. The remains of a fragmentary fish weir lie 20 metres to the north of this sluice, centred at SS 8675 4795. It comprises the remains of a sluice in the form of two low stony walls with overall measurements of 20 by 5 by 0.3 metres. Some 40 metres to the south of the sluice of the best preserved structure, centred at SS 8675 4788, are the remains of a third fish weir. It comprises two arms of roughly coursed beach pebbles. The western arm is 56 metres long, 4 metres wide and 0.5 metres high. That to the east is 35 metres long, 5.5 metres wide and 0.5 metres high. The sluice gap is 12 metres long and 10 metres wide (caused by erosion). The structures were surveyed at 1:2500 scale using differential GPS as part of the RCHME Exmoor project. [7-9] Although [5] suggests the best preserved structure was built at an oyster perch, there is no reason to suppose that the three structures do not represent the remains of fish weirs. These functioned with the tide, so that as the tide ebbed, the fish would be ponded in the landward side of the weir, and channelled towards the sluice in the `V' of the structure. Here a net or trap would catch the fish. The traps may also have been used to store oysters, as mentioned above. The three here represent successive rebuilds of a feature, with the best preserved being the latest in the series. The fish weirs were probably in use in the post-medieval period [2] and were probably abandoned some time in the 19th Century [3]. [15] Three stone-built medieval and/or post medieval coastal fish weirs referred to above, were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1946 and 1999. The fish weirs are located in the intertidal area below Porlock Beach, about 390 metres east of Porlock Weir quay. Constructed from beach pebbles but in poor repair, the weirs are fragmentary in places and barely discernible in others. The stone weirs each consist of two linear arms which spread out to form an inverted V. The apex of the weir faces the sea, trapping fish on the outgoing tide in the pool formed behind by the area cleared of pebbles used to construct the arms. The fish weirs were still visible in aerial photographs taken in 2005. The weir furthest from the shore is a fragment of a stone weir, centred on SS 8674 4795, being the sluice at the apex, with two very small parts of each arm remaining, the west part being about 8 metres long and 5 metres wide, the eastern part being about 5 metres long and 3 metres wide, with a sluice about 5.3 metres long and 1.5 metres wide. In the middle of the trio, the largest weir is north facing, centred on SS 8673 4792, with the west arm about 88 metres long and 3 metres wide. The east arm is around 131 metres long and 1.5 to 7 metres wide and at the apex is a sluice about 8 metres long and 1.3 metres wide. The third weir, closest to the shore, is visible as only fragments of each of the two arms, centred on SS 8674 4788, the west arm section being 58 metres long and 5 metres wide and the east arm section being 29 metres long and 3 metres wide, the central part of the weir and its apex having been destroyed. [10-13] These remains actually consist of two roughly parallel V shaped stone walls forming intertidal fish traps or fish weirs, of uncertain but probably post-medieval date. The larger outer weir has arms approximately 100 metres in length, which enclose the second smaller weir to the south. [14] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [15] The fish weirs are mentioned in the 2022 Conservation Area Appraisal for Porlock Weir. [16]

Sources/Archives (16)

  • <1> Map: Row, W.. 1710. Map of Porlock Bay.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889, Somerset 34(1).
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1973. 1:2500 Sheet SS 8647. 1:25,000.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: 1985. Infra red collection. 4185/025 (August 1985).
  • <5> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. p56.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 24 November 1994.
  • <7> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1998. Porlock Weir/ink survey. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <8> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Riley, H.. 1998. Porlock Weir/pencil survey. Permatrace. Pencil.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1998.
  • <10> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. 106G/UK/1655 3024-3025 (11 July 1946).
  • <11> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8647/20 (18299/03) (19 March 1999).
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8747/75 (24028/03) (9 August 2005).
  • <13> Archive: Crowther, S., Dickson, A. and Truscoe, K.. 2007. Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment: SS 84 NE. MD000130.
  • <14> Report: McDonnell, R.. 1995. Porlock Bay and Marsh: A Rapid Preliminary Assessment of the Cultural and Palaeoenvironmental Resource. P.34.
  • <15> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 957665, Extant 8 February 2022.
  • <16> Report: Pratt, N. and Thurlow, T.. 2022. Porlock Weir Conservation Area: Appraisal document. Exmoor National Park Authority. p 4.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO372
  • Local Heritage List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE54
  • National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 957665
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35926



Grid reference Centred SS 8676 4789 (154m by 123m)
Map sheet SS84NE

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Record last edited

Nov 1 2022 11:18AM


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