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Pike Garden


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a pike is a long-bodied predatory freshwater fish [...] occurring in both Eurasia and North America and having a pointed snout with large teeth (OED pike, n.3a.). There are nine rectangular and square pike gardens, or artificial ponds, located near Bankside on the Agas map, each of which represents a form of aquaculture in existence since the Middle Ages. Another common name for the pike gardens is the stew or stews, from the Old French estui or en estui, which refers to fish ready for the table, kept confined alive in a pond or tank (OED stew, n.1.). However, in what had become a long-standing double entendre, John Stow uses the Stews or row of stews as a colloquial reference to Southwark’s notorious, once legal brothels.
Medieval and Renaissance fishponds relied on two separate types of holding areas: the vivarium, a breeding pond, and the servatorium, a holding pond, which needed to be close to the owner’s residence and small enough to make recovery relatively simple (Currie 22). To catch and sort the fish, workers drained the shallow ponds, dug out of ground level, through diversion conduits equipped with gates and sluices. Because they were expensive to maintain, freshwater fish such as those at the Southwark pike gardens created a meal of status regarded as far superior to salted cod. The freshwater fishpond survived the Italian renovation of the English garden, which stressed water’s role as more ornamental than utilitarian. As a result, farm-bred fish cultivated in estate gardens were considered a luxury dish well into the eighteenth century.

Location and History

Although there are nine rectangular and square pike gardens drawn on the Agas map, they give only an approximate indication of the size, shape, and location of the three major Southwark aquaculture operations: the Winchester House pike gardens, theKing’s (or Queen’s) Pike Garden and the Great Pike Garden (Roberts and Godfrey). For example, Roberts and Godfrey note that in 1499 the Great Pike Garden, which dates to the fourteenth century, included three acres, four cottages, a gatehouse, and no less than seventeen individual ponds (Roberts and Godfrey). If this is true, the Agas map vastly underestimates the quantity of pike gardens, since only one of the three pike gardens had double the number of ponds visible on the map. Less concerned with accuracy, the Agas map encourages us to see the ponds as closely protected: a wall of hedges surrounds the four most western pike gardens, while the ponds near the bull and bearbaiting arenas are circumscribed by a total of twenty tethered dogs and one errant bull.
We also cannot know with precision where the three major pike gardens align with the existing ponds on the unlabeled map. While Winchester House does not appear to be close enough to any of the ponds, there is evidence that their pike garden borders the Clink (Roberts and Godfrey). And Roberts and Godfrey’s Survey of London gives only a vague location of the remaining two gardens: the King’s (or Queen’s) Pike Garden lay a little to the west of the site of Emerson Street, while the Great Pike Garden is located near what is now White Hind Alley (Roberts and Godfrey).
Despite its omission from the Agas map, the Winchester House pond may have been in operation since the early twelfth century, when the first Bishop of Winchester, William Giffard, built the adjoining estate as his London residence (Walford). Its Bankside location, known also as Southwark Marsh, must have been ideal for draining the servatoria in the Thames, which may have been too polluted for an aristocratic palate (Roberts and Godfrey).
Although he does not mention the Winchester fisheries, Stow describes the estate as a very fayre houſe well repayred with a large wharfe and landing place called the Biſhoppe of Wincheſters ſtaires (Stow sig. Y7v). Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, Winchester House and its grounds eventually fell into disrepair until Thomas Walker of Camberwell, bought the entire complex to lease and sell off piecemeal in 1649. The bill of sale lists the pike garden as anciently called the Pond Garden alias Pikeyarde and nowe commonly called the Clinke Garden, which suggests that the ponds were still stocked, functional, and bordering the bishop’s prison, or Clink, at the northern end (Roberts and Godfrey).1
The Catholic Church also first built and operated the ponds that became the King’s (or Queen’s) Pike Garden. According to Roberts and Godfrey, the land was part of an estate for the nuns of Stratford at Bow (Roberts and Godfrey). In the Calendar of Treasury Books entry for 28 November 1660 the first clerk of the Kitchen, William Boreman, requested a lease of 41 years to maintain the Pike Garden (Entry). Boreman offers to cleanse the ponds and wharfe them and to keep them for his Majesty’s use and service better than formerly (Entry). At that point, the King’s (or Queen’s) Pike Garden included 31/2 roods, wherein are four ponds which have been used for conservation of fish for the King’s house; and certain buildings therein (Entry). The crown owned and operated this garden until 1831 when it was divided and sold to Thomas Evans, of Great Guildford Street, Southwark, and John Lewis of Euston Square (Roberts and Godfrey). Still, the Pond Yard that split the two properties continued to cultivate fish until it shut down in 1904 (Roberts and Godfrey).
The last of the three ponds, the Great Pike Garden, first appears in records in a bill of sale from 1361, when it was sold under the name of le stewes to John Trig, a citizen and fishmonger of London (Roberts and Godfrey). In the fifteenth century, it was owned by Chistopher Banaster and his son, John under the name Banaster’s Garden. By 1499, the site included four cottages, three acres, and seventeen ponds, as mentioned above (Roberts and Godfrey). John Gybon (or Gibbons) purchased the garden at the start of Elizabeth’s reign, and it remained in his family until 1615, when it was sold to theater manager Philip Henslowe (Roberts and Godfrey).

Cultural significance

In his 1653 treatise on angling, Izaak Walton speaks highly, if not suspiciously of the pike, a predator known to eat its own kind and consume venomous things without harm (Walton 135). The pike, tyrant of the rivers, and Fresh water-wolf, lived a long life maintained at the expense of other fish, victims of its bold, greedy, devouring disposition (Walton 134). Pike could live between forty and two hundred years, although the old or very great Pikes have in them more of state then goodness; the smaller or middle siz’d Pikes being by the most and choicest palates observed to be the best meat (Walton 134). Pike was an expensive, royal dish, which may explain its appearance in Ben Jonson’s To Penshurst, where the poet assures Leicester that thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish will sacrifice its pikes, now weary their own kind to eat, / as loath the second draft or cast to stay, / officiously at first themselves betray (35-37). Walton includes an angler’s secret recipe for pike:
First open your Pike at the gills, and if need be, cut also a little slit towards his belly; out of these, take his guts, and keep his liver, which you are to shred very small with Time, Sweet Margerom, and a little Winter-Savoury; to these put some pickled Oysters, and some Anchovis, both these last whole (for the Anchovis will melt, and the Oysters should not) to these you must add also a pound of sweet Butter, which you are to mix with the herbs that are shred, and let them all be well salted (if the Pike be more then a yard long, then you may put into these herbs more then a pound, or if he be less, then less Butter will suffice:) these being thus mixt, with a blade or two of Mace, must be put into the Pikes belly, and then his belly sowed up; then you are to thrust the spit through his mouth out at his tail; and then with four, or five, or six split sticks or very thin laths, and a convenient quantitie of tape or filiting, these laths are to be tyed roundabout the Pikes body, from his head to his tail, and the tape tied somewhat thick to prevent his breaking or falling off from the spit; let him be rosted very leisurely, and often basted with Claret wine, and Anchovis, and butter mixt together, and also with what moisture falls from him into the pan: when you have rosted him sufficiently, you are to hold under him (when you unwind or cut the tape that ties him) such a dish as you purpose to eat him out of, and let him fall into it with the sawce that is rosted in his belly; and by this means the Pike will be kept unbroken and complete; then to the sawce, which was within him, and also in the pan, you are to add a fit quantity of the best butter, and to squeeze the juice of three or four Oranges: lastly, you may either put into the Pike with the Oysters, two cloves of Garlick, and take it whole out when the Pike is cut off the spit, or to give the sawce a hogoe, let the dish (into which you let the Pike fall) be rubed with it; the using or not using of this Garlick is left to your discretion. This dish of meat is too good for any but Anglers or honest men; and, I trust, you wil prove both, and therefore I have trusted you with this Secret.
(Walton 144-145)
Walton also promotes the pike’s virtue as a medical remedy, citing the expert opinion of Conrad Gessner: it is observed by Gesner, that the bones, and hearts, & gals of Pikes are very medicinable for several Diseases, as to stop bloud, to abate Fevers, to cure Agues, to oppose or expel the infection of the Plague, and to be many wayes medicinable and useful for the good of mankind (Walton 136).


  1. For more information about the early modern penal system, see The Prison System. (JT)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Fairfield University English 213 Fall 2014 Student Group 1, and Shannon Kelley. Pike Gardens. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 01 March, 2018. <>.

Chicago citation

Fairfield University English 213 Fall 2014 Student Group 1, and Shannon Kelley. Pike Gardens. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed March 01, 2018.

APA citation

Fairfield University English 213 Fall 2014 Student Group 1, & Kelley, S. 2018. Pike Gardens. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

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A1  - Kelley, Shannon
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Pike Gardens
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
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DA  - 2018/03/01
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 


RT Web Page
SR Electronic(1)
A1 Fairfield University English 213 Fall 2014 Student Group 1
A1 Kelley, Shannon
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Pike Gardens
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
WP 2018
FD 2018/03/01
RD 2018/03/01
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
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TEI citation

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