What’s in a Stew

An answer could well be Carp for it seem that ‘ a stew’ might well be a smaller pool supplied with clear fresh running water, where Carp are purged to rid them of the muddy taste you get if you cook them straight from a pool, pond or lake .

This is one of the two hand written dockets one dated 1814 the other 1815.

Whilst researching the history of the landscaping in the Fishpool Valley, one of our team of volunteers came across two small handwritten dockets whilst searching through archives at the National Library of Wales Aberystwyth.

This docket says:-

6 brace of carp in the lowermost stew.

Thirty brace in the dog kennel powl,

Five brace in the stew above.

Four brace in the stew above that.

Thirteen brace of trout Do.

Seven brace of perch in the dog kennel powl


My simple summation is that 60 Carp are being accounted for on this occasion and where we write ‘pool’, this docket records it as ‘powl’. The dockets indicate that there were several ‘stews’ where smaller numbers of Carp were being placed whilst¬†others, according to the second docket are ‘turned back’. It seems therefore that the fish are being managed with, some set aside for consumption, some returned to continue growing and possibly some separated according to size but both dockets refer to these ‘stews’.

Carp has a strong, “muddy” flavour if not purged because, as in the case of the Fishpool Valley, they would tend to feed at the bottom of the pools which we know tend to silt up. By purging the fish in fresh clear water before they are consumed, it removes this muddy flavour. By creating a separate area ‘a stew’, the carp in particular, but Trout also, can be transferred quickly from the main pools into these ‘stews’ prior to being taken to the kitchen.

Currently we don’t know what has happened to the Stews but perhaps some further archaeology will uncover the mystery of the stews.





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John Parsons