Alresford Eel House - Atlas Obscura

Alresford Eel House

Old Alresford, England

A rare example of a building constructed specifically for catching eels. 


The Eel House sits beside the Wayfarers’ Way footpath in an idyllic woodland valley about just outside the town of New Alresford. It straddles the clean clear waters of the tranquil River Alre with a foot on each of its banks.

The modest building with a clay-tiled roof dates back to the 1820s, when the Harris family of nearby Arlebury Park commissioned this minor masterpiece of 19th-century ingenuity. Its purpose was to trap mature eels near the start of their once-in-a-lifetime 3,000-mile journey to their breeding waters in the Sargasso Sea.

Three channels run through the Eel House, each of which once had iron grills that trapped the eels as they left Old Alresford Pond. In the late summer and early fall, the riverkeeper would set up at night and catch eels as they tried to pass through the channels.

Eels have a prominent place in English history—In medieval England, peasants would often use the fish to pay their rent and make other transactions.

Know Before You Go

Alresford is a T-shaped town. From the central T-junction of Broad Street with East and West Streets, head down the hill on West Street. Take the first right into the Dean. At the bottom of the Dean, turn left onto the footpath alongside the clear waters of the River Alre. The Eel House is 500 meters along this Wayfarers' Way path.

Entry is free but donations, to fund further necessary restoration work are appreciated. A special opening can be arranged for groups of 10 - 15 people.

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