An animal pound is an enclosure in which straying or illegally pastured stock were confined, and in which legally kept animals were rounded up at certain times of the year from areas of common grazing rights. Pounds are usually located in villages and towns and comprise a small area of ground of varying shapes, enclosed by a wall or fence. Those found in areas of common grazing rights are more likely to be situated on the edge of commons, on open ground.
Animal pounds may be recognised as standing or ruined structures of stone, brick or fencing, or sometimes earthworks, enclosing a small area of ground; they are usually unroofed and have a single entrance. Sites with no visible remains may be located using place-name evidence, pound - lane, street, farm etc., documentary references, maps, and, since many were in use until relatively recently and some still are, by using local knowledge. Street-name evidence of Pound Street in Nash suggests the location of one possible pound in Buckinghamshire. Pounds tend to be located anywhere in the village although common sites include on or near the green, close to the church, near common land, for example Wimbledon and Hampstead Heath, or at a crossroads.
Animal pounds were in use throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods. They are, however, difficult monuments to date with any degree of accuracy; most are at best datable to the nearest century. Very occasionally the actual date of construction may be known, for example at Hampstead, the brick pound was built in 1787 to replace a pound removed by a man presented at the Manor Court.
Animal pounds are known to date from the medieval period; there are 12th-century references to pounds in the Bolden Buke - a survey of the See of Durham, and of Chute Forest, Wilts. The remains which are upstanding today, however, are unlikely to be more than two or three centuries old, often much less, and date to the 17th century onwards. Most pounds went out of use during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although some were in use until quite recently, and the monument at Hope, Derbys, is an example of a pound still in use today.