Decoy pond 700m north east of Marsh House Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Decoy pond 700m north east of Marsh House Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Maldon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 01947 04206

Reasons for Designation

Decoy ponds are artificially created or modified pools of water onto which wildfowl were lured to be trapped and killed for food and for feathers. They consist of a central pool off which lead a number of curving arms or ditches, known as pipes. Nets were constructed over the narrowing ends of these pipes towards which the birds were lured by the decoyman and his dog. Screens were erected along the sides of the pipes with carefully placed gaps so that the dog would be visible to the birds only when his appearance would lead the birds towards the nets at the ends of the pipes. Once at the ends the nets would be dropped and the decoyman was able to wring the birds' necks. The tradition of constructing such ponds appears to have begun in the medieval period, with the simplest designs indicating an early date. The more familiar decoy pond, however, is said to have originated in Holland and to have been introduced into England in the 17th century. The word `decoy' is said to derive from the Dutch `eendenkooi' meaning `duck cage'. Their greatest popularity came in the 18th and 19th centuries when large numbers were built, with a small number continuing in use until World War II. The ideal size for a decoy pond was between 1ha and 5ha with a depth of water of not more than a metre. The number of pipes varies from one to more than five, often arranged in symmetrical patterns around the central pool. Although once common features of lowland England (being particularly associated with the east and south east coasts), modern drainage has modified or destroyed all but a few examples. Most examples which survive in a near-complete state of preservation will be considered of national importance and worthy of protection.

The decoy pond 700m north east of Marsh House Farm is a fine 18th century example of a six pipe pond surviving in a very complete state of preservation. Its use over one and a half centuries was accompanied by exhaustive documenation including detailed accounts of how the pond was used and of the numbers and types of birds taken. This is the best known of the Essex decoy ponds. The subsidiary pond, which also survives in good condition is an unusual feature and of additional interest is the decoy man's hut which is a rare survival in this state of preservation.


The monument includes a decoy pond situated on the flat coastal plain of the eastern edge of the Dengie Peninsular at Tillingham, c.1.5km west of the coast. The main decoy pond is in the form of a `spinning star' with six pipes each some 70 yards long curving clockwise out from the centre with a smaller additional pond area to the south west of this. A hut used by the decoyman is also present on the southern edge of the site and is included in the scheduling. The area around the ponds was planted with tall-growing rushes and plantations of willow and other trees in order to produce cover for the decoy man working the pond and many of these trees still survive. The main pond covers an area of approximately 0.5ha while the whole site covers an area of c.4.5ha. The site includes a surrounding ditch linked into the marsh drainage system. This supplied the two ponds separately; the inlet leats running into the western pipe while two outlet leats ran from the north and north eastern pipes of the main pond. A drain ran away from the surrounding ditch north east towards the sea. The water in the main pond stood about 3-4 feet deep in the centre and became more shallow towards the edges. The smaller pond to the south west comprised a square western part c.40m across with a large extension to the east running in a sweeping curve c.100m long north-south, extending from the north east corner. Originally shallower than the main pond it has become infilled over the years and is now only visible as a slight earthwork feature. The decoy was originally constructed in the 18th century. Documentary evidence records the names of a number of the tenants from 1795 onwards. An account of the practice of decoying at the Marsh House Farm decoy pond was written in 1868, detailing the methods used and the types and numbers of birds taken.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, (1943), 196-202
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, (1943), 204-206


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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