Duck decoy, 950m south west of junction of Westhay Moor Drove and Lewis's Drove
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Mendip (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 45807 43087
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 to the north of Meare Pool survives as a good example of its type, although partly drained, with a rare double ditched enclosure rhyne. It lies within the Somerset Levels and Moors, a wetland area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid landscape change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive peat cutting.
The monument includes the earthwork remains of a six pipe decoy, located
within two fields lying immediately to the south of Decoy Rhyne, between
Westhay Moor and Meare. It lies on the edge of the site of the medieval Meare
The western field contains most of the monument. This field has been subject
to drainage, but is still predominantly waterlogged. The earthwork remains
of the decoy are still discernible, especially to the south. The central pond
is visible as a level square area, slightly lower than the surrounding field,
measuring approximately 90m east-west by 75m north-south. Originally having
six pipes, three would have been located within the western field, extending
westwards from the central pond, and curving inwards to restrict visibility.
The south west and central pipes are visible as slight curving waterlogged
hollows, somewhat obscured by drainage channels.
Within the eastern field, the earthworks are in a good state of preservation,
as the field has not been drained, and the three pipes are clearly visible as
waterlogged hollows 2m-3m wide, and up to 45m in length extending eastwards
from the field boundary and decoy pond edge. The north eastern end of the
pond is visible as an earthwork standing up to 0.5m high, showing the
dimensions of the central and northern pipes where they entered the pond as
being up to 10m wide.
Surrounding the decoy are the remains of its enclosure rhyne. In the eastern
field this takes the form of a shallow in-filled ditch 4m-5m wide, running
from the field boundary in the south, around the decoy pipes and north towards
Decoy Rhyne, where it is curtailed by later floodbanks edging this major
The enclosure within the western field is slightly different, taking the form
of a double ditched enclosure, the inner bank adjacent to the pond being up to
1m in height, although having a low angle of slope. The southern ditches are
up to 4m in width, shallow and in-filled. It is not clear whether this
continues in the eastern field. To the west it is also probable that there is
a double ditched enclosure, although the earthworks are much lower, and partly
obscured by drainage channels. The north end is truncated by the rhyne
To the north west, outside the enclosure and beyond the extent of the
scheduling, is a triangular arrangement of shallow ditches, which may be
connected with the control of water to the decoy.
This decoy is reported to have been in use before 1736, but was out of use by
1886. It is located on Decoy Rhyne, which was cut in 1660. Decoy Pool Farm,
now demolished, was located 600m to the north. The site of another decoy lies
700m to the south east.
Aerial photographs probably provide the best evidence for the structure and
layout of this site.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, posts and pylons, though
the ground beneath is included.
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Ley, IB, Somerset Duck Decoys, (1977), 18
Williams, M, The Draining of the Somerset Levels, (1970), 107
CPE UK 1924, Jan 16 1947, 2034, (1947)
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