Duck decoy 175m south west of Parson's Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014445
Date first listed: 06-Mar-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 43481 52403
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.
Despite much of it having been infilled, the decoy 175m south west of Parson's Farm survives in the form of buried remains and is a well documented example of its class. 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 peat cutting.
The monument includes a 17th century duck decoy, located to the west of Hythe
on Cheddar Moor in the Axe River valley. Much of the decoy is now obscure,
the pond having been infilled in 1982.
The decoy was designed with three pipes extending east and west from either
end. The oval enclosure rhyne is intact for three-quarters of its length; the
northern rhyne has been infilled and the hedge removed. Its position is now
denoted by slight waterlogging. The infilled pool is square and measures
60m x 55m.
By the north east entrance to the field is a raised area of ground with a high
stone concentration, which marks the presumed position of the decoyman's hut.
An archaeological survey of the decoy took place in early 1982 before the pool
was infilled. This shows that the pond was once a six-pipe decoy of standard
design, but had a series of shallow rectangular ponds added between the
western pipes, which could have been used for fish breeding or possibly relate
to osier growth. Inlet or outlet channels are present to the south and east.
The earliest mention of this decoy dates to 1673, but it would appear to be
out of use by 1788. Aerial photographic evidence highlights the six pipes and
the size of the square decoy pool.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, 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: 27966
Legacy System: RSM
Ground plan by pacing & compass, Russet, V, Hythe Decoy Pool, 24.3.82, (1982)
Information on decoy pool at Hythe, Russet, V, Hythe Decoy Pool, April 1982, (1982)
Mention of 'the decoy', Church Rate 1673, DD/SAS SE 14, (1673)
Run 43, 5539, August 1981, (1981)
Title: Verney Map of Cheddar, 1788 Source Date: 1788 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Marked as 'Old Decoy'and osiers
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