The easternmost of three duck decoys on Walton Moor
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014446
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: Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 46078 33855
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.
Walton decoy is a good example of its type, though converted and adapted to modern requirements. 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. This is one of three decoys to survive in close proximity on Walton Moor. Such groupings are unusual.
The monument includes a 19th century duck decoy, located on Walton Moor, to
the west of Street Rhyne.
Its area is defined by a rectangular area of woodland, 125m x 85m, at the
convergence of four drains, enclosed by a rectangular rhyne and a boundary
hedge. Central to the woods is a pool, which is 35m-38m square. A 15m square
low island, which is not shown on any mapped depiction, has tree and scrub
Originally having four pipes, these are only now present in other forms. The
north east pipe has been converted into a 4m wide drainage channel and links
the pool to the surrounding rhyne and ultimately to Street Rhyne. The three
other pipes can be discerned by differences in vegetation and topography,
which also indicate the position of the supply channel shown on an 1886 map.
There is a waterlogged hollow to the east between the pond and the rhyne. The
pool has high earth banks, 1m-2m above the water level. It would appear to
have been cleaned out in the past and the silts placed on the banks.
This site was visited by H Savory in 1961, who reported the north east pipe to
be clear, the pool to have been recently cleared, netting in place round the
pool, and one or two pieces of hoop iron still visible. An island was not
mentioned, so it is possible that this is a later addition.
This decoy was one of three planned in 1823 by the Marquis of Bath, and is
noted as being by Lord Bath's Drove to the west. Accounts relating to the
decoy under the tenancy of Admiral V Hickley of Taunton show that the average
total takings from the three decoys in 1868-82 was 1200 fowl, varying from
3000 in 1868-9 to 175 in 1874-5. This decoy was leased by Payne Gallwey, an
authority on decoy pools, in the 1880s.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, posts and footbridges,
though the ground beneath is included. The surrounding rhyne is not included
in the scheduling.
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: 27967
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Ley, I B, Somerset Duck Decoys, (1977)
'Downside Review' in Downside Review, Volume 5, (1886), 218-224
4069 CPE.UK 1944, 23.1.47, (1947)
CS No 969, Run 45, 4813 August 1981, (1981)
HSL.UK 71-220, Run 45, 2155, November 1971, (1971)
Notebooks, maps, photographs, Savory, H, Savory Papers, (1961)
Title: Ordnance Survey, 1886, Card 63/1 Source Date: 1886 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
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