Central of three duck decoys on Walton Moor, south of Lord Bath's Drove


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Central of three duck decoys on Walton Moor, south of Lord Bath's Drove
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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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 45747 33772

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 on Walton Moor survives as a good example of its type, and is one of three decoys on Walton Moor representing an unusual grouping. 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 19th century four-pipe duck decoy on Walton Moor. The decoy was originally surrounded by a rectangular enclosure rhyne. This has been infilled on three sides, its line now denoted by waterlogging around the edge of an area of mature woodland. To the south, the rhyne is part of a drainage system for the surrounding land. In the middle of the woodland is an almost square pool, 35m by 40m, which has a large low central island accessed by a footbridge to the south west. There are substantial banks surrounding the pool, standing 0.75m-1.2m above the water level, showing evidence of recent pond clearance which would have enhanced their height. The four decoy pipes, shown to be extending to the east and west from the four corners of the pond on a map of 1886, have been infilled but can be traced by differences in topography and vegetation. Generally visible as curving water-logged hollow ways, they are separated from the pond by scrub growth and banked material. To the south a channel 1m-2m wide has been cut from the pool to the current drain and is spanned by a footbridge. This is one of three decoys planned in 1823 by the Marquis of Bath; to the north of this decoy is Lord Bath's Drove. Rented to the Admiral V Hickley of Taunton from 1868-82, the average total takings of fowl from the three decoys was 1200, varying from 3000 in 1868/9, to 175 in 1874/5. This decoy was leased by Payne-Gallwey, an authority on decoy ponds, in the 1880s. The area is currently used for shooting and has been cleaned out a number of times in the past. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, posts and footbridges, although the ground beneath is excluded. The enclosure rhyne, to the south is also excluded from 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Ley, IB, Somerset Duck Decoys, (1977), 19
'Downside Review' in Downside Review, Volume 5, (1886), 218-224
Title: Ordnance Survey Map, 1886 Source Date: 1886 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Card 63/1


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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