Duck decoy in Sharpham Park, 600m south west of Avalon Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014450

Date first listed: 29-Apr-1996


Ordnance survey map of Duck decoy in Sharpham Park, 600m south west of Avalon Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: Mendip (District Authority)

Parish: Sharpham

National Grid Reference: ST 46326 38220


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Sharpham Park decoy is located within a medieval deer park, and is associated with a number of other contemporary monuments in the vicinity. It is a good example of its type, although altered to some degree. It is set within its original enclosure. The decoy 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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a duck decoy set within the grounds of a medieval park, to the south of the peat extraction zone, at the foot of the Polden Hills. It is enclosed within a rectangular area of mature woodland and includes an open expanse of water, which still attracts wildfowl. It was originally constructed as a decoy pond with four pipes, but these have fallen into disuse and the shape of the pond has been altered from square to oval. As a result the pipes have been isolated from the pond and allowed to silt up naturally. Their positions, extending east and west, can be discerned in the woodland as curving linear depressions 2m-3m wide; earthwork banks, particularly on the inside of the pipes, stand up to 0.75m high. The earthworks are most noticeable adjacent to the north east and south west pipes. The south west pipe is especially large and widens out considerably at its eastern end where it originally joined the pool; its length can be traced for 60m, as it curves around to the north. It is possible that it served the purpose of inlet or outlet for the decoy by joining the enclosure rhyne to the north. The central area of the woodland is occupied by an oval pool, 40m x 25m, with an oval central island. Its junction points with the pipes have been in-filled by banked material, possibly from clearance of the pond. Both east and west sides of the pond between the arms of the pipes are banked and covered with dense undergrowth. Surrounding the wooded area and pool is a rectangular enclosure rhyne, 170m x 100m. The south and east lengths are still maintained as drainage channels and are not included in the scheduling but to the north and west the rhyne has silted up, some of it containing standing water. There is a slight anomaly in the line of the northern rhyne, which could indicate the position of a sluice arrangement. This decoy is purported to be one of the oldest in Somerset, and provided the model for other decoys in the area. It was reported by Payne-Gallwey to be in use in 1886. A map of this date shows a square pool of 0.451 ha, with four pipes of equal length. It is within a medieval deer park and near to Abbot Richard's manor house, now Sharpham Park Farm. There is a post-medieval rabbit warren 250m to the south west. The site was visited by Rev Blathwaythe in 1935, who reported that the pool was dry, and overgrown, but that the shape was clear. The pool was cleared out in 1985, and is now occasionally used for shooting. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, although 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: 27971

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ley, IB, Somerset Duck Decoys, (1977), 18
'Downside Review' in Downside Review, Volume 5, (1886), 218-224
Associated sites on Somerset SMR, 24495 manor, 24921 rabbit warren, 24494 park,
Rev Blathwayte & Savory notebooks, Savory, H, Savory Papers,
Title: Ordnance Survey Map 1886, Card 52/9 Source Date: 1886 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing