Duck decoy east of Barrow Wood Lane


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Duck decoy east of Barrow Wood Lane
© 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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This copy shows the entry on 22-Sep-2019 at 02:33:02.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 47869 48501

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 pond east of Barrow Wood Lane, Westbury, survives with substantial earthworks and a complex arrangement of channels which make this a site of particular interest. 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.


This monument includes a duck decoy situated in the Axe River valley between Stoke Moor and Westbury Moor. It does not conform to the standard decoy pond layout, perhaps because that it has been adapted or changed in the past. The present earthworks are located in a sub-rectangular field 60m-80m wide by 100m-120m in length. The central earthworks take the form of a complex arrangement of ditches and channels. To the north west is a curvilinear double-ditched feature, which survives as a substantial earthwork to a height of 0.5m-1m. The outer ditch, probably the enclosure rhyne, is up to 5m wide, with a minimum of 10m between it and the inner ditch. This narrower inner ditch part-encloses a sub-circular area or island. The outer ditch curves round to the east, turning south, where its terminus is wide and shallow. To the south the outer ditch runs straight towards a triangular area surrounded by drainage ditches - this is presumably related to the water-control system; the drain that this connects into would at one time have fed into Lake Rhyne. Outside the main ditch, an isolated 2m wide channel, aligned north east-south west, runs in a straight line for 40m-45m from the outer ditch towards the southern drain. The depth of this ditch is unknown, but it is possible that it connected to the main ditch and has been partly infilled for access, as is the case with part of the main ditch to the north. The south eastern area contains shallow channels connecting from south to north and branching off to the east. Two linear curving channels to the north east possibly indicate the position of pipes; to the north west are three parallel channels of unknown function, possibly later drainage additions. An 1811 Ordnance Survey map shows a four-pipe decoy, which seems to bear no relation to the present layout. Aerial photographs of the monument show the outer enclosure ditch but do not clarify the arrangements of other channels. Collinsons' History of Somerset of 1791 mentions a large decoy pool, but maps indicate that it was out of use by 1840. 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Dennison, E, Russett, V, Duck Decoys, Function & Management with ref to Nyland Decoy, (1989), 141-155
Card 59, OSD No 49 Series 34 2", (1811)
CS 969 Run 74, 4755 August 1981, (1981)
HSL.UK.71-220 Run 47, 2019, November 1971, (1971)


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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