Meaux duck decoy, 420m south west of Meaux Decoy Farm


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


Ordnance survey map of Meaux duck decoy, 420m south west of Meaux Decoy Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 08011 40304

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 monument is one of three decoys recorded in the Holderness region and survives in very good condition. Although little is known about the history of these monuments locally, the Meaux decoy is an important feature of the economic history of this part of East Yorkshire during the post-medieval period, prior to the extensive drainage operations here of the 18th century.


The monument includes a duck decoy, one of three local decoys, the other two being at Watton and at Scorborough. The decoy stands at the edge of low-lying land, the site of extensive marshes, (locally called Carrs) prior to the various local Drainage Acts dating from 1763, which were enacted to drain the Holderness marshes, including that surrounding Meaux. The monument is orientated on an east-west axis, and has a classic decoy configuration of a central rectilinear pond area delineated by shallow exterior ditches of `U' to nearly `V' shaped profiles, about 3m wide and 1m deep. These ditches extend to form a pair of arms or `pipes', one pipe at each corner of the rectilinear pond, each with a low exterior bank. The decoy has maximum dimensions of about 350m east-west and 150m north-south. The central pond area is nearly 98m east-west by 73.26m north-south. The sides of the pond have four opposing promontories, extending into the pond. The western pipes curve in towards each other, and both measure about 43.5m in length, and about 7m-8m in width. The eastern pair of pipes differ from the western, in that they both turn southward, parallel with one another. Of these, the northern is the shorter, being nearly 37m long by 7m-8m wide, while the southern pipe is nearly 44m long, and up to 10m wide. Around the northern side of the decoy is a ditch which commences close to the field boundary 150m north east of the north eastern pipe and runs south west around the northern side of the decoy to enclose the western pipes, and terminates just below the south western pipe. The purpose of the ditch is not clear, but is thought to be either for water drainage or storage, to create a flow through a sluice; it may also have served the purpose of affording concealed access, like a hollow way, to the decoy. Given the very few historical details known for the Holderness decoys, the Meaux Decoy is though to date to the post-medieval period, possibly the 17th century or slightly later. Contrary to popular local belief, the monument is not thought to have been constructed by the monks of Meaux Abbey as there is no reference to it either in the history of Meaux Abbey (founded in 1150) or that of nearby Watton Abbey, which does have a decoy. Post and wire fencing and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Payne-Gallwey, R, The Book of Duck Decoys, (1886), 180-183
Audas, T, 'Trans. Hull Science & Field Nature Club' in Old Wild Duck Decoys of Lincolnshire & Yorkshire, (1900), 1, 96-7
Bramley, K C, 'Bull. Hull Natural History Society' in An Historical Record of Duck Decoys, , Vol. 3 (4), (1973), 20-2


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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