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Square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet, Old Hall Marshes

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet, Old Hall Marshes

List entry Number: 1016863


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Maldon

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Tollesbury

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 24-Sep-1999

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32408

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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.

The square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet at Old Hall Marshes is a fine example of a square four-piped decoy, specifically designed to catch teal. It is believed to be the only example of its kind in the county. As one of two decoys on Old Hall Marshes, it may have worked in tandem with the larger unspecialised decoy some some 650m to its north west or alternatively, one may be later than the other, perhaps reflecting the progress of land reclamation.

Although not water-filled, the pond and surrounding banks and pipes survive well enabling us to envisage how it operated. Decoys were important features of the Essex marshland landscape and made a significant contribution to the marshland economy during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The construction of banks and the silting of channels will have sealed deposits which will include artefactual evidence regarding the use of the decoy and environmental evidence regarding the appearance of the marshland at the time of construction.


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


The monument includes a square decoy pond situated in the south east corner of Old Hall Marshes, a promontory of reclaimed marshland. The decoy is some 500m to the north of the sea wall at Tollesbury Fleet and some 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet.

The decoy includes a square pond defined by a bank on all four sides, with four channels or pipes cutting through the bank and radiating off from each corner. The pond is approximately 30m square and the pipes are 30m-40m long. Both pond and pipes are now dry. The surviving banks are some 8m across and 2m high. The pond itself is a fairly shallow feature, being only 1m to 1.5m deep. Documentary references describe this decoy as a `teal pond' specifically for catching teal, although other birds were also caught. Its precise date of construction is not documented but was certainly in use in the mid-19th century. By 1888 the decoy had not been in use for many years.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Essex: Volume I, (1903), 232-253
Strachan, D, Essex From The Air, (1998), 65
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, , Vol. XXVII, (1943), 191-224
1:10 000, Strachan, D, TL91SE, (1996)
4 colour prints, Strachan, D, Unreferenced, (1998)
5 colour prints, Tyler, S, MPP1-6, 7, 8, 9, 10, (1998)
Gramolt, D.W, The Coastal Marshland of East Essex between the C17 and mid-C19, 1960, Thesis for M.A Univ of London
Strachan, D, CP-95-28-10, 11, (1995)
Strachan, D, CP-95-32-5, (1995)
Tyler, S, Site visit to Old Hall Marshes, (1998)

National Grid Reference: TL 98660 11797


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This copy shows the entry on 23-Sep-2018 at 05:23:20.

End of official listing