Decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016916

Date first listed: 17-May-2000


Ordnance survey map of Decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 23-Jan-2019 at 18:13:04.


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

County: Dorset

District: Purbeck (District Authority)

Parish: Wareham St. Martin

National Grid Reference: SY 91302 91231, SY 91324 91338


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 decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath survive comparatively well, with the pond retaining waterlogged deposits which will preserve archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the use of the monument and the landscape of which it became an integral part. The decoy is one of only two examples known to survive in Dorset. The overnight shelter represents a notable association, as such features rarely survive. The decoy formed part of a wider complex designed to exploit the rich diversity of waterfowl within the Poole Harbour Estuary. There is some historical documentation detailing the use of the site and providing information concerning the range and number of birds caught during various seasons.


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


The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes a decoy pond and associated overnight shelter, situated on low lying ground in the area of Morden Bog. The decoy was recorded by Daniel Defoe in 1724-26 and Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in 1886.

The decoy pond appears star-shaped in plan with maximum dimensions of 80m from east to west and 60m from north to south. The pond is fed by natural spring water and remains largely water-filled. It is served by five `pipes' or channels set around the periphery; three pipes are set along the south eastern side, with two others along the north western side. The pipes were originally covered in netting designed to trap birds from the main decoy pond. A contemporary overnight shelter is situated to the south of the decoy pond. It is constructed of iron stone foundations with upper walls of brick and consists of a single room with an entrance to the east, a window to the west and a fireplace and chimney in the south western corner. The roof, which is now absent, is likely to have originally been of thatch. These features formed part of a wider complex which also included a large pond to the north and a decoy house to the north west. The complex was constructed by the Drax family of the Charborough Estate in 1724 and became disused from 1856, when the granting of shooting rights within the surrounding area created too much disturbance to enable the continued use of the decoy. The large pond to the north, which is known as the Old or Outside Decoy Pond, was probably designed to attract waterfowl into the vicinity. However, it was not a true decoy, as it has an irregular form and no pipes. The decoy house, which was a brick built structure, fell into disrepair during the 1980s and has since been demolished.

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: 33168

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Prendergast Col, E D V, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in The History of the Morden Duck Decoy, , Vol. 107, (1985), 19-22

End of official listing