Decoy pond 500m south of Waldegraves Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019036

Date first listed: 07-Jun-2000


Ordnance survey map of Decoy pond 500m south of Waldegraves Farm
© 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 18:15:04.


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

County: Essex

District: Colchester (District Authority)

Parish: West Mersea

National Grid Reference: TM 03310 12680


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 500m south of Waldegraves Farm is a rare example of a duck decoy that was originally designed as a pochard pond. Unlike standard duck decoys, where the birds were enticed by dogs and netted at the ends of the pipes, the pochard pond used tall flight poles with nets attached. Operated by two men, one would fire a gun to set the birds in flight, the other would pull the trigger on the poles, which would fly up. The birds, striking the nets, would fall down into bags or pockets at the bottom. With most of its original features still intact the central pond survives well and is waterfilled. The infilled pipes are expected to contain the remains of the wooden and iron hoops that once supported the nets, illustrating the operation of the decoys. The sealed deposits, in addition to artifactual evidence, will also yield environmental evidence regarding the appearance of this part of the coast at the time of the decoy's construction. Decoys were very important and once common features of the Essex coastal landscape making a significant contribution to the marshland economy during the period 1600-1900. Documentary sources show that the decoy pond 500m south of Waldegraves Farm was one of the most successful in the county. Dating from the late 18th century, the decoy was in use well into the second half of the 19th century and was famous for regularly catching vast numbers of birds.


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


The monument includes the surviving extent of a decoy pond, located in Waldegraves Holiday Park, on the south coast of Mersea Island, immediately adjacent to the sea wall. Originally a five-piped pochard pond, the decoy now appears as a large roughly rectangular pond, measuring some 100m north west to south east and 60m north east to south west, extended at one corner. The channels or pipes are now largely infilled, but their positions can be traced on the ground as shallow depressions. Documentary sources make it evident that this was a very successful pochard decoy. An account of Essex decoying written in 1868 described it as the best known pond of its kind and documents the large numbers of birds taken. Its success is reflected in its long period of use: constructed in the second half of the 18th century (it appears on a Chapman and Andre map of 1777) it was worked until the third quarter of the 19th century. All modern fences and wooden access ramps are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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: 32411

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Christy, M, The Birds of Essex, (1890), p64
White, W, A History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Essex, (1848), 26-36
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, , Vol. 27-part7, (1943), 217-8
Colour print, Strachan, D, CP/96/30/12, (1996)
Gramolt, David William, The Coastal Marshland of East Essex, 1960, Thesis MA Degree, Univ. of London
In Colchester ERO, ERO D/Q 1/11, (1830)
Strachan, D, TM01SW, (1996)
Title: Plate XIV Source Date: 1777 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Tyler, S, MPP Film 7, (1999)

End of official listing