Halstow Marshes Decoy Pond


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Halstow Marshes, High Halstow, Hoo Peninsula, Medway, Kent


Ordnance survey map of Halstow Marshes Decoy Pond
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Statutory Address:
Halstow Marshes, High Halstow, Hoo Peninsula, Medway, Kent

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

Medway (Unitary Authority)
High Halstow
National Grid Reference:


The site of Halstow Marshes Decoy Pond, a two-phase extant four-pipe duck decoy, dating from the late C17, with later phases of modification and use to the C19.

Reasons for Designation

The duck decoy pond at Halstow Marshes, dating from the late C17 with later phases of modification and use, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: an early example of a decoy pond nationally, dating from the late C17, with clear evidence of later phases of use in the C18 and C19;

* Rarity: as a very rare example of a well-preserved, near-complete duck decoy and as the only surviving example of a decoy pond in the County of Kent;

* Survival: a two-phase decoy pond with well-preserved earthworks and buried remains of its earlier phase of use which survive very well;

* Documentation: the site is well-documented having been subject to research and aerial photographic survey, the decoy pond is included on historic OS Maps and records;

* Potential: there is high archaeological potential for buried structural remains such as revetments, pond-linings, wooden stake-holes, hoops within the central pools and along the pipes, leats and sluices. There is also a high potential for artefactual and waterlogged ecofactual remains in the form of wood, seeds, pollen, animal and insect remains.


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 C17. The word ‘decoy' is said to derive from the Dutch ’eendenkooi' meaning ‘duck cage'. Their greatest popularity came in the C18 and C19 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. Decoy ponds are found across England but were especially numerous in the wetland areas of the East and in Somerset.

Halstow Marshes Decoy Pond was identified during English Heritage’s Hoo Pensinsula Historic Landscape Project (Carpenter et al, 2013). This led to a further programme of archaeological work on the decoy pond itself comprising historical research and an aerial photographic survey (Carpenter, 2014). This survey and research indicates there are two phases of decoy pond on the same site. Although the precise dates of operation of the decoy are not known, it is a relatively early example and is recorded on a 1697 map of High Halstow (Robinson, 2004, 127). An aerial photograph taken in 1947 included in the survey report clearly highlights the surviving earthwork banks and channels or pipes of the larger earlier pond. These are mainly dry and still present on a recent aerial photograph taken in 2014. The earlier pond was closer to a square in plan and is defined by earthwork banks with the pipes aligned on the corners. The smaller and later pond, which still holds water and defines a diamond-shaped pond, sits within this square respecting or utilising the corners of the earlier pipes and associated channels. It is not clear whether the original pond had been abandoned for a period of time or if the changes were made with no significant break in use. The most likely explanation for any alteration is that it was undertaken to improve the working of the pond. The diamond shaped pond both reduces the surface area and accentuates the narrowing of the pond towards the pipes which together may have helped in encouraging the wildfowl into the pipes (Carpenter, 2014). The presence of a decoy here gave its name to both Decoy Farm 800m to the south-east and Decoy Fleet to the north. It is thought the decoy pond may have fallen out of use in the early C19. The pond is not mentioned in the freehold sale description of Decoy Farm in 1799, suggesting it was either abandoned by then or not in its ownership. The 1839 Tithe Award Schedule lists the field as "Decoy Yards" and its use as pasture suggesting it had fallen out of use by this date. The small building to the east which stood close to the pond is named as “Little Decoy House and Garden”. It is assumed this was a decoyman’s cottage as these were sometimes provided close to a decoy pond if the site was relatively remote. The 1872 OS map does depict the pond, trees and Little Decoy House and Garden but the pipes appear truncated and the south-west pipe had by that date joined the remnants of a natural channel. This is seen more clearly on the 1885 OS Map. Subsequent map editions illustrate the gradual loss of the garden and then building and the reversion of the pond to marsh (Carpenter, 2014). The drain to the east of the decoy pond was straightened in the 1960s cutting through remains of Little Decoy House and Garden (Robinson, 2005, 234). The property was originally within the eastern field boundary of the decoy pond. Buried archaeological remains of the building were evident during a programme of test-pitting in 2005 (Robinson, 2005, 235).


The scheduled area includes an extant four-pipe duck decoy, with earthwork and buried remains of earlier phases, situated at NGR TQ 7827 7778 on Halstow Marshes, south-east of and close to Decoy Fleet, which empties out into Egypt Bay. The land-use comprises pasture and grazing marsh within the Northward Hill Nature Reserve.

The diamond-shaped central pool of the decoy pond is approximately 40m x 30m, still holds water and is occupied by reeds. This is smaller than the earlier decoy pond which is closer to a square in plan. The later pond sits within this square and its four corner pipes are aligned towards the corners of the earlier pond. The later phases of single pipes are gently curved, retain water and range from approximately 25m to 40m in length and less than 5m in width. The banks are well preserved and range from 2m to 5m high. The earthworks of the former pipes at the north-east are mainly dry and those at the north-west and south-east corners are partially waterlogged from the vegetation, shorter and have a more exaggerated curve. The later pipe at the south-west corner now connects with a curvilinear channel labelled as a drain on the OS Maps. The pattern of creeks and channels beyond the decoy were clearly utilised to manage the water supply to and from the decoy. This is illustrated in the aerial photographs taken of the area and would have influenced the positioning of the decoys.

Extent of Monument The scheduled area is roughly rectangular and situated within the present land boundaries and field drains. It comprises of c350m north-south by c300m east-west. It is defined to the north, east and south by the earthwork remains of the former and present pipes and boundary features. It is defined to the west by the curvilinear feature labelled as a drain which connects to the south-west pipe on the OS map. As the south-west pipe connects and appears to cross-over the drain, it is included within the scheduled area. A 2m buffer zone is applied around the extent of the site for added protection.

Exclusions Fences and tracks are all excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. The surrounding land-drains are excluded from the scheduling.


Carpenter, E, 2014, Halstow Marshes Decoy Pond Archaeological Report, English Heritage Research Report Series no 17-2014
Heaton, A, 2001, Duck Decoys, Princess Risborough:Shire
Payne-Gallwey, R, 1886, The Book of Duck Decoys: Their Construction, Management and History, London:John Van Voorst
Robinson, K, 2004, Duck Decoys in Kent, Kent Archaeological Review 156, 125-128
Robinson, K, 2005, An Update on the search for Doug Squires and information on the duck decoy at High Halstow, Kent Archaeological Review 160, 234-236


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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