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Decoy pond 700m north east of Marsh House Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Tillingham, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7002 / 51°42'0"N

Longitude: 0.9209 / 0°55'15"E

OS Eastings: 601942.573663

OS Northings: 204201.393608

OS Grid: TM019042

Mapcode National: GBR SQH.CNN

Mapcode Global: VHKGY.XJ7G

Entry Name: Decoy pond 700m north east of Marsh House Farm

Scheduled Date: 26 July 1973

Last Amended: 8 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013835

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24884

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Tillingham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Tillingham; St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a decoy pond situated on the flat coastal plain of the
eastern edge of the Dengie Peninsular at Tillingham, c.1.5km west of the
The main decoy pond is in the form of a `spinning star' with six pipes each
some 70 yards long curving clockwise out from the centre with a smaller
additional pond area to the south west of this. A hut used by the decoyman is
also present on the southern edge of the site and is included in the
The area around the ponds was planted with tall-growing rushes and plantations
of willow and other trees in order to produce cover for the decoy man working
the pond and many of these trees still survive. The main pond covers an area
of approximately 0.5ha while the whole site covers an area of c.4.5ha. The
site includes a surrounding ditch linked into the marsh drainage system. This
supplied the two ponds separately; the inlet leats running into the western
pipe while two outlet leats ran from the north and north eastern pipes of the
main pond. A drain ran away from the surrounding ditch north east towards the
sea. The water in the main pond stood about 3-4 feet deep in the centre and
became more shallow towards the edges.
The smaller pond to the south west comprised a square western part c.40m
across with a large extension to the east running in a sweeping curve c.100m
long north-south, extending from the north east corner. Originally shallower
than the main pond it has become infilled over the years and is now only
visible as a slight earthwork feature.
The decoy was originally constructed in the 18th century. Documentary evidence
records the names of a number of the tenants from 1795 onwards. An account of
the practice of decoying at the Marsh House Farm decoy pond was written in
1868, detailing the methods used and the types and numbers of birds taken.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 700m north east of Marsh House Farm is a fine 18th century
example of a six pipe pond surviving in a very complete state of preservation.
Its use over one and a half centuries was accompanied by exhaustive
documenation including detailed accounts of how the pond was used and of the
numbers and types of birds taken. This is the best known of the Essex decoy
The subsidiary pond, which also survives in good condition is an unusual
feature and of additional interest is the decoy man's hut which is a rare
survival in this state of preservation.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, (1943), 196-202
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, (1943), 204-206

Source: Historic England

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