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Duck decoy in Sharpham Park, 600m south west of Avalon Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Sharpham, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1407 / 51°8'26"N

Longitude: -2.7686 / 2°46'6"W

OS Eastings: 346328.624993

OS Northings: 138218.518771

OS Grid: ST463382

Mapcode National: GBR MH.8GD6

Mapcode Global: VH7DM.YLRD

Entry Name: Duck decoy in Sharpham Park, 600m south west of Avalon Farm

Scheduled Date: 29 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014450

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27971

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Sharpham

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a duck decoy set within the grounds of a medieval park,
to the south of the peat extraction zone, at the foot of the Polden Hills.
It is enclosed within a rectangular area of mature woodland and includes an
open expanse of water, which still attracts wildfowl. It was originally
constructed as a decoy pond with four pipes, but these have fallen into disuse
and the shape of the pond has been altered from square to oval. As a result
the pipes have been isolated from the pond and allowed to silt up naturally.
Their positions, extending east and west, can be discerned in the woodland as
curving linear depressions 2m-3m wide; earthwork banks, particularly on the
inside of the pipes, stand up to 0.75m high. The earthworks are most
noticeable adjacent to the north east and south west pipes. The south west
pipe is especially large and widens out considerably at its eastern end where
it originally joined the pool; its length can be traced for 60m, as it curves
around to the north. It is possible that it served the purpose of inlet or
outlet for the decoy by joining the enclosure rhyne to the north.
The central area of the woodland is occupied by an oval pool, 40m x 25m, with
an oval central island. Its junction points with the pipes have been in-filled
by banked material, possibly from clearance of the pond. Both east and west
sides of the pond between the arms of the pipes are banked and covered with
dense undergrowth.
Surrounding the wooded area and pool is a rectangular enclosure rhyne, 170m x
100m. The south and east lengths are still maintained as drainage channels and
are not included in the scheduling but to the north and west the rhyne has
silted up, some of it containing standing water. There is a slight anomaly in
the line of the northern rhyne, which could indicate the position of a sluice
This decoy is purported to be one of the oldest in Somerset, and provided the
model for other decoys in the area. It was reported by Payne-Gallwey to be in
use in 1886. A map of this date shows a square pool of 0.451 ha, with four
pipes of equal length. It is within a medieval deer park and near to Abbot
Richard's manor house, now Sharpham Park Farm. There is a post-medieval rabbit
warren 250m to the south west. The site was visited by Rev Blathwaythe in
1935, who reported that the pool was dry, and overgrown, but that the shape
was clear. The pool was cleared out in 1985, and is now occasionally used for
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, although the
ground beneath is included.

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.

Sharpham Park decoy is located within a medieval deer park, and is associated
with a number of other contemporary monuments in the vicinity. It is a good
example of its type, although altered to some degree. It is set within its
original enclosure. The decoy lies within the Somerset Levels and Moors, a
wetland area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid landscape
change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive peat

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ley, IB, Somerset Duck Decoys, (1977), 18
'Downside Review' in Downside Review, Volume 5, (1886), 218-224
Associated sites on Somerset SMR, 24495 manor, 24921 rabbit warren, 24494 park,
Rev Blathwayte & Savory notebooks, Savory, H, Savory Papers,
Title: Ordnance Survey Map 1886, Card 52/9
Source Date: 1886

Source: Historic England

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