Ancient Monuments

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Duck decoy east of Barrow Wood Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Rodney Stoke, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2333 / 51°14'0"N

Longitude: -2.7479 / 2°44'52"W

OS Eastings: 347876.593235

OS Northings: 148505.807152

OS Grid: ST478485

Mapcode National: GBR MJ.2FMN

Mapcode Global: VH89Q.B84C

Entry Name: Duck decoy east of Barrow Wood Lane

Scheduled Date: 20 October 1977

Last Amended: 16 February 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014453

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27965

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Rodney Stoke

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


This monument includes a duck decoy situated in the Axe River valley between
Stoke Moor and Westbury Moor. It does not conform to the standard decoy pond
layout, perhaps because that it has been adapted or changed in the past.
The present earthworks are located in a sub-rectangular field 60m-80m wide by
100m-120m in length. The central earthworks take the form of a complex
arrangement of ditches and channels. To the north west is a curvilinear
double-ditched feature, which survives as a substantial earthwork to a height
of 0.5m-1m. The outer ditch, probably the enclosure rhyne, is up to 5m wide,
with a minimum of 10m between it and the inner ditch. This narrower inner
ditch part-encloses a sub-circular area or island. The outer ditch curves
round to the east, turning south, where its terminus is wide and shallow. To
the south the outer ditch runs straight towards a triangular area surrounded
by drainage ditches - this is presumably related to the water-control system;
the drain that this connects into would at one time have fed into Lake Rhyne.
Outside the main ditch, an isolated 2m wide channel, aligned north east-south
west, runs in a straight line for 40m-45m from the outer ditch towards the
southern drain. The depth of this ditch is unknown, but it is possible that it
connected to the main ditch and has been partly infilled for access, as is the
case with part of the main ditch to the north.
The south eastern area contains shallow channels connecting from south to
north and branching off to the east. Two linear curving channels to the north
east possibly indicate the position of pipes; to the north west are three
parallel channels of unknown function, possibly later drainage additions.
An 1811 Ordnance Survey map shows a four-pipe decoy, which seems to bear no
relation to the present layout. Aerial photographs of the monument show the
outer enclosure ditch but do not clarify the arrangements of other channels.
Collinsons' History of Somerset of 1791 mentions a large decoy pool, but maps
indicate that it was out of use by 1840.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, though 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.

The decoy pond east of Barrow Wood Lane, Westbury, survives with substantial
earthworks and a complex arrangement of channels which make this a site of
particular interest. It 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 cutting.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dennison, E, Russett, V, Duck Decoys, Function & Management with ref to Nyland Decoy, (1989), 141-155
Card 59, OSD No 49 Series 34 2", (1811)
CS 969 Run 74, 4755 August 1981, (1981)
HSL.UK.71-220 Run 47, 2019, November 1971, (1971)

Source: Historic England

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