Ancient Monuments

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Duck decoy pond 200m south east of Marsh Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Halebank, Halton

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Latitude: 53.3385 / 53°20'18"N

Longitude: -2.7853 / 2°47'6"W

OS Eastings: 347808.814673

OS Northings: 382686.195576

OS Grid: SJ478826

Mapcode National: GBR 8YZT.SY

Mapcode Global: WH87Q.5BYZ

Entry Name: Duck decoy pond 200m south east of Marsh Bridge

Scheduled Date: 2 February 1976

Last Amended: 16 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014717

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27581

County: Halton

Civil Parish: Halebank

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: St Mary Hale

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument includes a pentagonal enclosure with an outer ditch, containing a
pond with five regularly spaced curving pipes leading into the corners of the
pentagon. There is also a boat dock on the north side of the pond bearing a
date stone marked 1638. It was constructed as a duck decoy in which the birds
were driven into the pipes which were covered over by nets stretched over a
frame of iron hoops. This was an important source of food for the manor during
the 17th and 18th centuries, yielding an average catch of 1000 birds in a
The outside bank stands to a height of 2m above the marsh and averages 10m in
width at the base. Each side is 120m long. The outside ditch is 5m wide and 2m
deep. Inside the bank is a narrow path with drains taking overflowing water to
an outfall on the east side. In the centre is a roughly pentagonal pond 90m
across, and leading from each corner is a pipe 50m long, 8m wide and tapered
at the end. These are still covered by the remains of the iron hoops which
were to support the nets at the apex of the pipes. Each pipe was constructed
of brick at the sides, with a clay bottom. On the north side of the pond is a
small dock for a boat also constructed of brick, with a date stone marked RC
1638. The area enclosed is 1.8ha. A small brick-built hut on the island, which
was an addition to the decoy, provided a shelter for those working the pond.
On the north side of the decoy there is a modern swing footbridge over the
moat which may occupy the position of an earlier bridge.
The footbridge and its footings are not included in the scheduling, although
the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 duck decoy at Hale survives remarkably well, retaining the ironwork which
supported the nets for the pipes. The brick lined features are well preserved
and the drains are cleaned out and functioning. The survival of working
features of the site give important information on the original management and
function of the decoy during the 17th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dugdale, T, Curiosities of Great Britain: Volume V91

Source: Historic England

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