Ancient Monuments

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Duck decoy, 250m south of Black Rock Villas

A Scheduled Monument in Portishead, North Somerset

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Latitude: 51.4646 / 51°27'52"N

Longitude: -2.7835 / 2°47'0"W

OS Eastings: 345670.321578

OS Northings: 174251.505691

OS Grid: ST456742

Mapcode National: GBR JG.LYB3

Mapcode Global: VH7C2.PGV2

Entry Name: Duck decoy, 250m south of Black Rock Villas

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1996

Last Amended: 15 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015949

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27977

County: North Somerset

Civil Parish: Portishead

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes the earthwork remains of an 18th century six pipe duck
decoy, located on Clapton Moor, an isolated area of wetland, 2km inland from
the Severn Estuary.

The square central pool of the decoy is periodically flooded or waterlogged
and has a high concentration of rushes defining its boundaries, approximately
50m square. An attempt has been made to drain the pool by cutting a drain to
it from the south east surrounding ditch. This was noted by H Savory in 1961
as being newly cut.

The decoy is highly visible, with excellent preservation of pipes and banks.
The earthen banks stand up to 1m high above the level of the pool, and up to
0.75m above the pipes. The pipes extend symmetrically south east and north
west from the pool, 35m-40m in length, four curving to the south west, and two
to the north east. There is a gap of approximately 18m between the mouths of
each pipe, which are 4m in width at their junction with the pool. The south
west pipe is the longest, almost enclosing the southern central pipe.

Some 15m to the south west of the decoy is a silted-up ditch, which runs
parallel to the present south western field boundary. The northern end of
this ditch curves around to the north east, enclosing the decoy, and would
have joined the north eastern field boundary. An aerial photograph of 1946
shows this ditch to have been lined with trees and marks the position of the
decoy's original area and enclosure rhyne. This is confirmed by the County
Series map of 1902.

A possible inlet or outlet channel is located to the south east of the area.
The site was visited by Reverend F W Blathwayte in 1935, who indicated the
position of a stone concentration to the south of the pipes as being the
remains of the decoyman's hut. The area was wooded in 1935, but the ground was
cleared in the 1950s.

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.

The decoy pool 250m south of Black Rock Villas is a good example of its type,
and will preserve structural and environmental evidence in waterlogged
conditions. The earthwork and pond are particularly well preserved for a decoy
and clearly define the layout.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Savory, H, Savory Papers, (1961)
Wooded area defined, CPE.UK.1869, 3056, 4/12/46, (1946)

Source: Historic England

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