Ancient Monuments

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Square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet, Old Hall Marshes

A Scheduled Monument in West Mersea, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7697 / 51°46'10"N

Longitude: 0.8779 / 0°52'40"E

OS Eastings: 598661.893456

OS Northings: 211804.663933

OS Grid: TL986118

Mapcode National: GBR SPP.0S5

Mapcode Global: VHKGK.5SG8

Entry Name: Square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet, Old Hall Marshes

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016863

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32408

County: Essex

Civil Parish: West Mersea

Built-Up Area: West Mersea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Tollesbury St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a square decoy pond situated in the south east corner of
Old Hall Marshes, a promontory of reclaimed marshland. The decoy is some 500m
to the north of the sea wall at Tollesbury Fleet and some 260m south of
Pennyhole Fleet.

The decoy includes a square pond defined by a bank on all four sides, with
four channels or pipes cutting through the bank and radiating off from each
corner. The pond is approximately 30m square and the pipes are 30m-40m long.
Both pond and pipes are now dry. The surviving banks are some 8m across and 2m
high. The pond itself is a fairly shallow feature, being only 1m to 1.5m deep.
Documentary references describe this decoy as a `teal pond' specifically for
catching teal, although other birds were also caught. Its precise date of
construction is not documented but was certainly in use in the mid-19th
century. By 1888 the decoy had not been in use for many years.

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 square decoy pond 260m south of Pennyhole Fleet at Old Hall Marshes is a
fine example of a square four-piped decoy, specifically designed to catch
teal. It is believed to be the only example of its kind in the county. As one
of two decoys on Old Hall Marshes, it may have worked in tandem with the
larger unspecialised decoy some some 650m to its north west or alternatively,
one may be later than the other, perhaps reflecting the progress of land

Although not water-filled, the pond and surrounding banks and pipes survive
well enabling us to envisage how it operated. Decoys were important features
of the Essex marshland landscape and made a significant contribution to the
marshland economy during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The construction of banks and the silting of channels will have sealed
deposits which will include artefactual evidence regarding the use of the
decoy and environmental evidence regarding the appearance of the marshland at
the time of construction.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Essex: Volume I, (1903), 232-253
Strachan, D, Essex From The Air, (1998), 65
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, , Vol. XXVII, (1943), 191-224
1:10 000, Strachan, D, TL91SE, (1996)
4 colour prints, Strachan, D, Unreferenced, (1998)
5 colour prints, Tyler, S, MPP1-6, 7, 8, 9, 10, (1998)
Gramolt, D.W, The Coastal Marshland of East Essex between the C17 and mid-C19, 1960, Thesis for M.A Univ of London
Strachan, D, CP-95-28-10, 11, (1995)
Strachan, D, CP-95-32-5, (1995)
Tyler, S, Site visit to Old Hall Marshes, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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