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Decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath

A Scheduled Monument in Wareham St. Martin, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.7215 / 50°43'17"N

Longitude: -2.1243 / 2°7'27"W

OS Eastings: 391322.960006

OS Northings: 91328.94426

OS Grid: SY913913

Mapcode National: GBR 212.PRL

Mapcode Global: FRA 67F5.J7J

Entry Name: Decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath

Scheduled Date: 17 May 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016916

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33168

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Wareham St. Martin

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Morden St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes a
decoy pond and associated overnight shelter, situated on low lying ground in
the area of Morden Bog. The decoy was recorded by Daniel Defoe in 1724-26 and
Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in 1886.

The decoy pond appears star-shaped in plan with maximum dimensions of
80m from east to west and 60m from north to south. The pond is fed by natural
spring water and remains largely water-filled. It is served by five `pipes' or
channels set around the periphery; three pipes are set along the south eastern
side, with two others along the north western side. The pipes were originally
covered in netting designed to trap birds from the main decoy pond.
A contemporary overnight shelter is situated to the south of the decoy pond.
It is constructed of iron stone foundations with upper walls of brick and
consists of a single room with an entrance to the east, a window to the west
and a fireplace and chimney in the south western corner. The roof, which is
now absent, is likely to have originally been of thatch.
These features formed part of a wider complex which also included a large pond
to the north and a decoy house to the north west. The complex was constructed
by the Drax family of the Charborough Estate in 1724 and became disused from
1856, when the granting of shooting rights within the surrounding area created
too much disturbance to enable the continued use of the decoy. The large pond
to the north, which is known as the Old or Outside Decoy Pond, was probably
designed to attract waterfowl into the vicinity. However, it was not a true
decoy, as it has an irregular form and no pipes. The decoy house, which
was a brick built structure, fell into disrepair during the 1980s and has
since been demolished.

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 decoy pond and associated overnight shelter on Decoy Heath survive
comparatively well, with the pond retaining waterlogged deposits which will
preserve archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the use of the
monument and the landscape of which it became an integral part. The decoy is
one of only two examples known to survive in Dorset.
The overnight shelter represents a notable association, as such features
rarely survive. The decoy formed part of a wider complex designed to exploit
the rich diversity of waterfowl within the Poole Harbour Estuary. There is
some historical documentation detailing the use of the site and providing
information concerning the range and number of birds caught during various

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Prendergast Col, E D V, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in The History of the Morden Duck Decoy, , Vol. 107, (1985), 19-22

Source: Historic England

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