Ancient Monuments

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Decoy pond 500m south of Waldegraves Farm

A Scheduled Monument in West Mersea, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7759 / 51°46'33"N

Longitude: 0.9455 / 0°56'43"E

OS Eastings: 603299.162727

OS Northings: 212681.45679

OS Grid: TM032126

Mapcode National: GBR SPK.RVJ

Mapcode Global: VHKGL.BMPH

Entry Name: Decoy pond 500m south of Waldegraves Farm

Scheduled Date: 7 June 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019036

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32411

County: Essex

Civil Parish: West Mersea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: West Mersea St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the surviving extent of a decoy pond, located in
Waldegraves Holiday Park, on the south coast of Mersea Island, immediately
adjacent to the sea wall.
Originally a five-piped pochard pond, the decoy now appears as a large roughly
rectangular pond, measuring some 100m north west to south east and 60m north
east to south west, extended at one corner. The channels or pipes are now
largely infilled, but their positions can be traced on the ground as shallow
Documentary sources make it evident that this was a very successful pochard
decoy. An account of Essex decoying written in 1868 described it as the best
known pond of its kind and documents the large numbers of birds taken. Its
success is reflected in its long period of use: constructed in the second half
of the 18th century (it appears on a Chapman and Andre map of 1777) it was
worked until the third quarter of the 19th century.
All modern fences and wooden access ramps are excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 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 500m south of Waldegraves Farm is a rare example of a duck
decoy that was originally designed as a pochard pond. Unlike standard duck
decoys, where the birds were enticed by dogs and netted at the ends of the
pipes, the pochard pond used tall flight poles with nets attached. Operated by
two men, one would fire a gun to set the birds in flight, the other would pull
the trigger on the poles, which would fly up. The birds, striking the nets,
would fall down into bags or pockets at the bottom.
With most of its original features still intact the central pond survives well
and is waterfilled. The infilled pipes are expected to contain the remains of
the wooden and iron hoops that once supported the nets, illustrating the
operation of the decoys. The sealed deposits, in addition to artifactual
evidence, will also yield environmental evidence regarding the appearance of
this part of the coast at the time of the decoy's construction.
Decoys were very important and once common features of the Essex coastal
landscape making a significant contribution to the marshland economy during
the period 1600-1900. Documentary sources show that the decoy pond 500m south
of Waldegraves Farm was one of the most successful in the county. Dating from
the late 18th century, the decoy was in use well into the second half of the
19th century and was famous for regularly catching vast numbers of birds.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Christy, M, The Birds of Essex, (1890), p64
White, W, A History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Essex, (1848), 26-36
Glegg, W E, 'Vol XXVII Essex Naturalist' in The Duck Decoys of Essex, , Vol. 27-part7, (1943), 217-8
Colour print, Strachan, D, CP/96/30/12, (1996)
Gramolt, David William, The Coastal Marshland of East Essex, 1960, Thesis MA Degree, Univ. of London
In Colchester ERO, ERO D/Q 1/11, (1830)
Strachan, D, TM01SW, (1996)
Title: Plate XIV
Source Date: 1777

Tyler, S, MPP Film 7, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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