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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 35877

Hob Uid: 35877
Location :
Somerset
Somerset West and Taunton
Porlock
Grid Ref : SS8775447538
Summary : A Post Medieval decoy pond, visible as an earthwork, was mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1946. Located in a field behind the beach in Porlock Bay, west of Butchers Plantation and east of Porlockford Plantation, the decoy is a large earthwork pond, cut in the shape of a parallelogram, with a series of interconnecting curvilinear ditches known as pipes extending out from each corner and side. The decoy pond and pipes were still visible in aerial photographs taken in 1999. The date of the decoy pond is uncertain but thought to be Post Medieval, first appearing as decoy on a map annotation in the early 19th century.
More information : SS 876475. A large, ten-pipe coastal duck decoy pond survives as a
substantial earthwork NE of West Porlock. (1)

(Centred SS 877475) Decoy (NAT) (2)

SS 877476. A series of three duck decoy ponds, one natural and two artificial, centres 1.3 km NW of Porlock.

A. SS 87944782. This large pond, or area of natural water, appromimately 700m E/W by 300m covering an area of some 21 ha, is depicted on a map circa 1710 (a) to the immediate S of the massive shingle bank skirting Porlock Bay. It is annotated "Porlock Pill or Fish Pond" and is fed by three streams - "Porlock Town Brook" in the SE, and "Porlock Ford Water" and "West Porlock Water Brook" in the W, and has an outlet northwards to the sea. The pond is annotated 'Decoy' on an estate map of 1809-12 (b) and an 1820 (c) 1" map of Somerset, but it does not appear on the 1841 Porlock Tithe Map (d). By 1888 this large area of water had been drained as it is greatly reduced to two small ponds shown on the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map (e). The annotation 'Decoy' appears some distance to the W of the ponds implying that it might also have included a system of broad curvilinear drains in this area. This annotation seems to have been gradually transferred further to the S on the 1903 (f) and the 1972 (g) Ordnance Survey Maps, becoming detached from the original feature. Today the area of this decoy is drained by two wide reed-filled channels and contains several smaller ponds surrounded by an expanse of reeds. It varies in size seasonally depending on the ingress of the sea and the amount of rainfall.

B. SS 87524744. Air photos taken in 1985 (h), show the site of an artificial rectangular decoy pond (shaped like a skates egg purse) approximately 90m N/S by 60m, some 0.42 ha in area. It appears to have had four shallow curving ditches ('pipes' or 'net tunnels') one at each corner, with the water being fed in through the NW one and flowing out through the SE one. The area has been ploughed and is now an undulating pasture field and the decoy remains can only just be partly discerned after extremely wet conditions. It may have been built to replace the original natural decoy pond A some 500m to the NE.

C. SS 87764754. The well preserved remains of an artificial decoy evident in a low-lying pasture field, about 5m above OD. (See attached 1:1000 plan). The decoy, also visible on air photos (h), consists of a dry rectangular grassy hollow (84m NW/SE by 60m, and 0.9m deep) covering an area of some 0.52 ha. It has ten pipes, three on the NW side, three on the SE side and two on each of the remaining sides. The pipes, each about 5m wide and 0.9m deep at their mouths, taper off gradually in width and height towards their far ends away from the pond. The now dry decoy was originally filled from a small stream feeding onto one of the pipes on its SW side and appears to have been drained through a cut from the northern-most pipe. The decoy has been emptied by a series of shallow field drains first referred to by Blathwayt (i) in 1934.

Around the E side of the decoy are the remains of an old hedge line. Elsewhere a turf field bank (generally about 4m-5m wide and 1m high) almost encloses the decoy. It commences 60m to the SW of the decoy (SS 87734744), continues parallel to it on the W, bends in a series of angles around the N and NE sides, where it is reduced to an outer scarp only and terminates near the hedgeling in the E (SS 87844759). It appears to be contemporary with the decoy and was most likely constructed to protect it from being inundated by sea water during floods caused by breaks in the shingle bank to the N,

This decoy was presumably built as a successor to decoy B sited some 270m away to the W. Its unusually large number of pipes would have allowed it to be used in all wind directions to maximise catches.

It is not known exactly when this decoy was constructed or when it went out of use. Ley (j) states that "it was known to exist before 1791" but this may be a confusion with the original Porlock Pill. It does not appear on the 1841 Tithe Map (d) implying it may have been built after this date and is not shown on the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map (e) possibly having gone out of use by then.

Decoy Plantation, a strip of mixed woodland shown on the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map (e), which ran some 50m parallel to the W side of the decoy, was possibly planted (along with the hedge in the E) to provide shelter from the wind, hidden access to the decoy or protection for the birds. According to Blathwyt (i) it was destroyed by flood when the sea breached the shingle bank in (he thought) 1912. Soon after the remaining trees were cut down though its NE boundary line is still evident as a low turf baulk.

Decoy Linhay, an open sided barn some 150m to the SE of the decoy (SS 87844740). A Porlock Manor survey apportionment (k) of about 1820 refers to a Decoy House "injured by seawater and in a dilapidated state" which "should be kept up as a Linhay". This survey was not accessible so it is not clear where the Decoy House was situated but it may have been on or near the Linhay site. (3)

A Post Medieval decoy pond, centred on SS 8776 4754, visible as an earthwork, was mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1946. Located in a field behind the beach in Porlock Bay, about 550 metres west of Butchers Plantation and 660 metres east of Porlockford Plantation, the decoy is a large earthwork pond, cut in the shape of a parallelogram about 85 metres NW-SE and 60 metres SW-NE, with a series of 10 interconnecting curvilinear ditches or water channels known as pipes, extending out from each corner and side: three on the NW side, three on the SE side and two each on the other two sides. The pipes, each about 5 metres wide, taper off in width as they extend from the pond. The decoy pond and pipes/water channels were still extant in aerial photographs taken in 1999. (4-6)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 25
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Vol(s) : 128, 1984
Source Number : 2
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1:10000 1975
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Source Number : 3h
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : Air Photos: 4185/025 Aug 1985 Exmoor National Park Infra-red Collection, Exmoor House, Dulverton
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Source Number : 3i
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Blathwayt, Rev F L, 1933 MS Diary Vol 17. Unpublished papers in the H Savory collection in the SANHS library
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Source Number : 3j
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ley IB, 1977 Somerset Duck Decoys p.19
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Source Number : 3k
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Porlock Manor Survey 1820 ? Apportionment MS, Ref DD/BR/bn22 Somerset Record Office
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Source Number : 4
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF 106G/UK/1655 3023-3025 11-JUL-1946
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Source Number : 5
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/79013 157-158 17-APR-1979
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Source Number : 6
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SS 8847/6 (18586/02) 12-OCT-1999
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Source : Porlock Marsh decoy pond 'C`/ink survey
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Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Sainsbury IS, 6-DEC-94, RCHME Field Investigation
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Source Number : 3a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Map of Porlock Bay c. 1710, Ref T/PH/gc 15,c/2794, Somerset Record Office
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Source Number : 3b
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Survey and Valuation of the Manor of Bosssington 1809-12, Somerset Record Office
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Source Number : 3c
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : 1" Map of Somerset 1820/21 C & I Greenwood. Somerset Record Office
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Source Number : 3d
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Porlock Tithe Map 1841 Somerset Record Office
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Source Number : 3e
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1889 1:2500 Somerset 34:1
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Source Number : 3f
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1903 1:2500 Somerset 34:1
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Source Number : 3g
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1972 1:2500 Sheet SS 8747
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post Medieval
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Decoy Pond, Drainage Ditch, Water Channel
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 33923
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 84 NE 21
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SS 84 NE 21
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1994-12-06
End Date : 1994-12-06
Associated Activities : Primary, GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL: SEVERN ESTUARY NMP, RAPID COASTAL ZONE ASSESSMENT SURVEY
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2006-04-10
End Date : 2008-11-01