MSO7887 - Post-medieval duck decoy and fishponds northwest of Porlock (Monument)


A post-medieval fishpond named "Porlock Pill" or "Fish Pond" and a later, probably 18th or 19th Century duck decoy on Porlock Marsh. The date of the fish pond is uncertain but it is depicted on a map of c.1710.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 876 475. A large, ten-pipe coastal duck decoy pond survives as a substantial earthwork northeast of West Porlock. [1] (Centred SS 877475) Decoy (NAT). [2] SS 877 476. A series of three duck decoy ponds, one natural and two artificial, centres 1.3 kilometres north-west of Porlock. A. SS 8794 4782. This large pond, or area of natural water, approximately 700 metres east to west by 300 metres covering an area of some 21 hectares, is depicted on a map circa 1710 [3] to the immediate south 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 south-east, and "Porlock Ford Water" and "West Porlock Water Brook" in the west, and has an outlet northwards to the sea. The pond is annotated 'Decoy' on an estate map of 1809-12 [4,26] and an 1820 1 inch map of Somerset [5], but it does not appear on the 1841 Porlock Tithe Map [6]. 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 [7]. The annotation 'Decoy' appears some distance to the west 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 south on the 1903 [8] and the 1972 [9] 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 8752 4744. Aerial photographs taken in 1985 [10], show the site of an artificial rectangular decoy pond (shaped like a skates egg purse) approximately 90 metres north to south by 60 metres, some 0.42 hectares 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 northwest one and flowing out through the southeast 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 500 metres to the northeast. C. SS 8776 4754. The well preserved remains of an artificial decoy evident in a low lying pasture field, about 5 metres above Ordnance Datum [15]. The decoy, also visible on aerial photographs [10], consists of a dry rectangular grassy hollow (84 metres northwest to southeast by 60 metres, and 0.9 metres deep) covering an area of some 0.52 hectares. It has ten pipes, three on the northwest side, three on the southeast side and two on each of the remaining sides. The pipes, each about 5 metres wide and 0.9 metres 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 southwest 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 in 1933 [11]. Around the east side of the decoy are the remains of an old hedge line. Elsewhere a turf field bank (generally about 4-5 metres wide and 1metre high) almost encloses the decoy. It commences 60 metres to the southwest of the decoy (SS 8773 4744), continues parallel to it on the west, bends in a series of angles around the north and north-east sides, where it is reduced to an outer scarp only and terminates near the hedgeline in the east (SS 8784 4759). 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 north. This decoy was presumably built as a successor to decoy B sited some 270 metres away to the west. 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 states that "it was known to exist before 1791" but this may be a confusion with the original Porlock Pill [12]. It does not appear on the 1841 Tithe Map [6] implying it may have been built after this date and is not shown on the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map [7], possibly having gone out of use by then. Decoy Plantation, a strip of mixed woodland shown on the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map [7], which ran some 50 metres parallel to the west side of the decoy, was possibly planted (along with the hedge in the east) to provide shelter from the wind, hidden access to the decoy or protection for the birds. According to Blathwyt it was destroyed by flood when the sea breached the shingle bank in (he thought) 1912. [11] Soon after the remaining trees were cut down though its northeast boundary line is still evident as a low turf baulk. 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 north-west to south-east and 60 metres south-west to north-east, with a series of 10 interconnecting curvilinear ditches or water channels known as pipes, extending out from each corner and side: three on the north-west side, three on the south-east 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. [16-19] Large rectangular 10-pipe decoy with natural flush marked flood channels shown on aerial photographs. [20] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [21]

Sources/Archives (27)

  • <1> Article in serial: McDonnell, R.R.J.. 1983/1984. Duck decoys in Somerset. Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society. 128. P. 25.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1975. 1:10,000 Map, 1975. 1:10,000.
  • <3> Map: 1710. Map of Porlock Bay.
  • <4> Survey: 1809-1812. Survey and Valuation of the Manor of Bossington.
  • <5> Map: 1820-1821. Map of the County of Somerset by C. and J. Greenwood..
  • <6> Map: Cox, J. W.C.. 1841. Porlock Tithe Map and Apportionment. 13.3 inches : 1 mile.
  • <7> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889. Somerset 34(1).
  • <8> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1903. Somerset 34(1).
  • <9> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1972. 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. Sheet SS 8747.
  • <10> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. MAM 4185/025 (August 1985).
  • <11> Unpublished document: Blathwayt, Rev F L. 1933. MS Diary. Unpublished papers in the H Savory collection in the Somerset Archaeologica. 17.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Ley, I.B. 1977. Somerset Duck Decoys. P.19.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 6 December 1994.
  • <14> Report: McDonnell, R.. 1995. Porlock Bay and Marsh: A Rapid Preliminary Assessment of the Cultural and Palaeoenvironmental Resource. P. 27, 37.
  • <15> Technical drawing: Sainsbury, I. and Chapman, H.. 1994. Porlock Marsh decoy pond 'C`/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <16> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1655 3023-3025 (11 July 1946).
  • <17> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8847/6 (18586/02) (12 October 1999).
  • <18> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 157-158 (17 April 1979).
  • <19> Archive: Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment: SS 84 NE. MD000130.
  • <20> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS8747.
  • <21> Aerial photograph: May 1977. ENP MAM IRFC. 13.007.
  • <22> Aerial photograph: June 1978. ENP MAM IRFC. 13.2627.
  • <23> Photograph: Slide (SCC Planning Department). 3.27.191.
  • <24> Aerial photograph: 1990. DAP QP14, 15.
  • <25> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. P. 10.
  • <26> Monograph: Ravenhill, M.R. and Rowe, M.M. (Eds.). 2006. The Acland Family: Maps and Surveys 1720-1840. Devon and Cornwall Record Society. 49. Plate 19, p111.
  • <27> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35877, Extant 7 February 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Coastal Risk 2014: Flood Zone 2 fluvial & tidal
  • Coastal Risk 2014: Flood Zone 3 fluvial & tidal
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 2 fluvial
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 2 fluvial and tidal
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 2 tidal
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 3 fluvial
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 3 fluvial and tidal
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 3 tidal
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO137
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11528
  • Local List Status (Candidate)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE21
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35877
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (0-20)
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33923



Grid reference Centred SS 877 476 (277m by 438m) MasterMap
Map sheet SS84NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

Feb 7 2022 2:49PM


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