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Transcript of Duck Decoys
Their origins, history and legacy
What is a duck decoy? A duck decoy is a shallow pond either man made or naturally occurring which has been modified to facilitate the capture of wildfowl by means of attraction, distraction, camouflage and confinement.
Where were duck decoys located?Anywhere where the topography of the land allowed the construction of the ponds i.e. mainly on flat landscapes with an abundance of fresh water such as the Fens, Somerset Levels and other areas of marshland located across the UK and where the numbers of wildfowl such as the Ducks, Teal and Widgeon, were in sufficient numbers as to make the construction of the ponds, a viable and economic proposition.
When were duck decoys first constructed?The first recorded duck decoy ponds were established in the Low Countries probably in the 16th century and these structures were known as eendekooi from the Dutch for eenden meaning duck and kooi meaning cage.This was inevitably contracted to decoy by the English, with the word later taking on the broader meaning of to lure.One of the first to be constructed in England was for Sir William Woodhouse at Waxham in Norfolk around 1620 with Royalty soon taking an interest in Duck Decoys when King Charles II had one constructed in St Jamess Park in 1665 by a Dutchman, Sydrach Hilcus, who was brought over from Holland at a cost of 30
An agreement made in 1666 for the construction of a Duck Decoy Articles of Agreement, and bond in 100 between (a) Harbert Morley of Glynde, esq., and (b) Martin Hilkis of Peasmarsh.22 May 1666 Contents: 1. (a) wishes to set up a 'duckoy' for the taking of duck and wild fowl and has laid out a pond at the lower end of the Bricklamps field cont. 1a. For 50 (b) agrees to finish the decoy by 1 July next. 2. The pond is to be 2 foot deep and full of water. 3. (b) is to provide 'goodpoles, reed, willow, setts, netts for the pipes' and other materials. 4. (b) is to stock the 'duckoy', with 20 good 'Coy Ducks' and 2 good 'Coy Doggs' and from 24 June for 6 years is to be responsible for the upkeep of the pond. He is to provide oats and feeding for the 'Coy dogs' and 'Coy ducks'. At the end of the term he is to leave new netts fitting for the pipes and 2 good 'Coy doggs'. 5. (b) agrees to maintain sufficient bayes about the pond and especially against the Cowham and Cowham crofts and that the pipes running into the Cowham brooks and the Cowham crofts are to be sufficiently bayed. The waters of the pond are not to be imbayed so high as to annoy the Cowhams, Lampwish, Gorebrook or the pond next above. 6. (a) will pay the residue of the 50 when the pond is completed. 7. (b) is to manage the decoy and have a good deputy approved by (a) to take care of the 'duckoy' and breed the young fowl and feed the old ones. (b) is to have half of the fowl taken and (a) the other half. 8. (b) is not to dispose of any of the fowl without the consent of (a). 9. (b) agrees to fence the pond with reeds and next year provide willow setts for shelter. 10. (b) agrees not to erect any decoy within 5 miles of Glynde during the said term. If (b) fails in the performance of these articles the agreement shall be void. Witnesses: John Childe, John Baker, Edward Robarts, Nicholas Simons.
Location of local Duck DecoysThe following two slides show quite clearly the location of local Duck Decoys and those to the East of Bourne.
Although taken from an 1824 OS Map, the decoy ponds must have been relatively intact for the surveyor to record them and despite the fact that many of them would have been disused for a number of years prior to the survey.
Duck Decoys local to Billingborough and Pointon
Duck Decoys local to Bourne
Location of Mill Yard Farm Decoy (Neslam Fen) c1850
Aslackby Fen DecoyAerial Photo 1963
Aslackby Fen DecoyAerial Photo 1983
Todays Duck DecoysVery few working Duck Decoys now remain in England and none in the Eastern Counties which is surprising when one considers that the region accounted for over 60% of Duck Decoys constructed in England.
The closest to our area is the National Trust owned Boarstall Decoy located near Bicester and is open to the public April through August.
And finally, the legacy.The word decoy has come into use in the English language in so many ways since its original inception.Q Ships Seemingly unarmed merchant vesselsQ Cars Unmarked police vehiclesDecoy Airfields Folkingham and AnwickDecoy troops and equipment - build up to D-Day