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
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
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
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 James’s
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
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. 1¾a. 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
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 Decoys
The 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 Decoy
Aerial Photo 1963
Aslackby Fen Decoy
Aerial Photo 1983
Today’s Duck Decoys
Very 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
Q Cars – Unmarked police vehicles
Decoy Airfields – Folkingham and Anwick
Decoy troops and equipment - build up to