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Blythe, Kathryn (2009) ESCRICK DECOY PONDS, NORTH YORKSHIRE Archaeological Survey Report. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Oxford Archaeology North (OA North) was invited by Natural England to undertake a programme of detailed archaeological survey of Moor Head decoy pond and wood at Escrick, near Selby in North Yorkshire (NGR SE 642 418). The survey was carried out on behalf of Escrick Park Estate in order to inform the appropriate conservation management of the pond and to propose reconstruction options for it. A lower level survey of an unnamed pond to the north of Moor Head (referred to throughout as the northern pond) on
the Escrick Estate (NGR SE 636 426) was also included in the project. The survey was undertaken in February 2009.
The project comprised a documentary study and a landscape survey. The documentary study entailed an investigation of primary, cartographic and secondary sources, as well as
information available online. The survey comprised an English Heritage level 3 survey for Moor Head decoy pond and a level 2 survey for the northern pond. The areas within the
woods, around each of the decoy ponds, were also searched for any additional features. Duck decoy ponds originated in Holland in the sixteenth century, with the first examples in
Britain dating to the seventeenth century. It has been estimated that there may have been as many as 800 duck decoy ponds constructed in England. The ponds, generally associated with large houses and estates, take various forms, but all have curved ditches named ‘pipes’ coming off a large central area of water. Ducks and other wildfowl would be lured into the pipes, generally by the use of a trained dog working with a decoyman. The pipes were screened, and covered with nets suspended over a succession of hoops. The pipes gradually tapered into a low, narrow area, covered with a detachable net into which the
birds were trapped. Escrick was an Anglian settlement, with two estates recorded there at the time of the
Domesday survey of 1086, and a manor house was mentioned at Escrick in the fourteenth century. Escrick Hall was rebuilt in the late seventeenth century, and the large private park
surrounding it was laid out in 1781. However, the park was expanded in c 1825 when the roads to Skipwith and Ricall were laid out to by-pass the village to the south-east and
south-west respectively. Moor Head pond is situated immediately west of the Skipwith road, and is likely to have been constructed after 1825. The pond is of regular shape; it originally had three pipes, and was later modified to have four pipes and a central island. The northern pond is not of typical construction, being irregular in shape and originally had only two pipes, which became three. The Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1855 shows the northern pond as apparently bisected by the road, perhaps indicating that it was adapted from an earlier pond. A book summarising duck decoys in Britain was produced by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in
1886, and is a very useful insight into the construction of decoys, the methods of working them, and the extant ponds at the end of the nineteenth century. Payne-Gallwey noted that
the Escrick decoys were both out of use by 1886; the northern pond was overgrown and had clearly been abandoned for some time, whilst the Moor Head pond was still being
maintained at that date. Ordnance Survey mapping from the early twentieth century confirms this, as the four pipes of the Moor Head decoy are each shown with a footbridge
constructed over them, indicating that the pond had become the feature of a walk on the estate.
The detailed survey around the Moor Head pond identified 33 sites of archaeological interest, which include features associated with the medieval/post-medieval use of the land
Escrick Decoy Pond, North Yorkshire - Archaeological Survey 5 For the use of Natural England © OA North: December 2009
before it became part of the park, such as ridge and furrow (Site 02), possible former boundaries (Sites 15/21 and 30) and associated hollows (Sites 14, 24 and 26). The pond
(Site 01) was surrounded by a wood, as decoy ponds often were, to provide cover. This therefore is likely to have been planted at the same time that the pond was laid out. Sites 06, 09, 10, 20 and 33 form the boundaries of the wood, Site 25 appears to be a northern entrance to the wood, and Site 27 is a bank to the north-east of Site 25, which extends into the wood.
Two spoil heaps (Sites 18 and 19), containing hand-made bricks, indicate the probable remains of the original decoyman’s hut, in the area south-west of the pond. There was also the remains of a slightly later brick structure (Site 16) in this area. On the east side of the pond a possible hut base (Site 08) was identified at a short distance to the south of the current hut (Site 07).
Sites 03-05, 11-13, 17, 22-23, 29 and 31-32 were all spoil heaps probably derived from recent pipe clearance. Site 28 appeared to be older than the surrounding spoil heaps,
although its composition suggests that it was still derived from pipe clearance. Site 22 contained metal bands from the pipe net hoops. Research into other extant and reconstructed duck decoys in Britain was also undertaken
as part of the project. This was mostly desk-based, although a visit was made to Slimbridge in Gloucestershire which has a fully restored decoy used for ringing birds and
demonstrations for the visitors to the reserve. A few other sites offer demonstrations of their duck decoys, but the majority, which are in areas such as parks and nature reserves, are maintained and are included within nature and/or historic trails. The search suggested
that there were only a small number of maintained duck decoys across the country which are open to the public. The restoration of the Moor Head pond would, therefore, be
extremely beneficial in adding to the historical background of the Escrick Estate as well as providing public information on duck decoys. An authentic reconstruction of the Moor Head pond should be achievable without impacting on the existing earthwork features of archaeological significance that were noted during the survey.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > North Yorkshire
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology North
Depositing User: barker
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 14:57
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 14:57
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6541

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