A former duck decoy survives in Duck Decoy Plantation, Hardwick Park, as a circular earthwork about 130m in diameter. The river Doe Lea flows through the former decoy in an artificial channel. Two sight huts are built into the outer earthwork on the south-west and north-east sides. These were used by the decoyman to operate the cage decoy which was set between two artificial islands in the centre of the pond dammed by the outer bank. Some yew trees survive from the planting of the area to provide cover. According to Sir R Gallwey' s 'Book of Duck Decoys', published in 1886, it was one of only nine cage decoys constructed in England and represented the best example of its type. In 1985 the decoy pond was described as a marsh, with the only open water being in the centre, possibly having been dug out a few years before. Some wooden posts still stood in the centre. The north-east sight hut had been cleared of rubbish but had acted as a sump and filled with water. The south-west sight hut was overgrown. (1)
The duck decoy at Hardwick appears to have been built in 1860. It comprises a circular bank and ditch roughly 150m in diameter, with the stream leading from the Great Pond running through the centre. Originally the area within the circular earthwork would have been flooded except for an inner 'island' which contained the decoy's netted cage, with trapdoors at each end in order to capture wild ducks. Each trapdoor was controlled using a pulley system housed inside a stone structure built into opposite banks. Between 1857 and 1861, much of the natural habitat at Hardwick was damaged by cleaning and improving the Great Ponds and by the straightening of the Doe Lea river. The duck decoy was built in 1860, at a cost of £950 16s 8d, in order to make up for this damage and to help maintain the levels of wildfowl. When it was constructed it had a footbridge that ran from the north-east sight hut into the centre of the island. The bridge and trapdoors have not survived, but the stone-built sight huts can still be seen within the earthen bank. By 1893 the decoy had fallen from use and by 1900 the inner area had begun silting up. A section drawing of the bank and ditch was made in 2011, at which time a large scattering of waste material, including late 19th/early 20th century broken pottery and glassware, was noted spreading down the eastern side of the bank and into the ditch. This is thought to be a dump deposit, possibly from the nearby Hardwick Inn, corresponding to the period when the decoy fell out of use. (2)
The duck decoy at Hardwick Hall is part of a Midlands tradition of decoys and is arguable the best surviving example of its type in the country, and as such is potentially of national significance. The trap decoy is possibly based on an early example at Haughton Hall, Nottinghamshire, and differs to the more common type found elsewhere; using a central island with cages and traps rather than the corner pipes more commonly used. By 1893 the decoy had fallen from use, and the area is shown as silted up on the 1900 Ordnance Survey map. Neither the bridge nor the doors have survived, supposedly taken down in the 1920s, but the stone-built sight huts are still visible within the earthern bank. In 2016, the National Trust embarked upon a scheme of restoration of the duck decoy, to reinstate the historical features to their original form, improve natural habitats and provide a valuable learning resource. A watching brief was carried out during the restoration works to the features. The structural remains of the duck decoy were found to be in generally good condition, with some original features such as timber posts still in situ, with remains of the pulley mechanism retrieved from the silt surrounding the decoy. During contractor operations to de-silt the duck decoy pond, a stone-built culvert was discovered within the existing walls of the water course. The culvert was location to the north-west of the duck decoy and was aligned north-west to south-east, slightly offset from the existing visible walls of the water course. It is likely to be contemporary with the decoy, and was probably a means of regulating the water level within the decoy. The location of the culvert within the wider stone channel lining the water course may indicate that these channel walls are later additions, as an attempt to widen the channel in order to allow more water to pass through. (3)
Unpublished document: Smith, L & Beamish, H (The National Trust). 1985. The National Trust Archaeological Survey: Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, East Midlands. Site No: 60,027, p 14.
Unpublished document: Beresford, M. 2011. A Journey Through Time: The Hardwick Estate. Fieldwork Report on the Medieval Village Site, the Duck Decoy and the World War Two Military Camp.
Unpublished document: Strafford, L & May, R (ArcHeritage). 2016. The Duck Decoy and Ice House, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire: Archaeological Report. HER Doc. No. 1861.
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Centred SK 4575 6357 (155m by 151m)
AULT HUCKNALL, BOLSOVER, DERBYSHIRE
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Record last edited
Mar 15 2020 11:02AM
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