An MT Specials Page
There are quite a number of interesting dovecotes around Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Many are impressive survivors, but have an oppressive history. Tenant farmers generally weren’t allowed one, but the lord of the manor used the birds as a source of fresh meat throughout the year, with them being fattened up (for free) by feeding on the farmers’ crops.
British Archaeology magazine Issue no 35, June 1998, had an article Exploring the round houses of doves (no longer available online). “The birds were also bred for their manure, and in the 16th and 17th centuries for saltpetre – a component of dung – which was used to make gunpowder.” According to Eardisland History site (page may have moved/disappeared), “Feathers were used for stuffing bedding; Tanners found the dung effective for removing hair from animal skins.”
Another good source is an annotated version of Cooke’s Book of Dovecotes on the Pigeon Cote web site.
Wichenford Dovecote (left). 5½ml NW of Worcester, National Trust: Open April to October daily (closed Good Fri), 9am to 6pm or sunset if earlier.
Hawford Dovecote. 3 miles north of Worcester, National Trust: (access is on foot via the drive of the adjoining house)
Little Comberton Dovecote. Circular variety, at Nash’s Farm (private).
Great Comberton (according to local newspaper web pages) has a dovecote with 1,524 nestholes, the largest number in Britain.
Eardisland Dovecote Heritage Centre, (west of Leominster) phone 01544 388226. This dates from about 1700 and stands in the mill stream. Renovated in 2000, you can view the nesting places and the internal structure, while the building also serves as a tourist information centre and exhibition site. (Picture to left is said to date from 1907.) Managed by Eardisland Dovecote Trust.
National Trust Severn Region has at some time produced ‘Dovecotes’ booklet giving a general background on Kinwarton, Snowshill, Hawford, Wichenford, Dorrnston and Hill Croome dovecotes.
We’ve been told that Stockton Bury Gardens, worth a visit in its own right, has an ‘ancient pigeon house’. Kimbolton, near Leominster, phone 01568 613432.
Dovecotes £4.50 Peter and Jean Hansell, ISBN 0 7478 0504 0, 40 pp, colour and black and white illustrations, 2nd Edition (April, 2001) Shire Publications Ltd; whose blurb follows:
Although there is little evidence that the Romano-British people bred pigeons, it is widely held that it was the Normans who introduced pigeon-keeping to Britain, and the earliest provision of housing for pigeons is found in some twelfth-century castles and religious houses. This book explains why it was important to keep pigeons and describes the wide variety of buildings that were constructed to house them over the years.