|A. O. Cooke|
|Chapter Six||Worcester and Warwick:||Annotated|
|Oddly enough, Cooke
did not provide any text concerning his drawing of this lovely Dovecote below,
other than it was to be found at Oddingley, Worcestershire. Since we did
not travel to Oddingley, we cannot provide any further elucidation
John Jenkins notes that it appears that the dovecote at Oddingley is not in existence now. It is not mentioned in a list published by Worcestershire County Council in 1974, which lists a total of 64 dovecotes in the county at that date. He further notes, that it is always interesting to see how the materials used in the construction of dovecotes demonstrate the materials available. This is quite noticeable in Worcestershire. Those in the west of the county are mostly built of Cotswold limestone, while towards the east the material is often timber framing, originally probably of wattle and daub, or of brick construction.
|In the number, interest, and beauty of its dovecotes the county of Worcester may be fitly grouped with the two already described. With Herefordshire, especially, it presents many interesting parallels. Statistics of Herefordshire dovecotes, compiled some thirty years ago, showed the total number then existing to be seventy-four, while more than thirty had been demolished or allowed to go to ruin. In Worcestershire there were, fifteen years later, ninety-three dovecotes, while twenty others, known to have existed formerly, had disappeared. In one point Worcestershire falls very far behind the sister county; as compared with Herefordshire's twenty-one octagonal examples, she has only one to show. Of circular dovecotes Worcestershire has none of an age certainly equal to, far less exceeding, that at Garway; but she possesses one of greater size. This, the largest in the county, stands in a field at South Littleton, and is no less than eighty-three feet in circumference.|
| It is built of local lias stone, much mixed
with rubble, and there are remains of rough-cast on the outer surface of
the walls. It is lighted by a very small window-slit; and the roof, covered
with stone slabs and now reported as in bad repair, is crowned by a small,
square, four pillared cupola. The walls are about
two feet thick, the doorway of fair size. The want of thickness in the walls
is an argument against the age of this specimen being anything approaching
that of Garway, for it is a sound general rule that the thicker the walls
the older the dovecote.Inside are eighteen tiers of nests, with an
alighting-ledge to every second tier; two more tiers are now almost hidden
by the raising of the earthen floor. The number of nest-holes is about six
hundred and fifty. The potence, though not now in working order, still remains,
bearing one arm.
Unfortunately, the dovecote at South Littleton is also no longer in existence. The Council man with whom we spoke was about 50 years of age and was completely unaware of even its former existence. He was knowledgeable in the area of historic buildings in the area and led us to a wonderful old tithe barn and two other dovecotes in North Littleton which were not mentioned in The Book of Dovecotes, of which we will mention a bit further on.
Littleton, not content with the possession of the largest dovecote in the county, once established pigeons in the church. Here, extracted from the churchwardens' accounts of the parish, are particulars concerning the arrangement: In the syxte yere of the Reygn' of Kynge Edwarde the vjth. all owr churche books of latten (Latin) were tak'n a way and caryed to worcetr and then we had all owr sves (services) in Englys. And in the fyrst yere of our souaygn lady mary owr quene, and all owr books gone that showld serve owr churche. All the hole paryss a greyd wyth Sr. hufrey acton then owr vicarand for hys gentylness and be cawse owr churche had but lyttyll money in store, and lacked mony things in owr churche we were all co'tent that the seyd vicar showld have all the p'fett (profit) of the pyggyns that use the stepull of owr churche for all the tyme that he shalbeVicar here, fyndyng his books, this a grement was made a pon Wenysday in the Wytson wycke, the fyrst yere of the Reygn' of owr sou'aygn lorde phyllipe owr king, and the second yere of owr sou'aygn lady mary' owr quene."
Or, in brief terms and modern spelling, the parish lacked the means for purchasing a new set of service books, and accordingly agreed with "Sr. hufrey acton," otherwise Humfrey Acton, a former monk of Evesham, who was vicar of Littleton throughout the reigns of Edward and Mary, and for some time after the accession of Elizabeth, that he should provide the books, receiving in return the profit accruing from the steeple pigeons. It was a compromise which relieved the Littletonians from immediate embarrassment, and doubtless proved of ultimate profit to their vicar. To other cases where pigeons were housed in the tower, and even in other parts of churches, further allusion will be made.
to the Council man at South Littleton, we located two dovecotes at North
Littleton. Both are standing behind houses on the main street through
town and quite close to and on each side of the small local Post Office/grocery
store. One is reachable down a driveway. It is square, approximately 16
by 16, and made of brick faced with local stone. The walls are
approximately 2 feet thick. It no longer has a cupola, but there is a window
high up in the gable. There is an alighting ledge for every other row of
The other dovecote is in the fenced back yard of a house and can be seen from the street. It is round, made of stone, and has a conical roof with no cupola. It is in a fenced area, and no one was at home at the time to show us the dovecote, so we were not able to record any information about the interior of the structure. Recorded September 26, 1998}
Higher in proportion to its size, with much thicker walls and a general appearance of greater antiquity than the Littleton dovecote, is the circular example at Comberton near Pershore. It is about seventy feet in circumference, and the walls are three feet seven inches thick. Built of grey stone, it is supported by three staged buttresses, and entered by a small round-headed doorway.
|The potence, if once present,
has now disappeared; but nest-holes to the number of more than five hundred
remain, some being still occupied by pigeons. The roof is crowned by a small
open cupola, and the whole building is in good repair.
This dovecote sits behind a house in, I think, Little Comberton. The owner was quite proud of it, and has free-foraging pigeons living in it, although she never goes inside for fear of the unhealthy air. It is round, of stone, reputed to have been built in 1427, and has 751 nest boxes. The owner and her gardener told us there is another dovecote behind a house nearby down a side street. We were unable to obtain further information about this additional dovecote because it was not visible from the road. We knocked at the door of this house, but no one was home. September 26, 1998
Exceeding both these dovecotes in respect of massiveness of walls are the two found respectively at Wick near Pershore, and at the Manor House, Cleeve Prior. That at Wick, where the walls have a thickness of four feet, is seventy-five feet round, and holds some thirteen hundred nests. It is constructed of a grayish-yellow stone, which has once been covered with plaster; stands upon sloping ground, is supported by three buttresses, and has a single dormer window in the roof. The potence is in place.
|Of still more solid construction,
having walls four feet six inches thick, is the Cleeve Prior dovecote. The
potence is absent; and although the building is sixty feet in circumference
it only contains four hundred and fifty nests. These are provided with
alighting-ledges at every third tier a not uncommon arrangement. The
dovecote is in good repair, and is, moreover, still applied to its original
Cleeve Prior dovecote sits in the midst of a new housing development built in the old priory buildings. It has a lovely cupola with a roof supported by four turned wood posts. Besides the cupola, birds could use three entrance holes placed high in the wall. Each of these has an alighting ledge, and a decorative pointed arch. A wooden floor has been added inside, dividing the dovecote into two floors. September 26, 1998.
A lady who was decorating the church told us that the Wick dovecote had been torn down. September 25, 1998
One of the most charming perhaps, indeed, the most charming of all Worcestershire dovecotes is the delightful building to be found at Kyre Park, Kyre Magna. Beautiful in itself, its attractions are enhanced by beauty of situation; it stands in close proximity to a fine buttressed tithe barn, with good crow-stepped gable-ends. Inside, the potence and its ladder are in place, and the five-hundred nests are still in excellent repair.
Externally, the dovecote is singularly attractive. The doorway is slightly arched, and a few feet below the eaves a string-course encircles the walls. The roof is crowned by a four-gabled open cupola on slender pillars, and its slope is broken by three dormer windows, a picturesque grouping already seen at Richard's Castle, Herefordshire. None will regret the time or trouble spent in visiting this charming specimen.
Of square pigeon-houses in Worcestershire one may be first mentioned which, though not otherwise particularly attractive, deserves our notice by the rare appearance of a potence in an English building of this shape. This is the brick-built dovecote at Elmley Lovett, where alighting-ledges are provided to each tier of nests, instead of the rather frequent compromise of giving one for every second or third tier.
|As has been already pointed
out, the provision of a potence in a square dovecote is of comparatively
rare occurrence south of the Tweed at leastand its utility obviously
limited. One inclines to think that, where so found, it has been introduced
without due consideration; the dovecote's builder having noticed its presence
in a circular or octagonal house, admired it as a useful and ingenious
contrivance, and jumped too hastily to the conclusion that it would prove
of equal service in his own. Experience would go far to disappoint his hopes.
Of square dovecotes built of stone there are a dozen or more examples in
Worcestershire. Of these no less than six were present in one village
that of Bretforton. One, said to be of medieval age, is at the Manor House.
A second, with one wall rebuilt in brick and timber, bears the date
1630; while a third is of the middle of the eighteenth century.
The storekeeper at Bretforton believed that there
were still six dovecotes at Bretforton, one at the manor, one converted into
a house a very long time ago, and another being currently converted. Of
the other three, he wasnt sure of their locations. While we were unable
to see the dovecote at the manor house during our visit we have since learned
from a visitor to these pages that it is indeed not only present, but recently
restored. The current owners would enjoy showing the dovecote, but do request
suitable notice. Please either write to Bretforton Manor or email
3) Stone dovecote off the road dated 1630....."18ft by
18ft width, 560 nesting holes with ledges every second row. Lower part a
store room. This still exists, but again has been converted. It is
on main street.
|Elsewhere, at Dunhamstead, a stone dovecote twenty-one feet square has some eight - hundred nests, brick-built, with an alighting ledge for every tier. The roof has been repaired.|
|We were not able to locate the dovecote
at Dunhampstead during our 1998 visit,and were again unsuccessful during
our 2006 visit. While we found the town of Dunhampstead, no one there knew
of a dovecote in the village. A nice man there, though, did know of one in
Himbleton. This shot was taken from the churchyard in Himbleton. The dovecote
is a nearly square black and white with a cupola mounted in the center of
|Offenham Court, with its pigeon-house twenty feet square, four-gabled, and lighted by four windows, is of interest as standing on the site once occupied by the sanatorium of the Abbey of Evesham, in which house the last of a long line of abbots died.|
|At Offenham, we found two dovecotes.
The first one, far left, was at The Priory. It is square, built of stone,
with no cupola, but with a barred window in the gable for the birds to enter
and exit. The owners keep pigeons in it, which they feed and water. The husband
had an interesting old car he had bought in America.
The second dovecote was at the Grange, and is the one described by Cooke. It is large, with four gables, a square cupola, and a window in each gable. The owners had recently had it restored as they informed us over a nice cup of tea. The restoration was wonderfuly executed. Every other row of nest boxes has an alighting ledge. September 26, 1998.
|In a county so well wooded as Worcester we shall find without surprise numerous dovecotes into the construction of which timber enters to a large extent. Some are the genuine '`black and white," others have timber framing, with brick "filling-in." Of the latter kind was formerly the very interesting example at the Manor Farm, Cropthorne; interesting here as being of that form very common in Scotland but rare in England a house of two compartments. The house is twenty-eight feet six inches long, by fifteen feet ten inches broad. Two sides are built in part of timber, but the other two are now of brick. The two compartments contain a total of five hundred and ten nests.||The whole is roofed with tiles; the lanterns
that give light to each division are in somewhat bad repair.
This dovecote stands behind a house in the village of Cropthorne. (See map above) The owner was said to have been interested in her dovecote for a long time, and to have been trying to get a grant to restore it. The village shopkeeper reported that she had indeed received the grant. The owner was not home, but we looked from the driveway. The dovecote no longer has lanterns on the roof. It has two walls of plain brick and two of half-timbering with brick filling. It is still divided into two compartments. The nest holes are a combination of angled wooden nests and nest holes built into the brick walls.
|Two dovecotes stand in the garden of Bag
End Farm, Dormstone, each holding between five hundred and six hundred nests.
One, slightly the smaller of the two, has a four gabled roof and four windows,
and bears the date 1413 upon some lead-work.
A somewhat similar dovecote occurs at the Moat Farm, in the same parish; it also is four-gabled, and is built on a stone foundation.
|This was situated in
the yard next to the old Moat Farm house that was dated at 1663. This dovecote
appears to be of the same age and has a very interesting lantern indeed.
It is in beautiful condition and can be seen from the public road.
We did apply at the lovely home, for permission to view the interior, but
alas no one was at home, so for now we will need to settle for these pictures
taken from the right-of-way. The black and white house is also very beautiful,
but not the point of this particular treatise. October 12,
|The comparatively small dovecote
at Manor House Farm, Broughton Hackett, is of' "black and white" structure
on a foundation of stone. It is of rather special interest; for, in spite
of its small sizesixteen by fourteen feet it contains as many
as twelve hundred nests. These are of wood, arranged with great economy of
space. Less than half this accommodation is available in the much larger
building at Staunton Court; a dovecote twenty-six feet by twenty-one, with
walls two feet six inches thick. It is hardly probable that this is the dovecote
alluded to in the Red Book of Exchequer, where it is noted that Peter de
Staunton, who died in 1288, "held a capital messuage and garden, a dovecot,
three water-mills, two groves of eight acres in all, ten acres of meadow,
and 216 acres of arable land."
Mr. Giles, of The Manor, Broughton Hackett, was very intrigued by two Americans arriving to ask about his dovecote. He invited us in for tea, and told us what he knew of it. The dovecote was demolished in 1951. He gave us a photocopy of a photograph of it taken in 1901, and it appears to have been made of wood, with half-timbering on the long side visible in the photograph, and wooden siding on the gable end. The cupola was square and of wood. He gave us a couple of references for dovecote books and also the name of a lady in Cinderford who is also interested in dovecotes. When we got home, we sent him a copy of the Worcester and Warwick chapter of Cooke's book.
|We have it on the authority of the Evesham Chronicles that Abbot Randulph, whose tenure of office dated from 1214 to 1229, brought about, among other improvements on his lands, the erection of dovecotes at Offenham, Hamstone, Wickhampton, and Ombresley. At Offenham there still is, attached to other buildings, a very small dovecote, nine feet by ten, it is much out of repair, the timber framing being filled in with mixed brick and lath and plaster.|
|But this was certainly not that
which Abbot Randulph built; and the same may be said of the far more attractive
specimen at Hawford, Ombresley, built upon a stone foundation, seventeen
feet square, four-gabled, and with an open lantern in the roof. The lower
part has been converted to the purpose of a coach-house, and nest-holes remain
on two sides only of the upper floor. To the dilapidated dovecote at Oddingley,
still containing six hundred nests, is attached the sinister story of its
having formed the rendezvous of the gang of scoundrels who, in 1805, contrived
and carried out the murder of the rector of the parish.
The Hawford dovecote is now owned by the National Trust.
It is half-timbered, with four gables and a square wooden cupola. The interior
dimension is 18 by 18. There are wooden nest boxes on one upper
wall. The boxes are angled at about 45 degrees, alternately to left or right,
every other row. There is a window in each
|Not far from Ombresley in the small
village of Wichenford stands another black and white, now in the capable
hands of the National Trust. Cooke did not mention this dovecote in his book,
so we will do our best to describe it. Our measurements, alas, are approximate,
because as tourists we did not bring any measuring implements and improvised
along the way. So please forgive the inevitable minor errors..
This dovecote is rather easy to find since the National
Trust guidebook gives clear directions to it. In Ombresley, take the
lane to the church, but continue on from there until you spot the NT sign
for the dovecote. It will instruct you to proceed on and then to the
left. In all it is only about 1,000 feet from the church, so don't proceed
on and to the left very far.
|There are a couple of unusual
features, the main one being the floor. It is raised about two feet above
ground level and is finished with 1- 2 inch pebble stone, similar to Moorish
pavements we have seen in Spain and Turkey, but never once in a dovecote
anywhere in England. There is no way to know when this was odd floor was
installed, but it is possible that it was original. Another impressive
feature is the very heavy and solid stone foundation.
There is brickwork inside that works as supports for the nest holes. The bottom row of nest holes rests on the brick corner posts. The nest holes start at about 4 feet above the floor. Each row has 10 nest holes per side, for a total of 40 per row and with 13, or was it 14 rows, makes for roughly 525 nest holes. They are made of wood and each one has a landing ledge. The nest faces are cut from single slabs of wood with "doors" cut out at rather regular intervals near the center of each hole.
Another unusual feature is the window in the gable. It is shuttered by doors hinged on each outside edge and fits rather poorly at this time, providing additional light and air. The lantern is completely glassed and appears to be there only to provide light into the interior. This would help explain the shuttered window in the gable as that could have been used to provide access for the birds, and a rope on some sort of weight and tie down may have been used to open and close the shutters from ground level. This is strictly supposition, because I could find no evidence for such a contraption.
|A readily explicable instance of a potence
being found in a square dovecote occurs at Court Farm, Leigh, where a
comparatively modern dovecote, square in form, stands on the old foundations
of a circular forerunner, the potence of the former building having been
allowed to keep its place. Of ancient dovecotes lost to Worcestershire it
is permissible to speak of the large circular examples demolished during
the last century at Cotheridge, Huddington Court, and Fladbury. Not so long
since there was alive an aged roadman who remembered helping to destroy the
one last named.
Its stones were not even devoted to use in the parish, but were taken by barge down the Severn to Gloucester. The reader is reminded of the warning given in the preface; that this book does not profess to be exhaustive, to mention all the best surviving dovecotes, or even to deal with every county. Over the neighboring counties of Warwick and Leicesterwe shall therefore pass with haste.
|Leicester, indeed, though not
without its dovecotes, does not seem particularly rich in them. One will
be found at Houghton-on-the Hill. It is a square brick building, twenty feet
in length, by sixteen feet six inches wide; gabled, and with a slated roof.
The very moderate thickness of the walls prepares us for the knowledge that
its age does not exceed two centuries, it having been erected in 1716. There
are about one thousand L-shaped nests.
In a field at Aston Flamville is a square brick dovecote of the early eighteenth century, the date being 1715. The length of wall is eighteen feet, and the L-shaped nest-holes number eight hundred. In Warwickshire there falls to be noticed the not very common instance of accommodation for pigeons being provided in a castle the fourteenth-century fortress of Maxstoke, where a chamber over the gate-house has been partly fitted up with nests. A reliable architectural authority, by whom this castle has been recently described, is of opinion that the arrangement was carried out some time in the sixteenth century.
At the well-known house of Compton Wynyates an octagonal
dovecote stands in an orchard. It is of brick, with stone corners; has a
height of thirty-five feet, a diameter of eighteen, and the very moderate
wall thickness of one foot ten inches. Inside are some six hundred L-shaped
nests. The potence was removed some time ago. We shall probably be right
in assigning this dovecote to a date about 1600.
|There is a fine circular dovecote
of very considerable age standing at "haunted Hillboro'," a hamlet in the
parish of Temple Grafton, not far from Stratford-on-Avon. Of this example
particulars are unavailable; but fortunately it is otherwise with the very
interesting dovecote at Kinwarton, near Alcester, a building on the rector's
glebe. It is, with fish-ponds, the only surviving relic of a former moated
grange which belonged to the abbey of Evesham.
The dovecote, solidly constructed of stone in rather thin layers, plastered externally, has an internal diameter of seventeen feet two inches, a height to the eaves of fifteen feet, and a wall thickness of three feet seven inches. The roof, surmounted by a lantern, is tiled, and the supporting beams and rafters are in themselves worth careful inspection. There is a single dormer window.
The potence is still in place, only one or two rungs of
its ladder being missing. The nest-holes, numbering over five hundred, are
plain oblong recesses, varying a good deal in depth.
John Jenkins reports that the dovecote is now in the
care of the National Trust. There is nothing to the village now but a farm,
a church, and a manor house. The dovecote stands serenely by itself in a
field nearby. Cooke's description is also accurate, with the exception that
there are two dormer windows, not one, as can be seen in the photos.
|We also found a square stone dovecote
in Stratford-upon-Avon, at the Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls.
It is approximately 14 feet square, with a tile roof and a square wooden
cupola. The cupola has two tiers of bird holes, each tier with an alighting
ledge. The door was locked, and it being a holiday, no one was available
in the adminstrative offices, so we could not look inside.
There was a tiny wooden dovecote (with imitation pigeons)
attached to a building across the street from Ann Hathaways
|We found yet another square wooden dovecote
at Wilmcote, next to Mary Ardens cottage (left). The cupola of this
one is unusual because its base is inset into the roof, making an indented
place in the ridge line of the roof.
Finally, we noticed a dovecote in a field (right) while we were driving around this area, and we have a nice picture of it, but unfortunately we had to move on so could not inquire further about it.