A. O. Cooke The Pigeoncote

Chapter 14
Gloucester and Oxford

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Daglingworth dovecote


From the many fine dovecotes scattered through the length and breadth of Gloucestershire hardly a better introductory example can be chosen then that standing in a meadow near the Manor Farm at Daglingworth, a Cotswold village three miles distant from Cirencester. The nunnery of Godstow had a cell, or as Dame Juliana Berners calls it, a "superfluity," at Daglingworth; and here, as in so many other instances, it is the dovecote only which survives.

It is a large circular building of stone, with a string-course more than half-way up the walls, and a roof in which are two dormer windows. There is no cupola, the weather-vane rising directly from the apex of the roof. Inside are five hundred and fifty nests, with the potence in working order. Although our business here is with dovecotes, it would, as remarked by Mrs. Micawber in somewhat similar circumstances, be "rash" to leave Daglingworth without pausing at the church if only to read the following quaint inscription, quoted by Mr. H. A. Evans in his Highways and Byways in Oxford and the Cotswolds; it will be found upon a brass inside the porch, and runs:

The Dissection and Distribution of Giles Handcox:

  • Who earth bequeathed to earth to heaven his soule
  • To friends his love to the poore a five pound dole
  • To remaine for ever and be imployed
  • For their best advantage and releefe
  • In Daglingworth April the 9. 1638.

Mr. Evans, by the way, deserves mention here as one of the few writers in the Highways and Byways series who pays any marked attention to those old buildings which are our chief delight. Mr. Lucas, for instance, passes over the Sussex dovecote at Trotton without giving it a single word.

"This fine example remains in wonderful condition as can readily be ascertained from the photograph. We were fortunate to be able to photograph this example on our second trip to England uncovering the status of "Cooke's" dovecotes. It can be seen and, as we did, photogrmapaphed from the road. It is very nicely situated just off the drive from the road, standing to the side and in front of the house. A fair amount of shrubbery is growing along the roadside obscuring the view for those who travel too fast or are not seeking the dovecote. It is much as he described, and he must have drawn it from the right hand side shown in the photograph. October 12, 2006.

bibury dovecote


A very similar dovecote of almost equal external attraction exists at Bibury, near Northleach. Though circular, it carries on its roof a small square lantern mounted on four pillars, the whole seemingly a modern addition: there is also a dormer window. Unfortunately fuller details of this excellent example of a Cotswold dovecote have proved unobtainable.

We stopped in Bibury in the late morning, and walked through the entire village without seeing the dovecote.  The village itself is quite beautiful, however, and we ate our lunch sitting by a stream so clear that the trout swimming in it were easily visible. We then left and took a drive through the southern Cotswolds, and ended up returning through Bibury looking for a place to stay in the evening. The pub, The Catherine Wheel, had no rooms available, but sent us to Corner Cottage, one of the last houses at the eastern end of the village. The owner mapof Corner Cottage had made quite a nice map of Bibury, which the woman at the pub gave us to help us find our way.  We were delighted to see the dovecote marked on this map. Our luck at Corner Cottage was not as good, two Australian ladies having acquired theroom available just before we arrived.  However, we did visit the dovecote, which is located at the Pigeon House, a little way up a lane that goes to the north out of the village from near its eastern end. Alas, there were no pigeons, but the owner said we could look at the dovecote. It is built on a slope, and has been divided into two floors, the bottom one entered through a door in the front at the lower part of the slope that you can see in the picture, and the top floor entered by a door at the back, on the upper part of the slope. The square lantern described by Cooke has been glassed in. The dovecote's little dormer window is an unusual feature. September 29, 1998

Nauton 2006,


At Naunton the dovecote standing in Pigeon House Close at the Manor House is a large square building of good Cotswold stone. The length of each wall is twenty-four feet, their height to the eaves eighteen. The slated roof is four-gabled, each gable containing a Tudor window two feet six inches square, having a middle mullion of stone. Rising from the centre of the roof is a square two-gabled cupola mounted on four oak supports. There is a string-course about half-way up the walls, and the whole building is of imposing appearance.

The walls are nearly three feet thick, but the doorway is unusually large - seven feet in height by three feet six in width. Inside are over one thousand L-shaped nest-holes, alighting-ledges being attached to five out of the thirty tiers.
This dovecote stands in a lovely quiet field at the edge of the village, next to the Thames. It is in relatively good condition, although it has been altered by the addition of two hideous lean-tos, one inside and one out. In the picture, the exterior one is barely visible at the lower right. The cupola has been boarded up, bit the dovecote is otherwise much as Cooke saw it. We counted 1,175 nest holes.

We read that there was some controversy surrounding the dovecote because a proposal has been made to convert it into a bed and breakfast.  Many local people opposed the proposal, led by Dr. Peter Morton, Michael Crystal, and stonemason, John Stevens.  We were glad to see that it is still a dovecote, although not presently being used for its original purpose, and are grateful to the people trying to preserve it.  September 29, 1998 rescued August 2002) Reader John Jenkins has reported the great news that the Naunton Dovecote Conservation Society, with the help of Mrs. Pamela Walker, has been able to save this wonderful dovecote for posterity.  Read all about it with a simple click here.>

UPDATE!  We were fortunate enough to have time to visit this dovecote again on our second trip of discover yduring October 2006, and were delighted to see how much had been done. Nearly all the rubbish has been removed and great headway has been made to secure its future. Part of the scheme to save this dovecote has been the adoption of one of its remaining 903 nest holes by people like you.

From the rescuers' research, we have learned that the dovecote dates from around the 15th or 16th century, and is now listed as a Grade II Ancient Monument and, as we knew even before the listing, an important building. Up until WW II there were 1,175 nest holes, but the lower courses were filled in to prevent chickens from hiding their eggs in the lower course holes. It is not uncommon to see this type of modification where the courses start a few feet off the ground.

Nauton front 2006



Nauton interior 2006, click for larger image

The dovecote was later converted to a grinding mill. It was at this time that the rather unharmonious extension was added to the side nearest the river and a leat was dug to bring water from the adjoining river to the new mill's wheel. By the early 1950s, water volume had dropped and the mill wheel was removed. The dovecote was again adapted for housing of animals and more general agricultural purposes.

>Why not sponsor a nest hole? Contact Mrs. P.A. Hanks, Spring Barn, Nauton, Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 3AS, and when you visit bring along a few pounds to put in the green collection box. Well worth the time. Well worth the effort.

Nauton interior 2006, click for larger image

image of Dovecote

image of dovecote


Passing into Oxfordshire, though conscious of leaving many a Gloucestershire example undescribed, we may pause at the park of Chastleton House, in the village of that name near Moreton-in-the-Marsh; for here is a very handsome, although perhaps not very ancient dovecote, of a style not often seen. It consists of an upper story only, raised on massive arches rising from stone pillars - the material of which the house itself is built. The four gabled roof, with a circular window in each gable, is crowned by an open octagonal lantern. In spite of many endeavors to obtain further particulars of this handsome dovecote, information on the subject is withheld.

Chastleton House was formerly the property of Robert Catesby, a distinguished member of the Guy Fawkes gang. It is said to contain Charles the First's Bible.

We found the dovecote at Chastleton House in the evening. The house itself was closed, and although operated by the National Trust, it is open very rarely because of its fragility. The house is quite lovely, as is the dovecote. Luckily, it stands in a field separated from the house and is readily accessible  The structure is exactly as Cooke described it, and even had pigeons living in it.  The nest holes are located in the four walls of the upper story and extend up into the gables.  One of the residents can bee seen sitting on the roof of the cupola. Access to the dovecote is through a trap door in the floor, reached  by a wooden ladder attached to the inside of one of the pillars. Two very fat baby pigeons watched us warily as we counted the 212 nest boxes. September 28, 1998


stanton image
stanton image 2

Staton Harcourt

Every possible information was readily furnished by the owner of the delightful dovecote at Stanton Harcourt, a building which, attractive in itself, is rendered doubly charming from its situation on the lawn before the Parsonage House. It is a square stone structure covered with rough-cast, roofed with local slates, and lighted by a window in one wall. The walls are two feet nine inches thick, and the door very small - three feet eleven inches high by two feet wide. Additional interest attaches to this detail of the building by the fact that the original outer door remains, secured by two strong locks; and, further, that there is a second inner door, flush with the inside surface of the wall. This doubling of the doors, a fairly frequent feature of the Scottish dovecotes, is less often seen in English instances.

Unsuitable as the shape seems for the introduction of a potence, one was nevertheless present till a few years since, when it was removed, the beam being preserved. Pigeons, too, nested here till recently. More than three hundred nests were built into the walls, while several dozen others were of wood.

Parsonage House is known to have been rebuilt in the reign of Anne, but the dovecote is probably coeval with an older house.

At Stanton Harcourt, we initially completely missed the Parsonage House, and found another dovecote on our own. It was in a complex of buildings near the church and across the street from some thatched cottages. One of the buildings was a large barn with pigeons living in it and sitting in the scaffolding holes in the gable end. This dovecote is a square building with the cupola removed. It has been modified by the addition of a lean-to, but a sign on its door reading "The Dovecot," convinced us that we had identified it correctly.  Besides, what other structure would be fitted with 550 nest boxes?  They are of brick, arranged directly one above the other.

Still, this dovecote didn't sound like the one we were looking for, so we asked in the shop, and sure enough, there was another one. The Parsonage House is just past the post office as you enter the village, on the left as the road turns right. This is the dovecote described by Cooke. It is square, of stone, with a pyramidal roof and wooden cupola. Because the house had a locked gate, we could not approach the owner to ask permision to see inside. September 30, 1998 map

Kiddington Hall

At the Hall, Kiddington, near Woodstock, is a circular stone dovecote, over twenty feet in diameter, having three dormer windows and a lantern in the roof. Several hundred L-shaped nests are still in place, furnished with alighting-ledges. There is also a potence.

The walls are three feet thick, the doorway not particularly small. The most unusual feature is the presence of a low cellar floor below the ground level.

A rather attractive octagonal dovecote of stone stands in a field at Milcombe, near Banbury. The length of each wall is nine feet; the octagonal roof has four windows, one in each alternate section, and is crowned by an open cupola. There are eight hundred simple oblong nest-holes, but neither alighting-ledges nor potence. Pigeons still haunt the house to some extent.
Lovell dovecote Minster Lovel supplies us with a substantial circular example built of stone, rather plain in appearance, with a small four-pillared cupola upon the roof. Among other dovecotes of the county may be mentioned the square four gabled specimen at Shipton Court. Those of the Oxford Colleges, now all demolished, would require a lengthy chapter to themselves.

Minster Lovell dovecote is in a particularly lovely setting. It was part of a manor house, now in ruins, maintained by English Heritage on the banks of the River Windrush. We got there in the early morning. The dovecote is round, of stone, with a conical roof and a cupola supported on three wooden pillars. Although the English Heritage handbook had warned us that the dovecote could be viewed only from the outside, we were still disappointed not to get a peek, and were standing dejectedly by the locked door, when a man who was trimming a tree nearby came over and offered to let us in. We were very glad, because the interior was beautiful. There are 750 nest holes, with an alighting ledge for each row. The wooden roof beams are spectacular and worth a trip by themselves. September 29, 1998

Lovell dovecote roof Lovell dovecot interior roof Lovell dovecote interior nestboxes


At Clattercot, six miles from Banbury, traces of the former priory of Gilbertine canons may be seen at a farmhouse; and in the garden is a good three-storied dovecote, about twelve feet square and eighteen feet in height. The walls are two feet thick and the steep roof is tiled. The lowest compartment is entered by a fairly high but narrow doorway, and lighted by a broad low window with heavy stone mullions. The second story has a doorway which has not been opened for some years; and the nest-holes, if any still remain, are confined to one, or perhaps both, of the upper floors. The building seems to be of fourteenth-century date.
nortmore dovecote A curious and picturesque upper-story dovecote may be seen at Northmoor, close to the church and to a fine old house which was once the rectory. It is of timber, with tiled roof, and stands partly over an open archway and partly over a ground-floor building. It is some twenty-five feet long and has a four-gabled cupola in the middle of the roof-ridge. Entrance is by a trap-door from the building below.

This dovecote can actually be seen from the rear of the churchyard. It is a two-story building, made of wood, with irregular clapboards and a stone roof. The lower floor is partly enclosed and partly open. It is rectangular, with the gable ends slightly hipped. The cupola is square. This is the only wooden dovecote we saw, and it is very unusual and picturesque. September 30, 1998


Rousham House, click for larger image

Rousham House

Jack Kligerman in his book A fancy for Pigeons, describes his experience at Rousham House in Oxfordshire. He paid a very small fee to see the dovecote that was complete with potence, and uses this particular dovecote as a foil for his narrative about class privilege. The elite class and social structure that built and protected these magnificent structures came to an end during the Frence revolution. He quotes "The exclusive right to have fuie or a dovecote is hereby abolished; pigeons will be kept enclosed within the dovecotes at times set by local communities, and, during these periods, any pigeons flying about will be regarded as fair game: everyone will have the right to kill them." No that turns the privilege on its head. He also noticed that there was a trough around the entire inner circumference of the dovecote in which to collect dung that appeared very similar to one described by the Frence writer Viollett-le-Duc. There are about 1,500 nest holes laid out in nineteen rows with about 40 holes each, built in the usual checkerboard pattern.

slaughtr image

Lower Slaughter

A very large and spectacular dovecote, not mentioned by Cooke, can be found at Lower Slaughter behind the Manor House Hotel. It is visible from the churchyard, but must be reached by approaching through the hotel grounds. We brazenly disregarded the sign that said the grounds were for guests only, mapand crept over to the dovecote. It is divided into two chambers, and has two side gables on each of the long sides. It is still inhabited by pigeons, and there was a hungry little squeaker on the floor.  We left him some seeds.

dovecote chippin campden

Chipping Campden

We found another lovely dovecote, also not mentioned by Cooke, at Chipping Campden. It is located in the garden of a row of cottages. It is square, made of stone, with four gables and a square cupola. It's now used for storing gardening equipment, but still has a potence inside. It's the only square dovecote we saw that had a potence. map

kelsmont image


Kelsmot image

In and around Kelmscott Village, we found four dovecotes not mentioned by Cooke. In the village itself, where we went to visit Kelmscott Manor, we found two of them.  One was the square stone dovecote shown in the picture above left, the other was in the gable end of a farm building, shown in the picture below left.  At Kelmscott Manor, we were surprised to find another one.  This dovecote is shown in the picture below.  It still has resident pigeons, two of which are cavorting in the photograph. When we toured the house, which was once the home of William Morris, our guide told us that Morris had loved to watch the pigeons from the windows of his room.

Although we could not get a good photograph of it, there is also a dovecote in one of the interior gables of Great Coxwell Tithe Barn, which is located south of Kelmscott, just off the B4019, between Faringdon and Coleshill.map

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