A. O. Cooke The Pigeoncote

Chapter 22
Elswhere in England

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Even though Cooke performed the most comprehensive inventory of dovecotes, well up till then, he did not cover nearly all. During our travels, and with the help of others, we uncovered a few more, so we added another chapter for a convenient pocket to place and introduce you to these structures. Most of these pictures are just thumbnails and larger images can be seen by following thier link images. There is also a section of dovecotes that desperatly need some fleshing out. Why not have join us virtually by following along to the next page, and go out in the field and go dovecote hunting.
Felbrigg Hall garden side:  Click for larger imageLarry, A viewer has recently informed us that he is currently restoring a lovely dovecote in the village of Kinver in South Staffordshire. It and dates from around 1780,and as can be seen in the pictures is easily seen from the horse path. It lies at the crossroads of the horse path leading to Hyde Lane, Dunsley, and Bridgnorth Rd

Felbrigg dovecote back, click for larger imageFelbrigg dovecote cupula, click for larger imageFelbrigg Hall garden side:  Click for larger imageOne such dovecote is at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, built into the wall of the garden. This is another dovecote that is easy to visit and is assured maintenance by being owned by the National Trust. It is believed to be one of the best preserved dovecotes in Norfolk, and may well be. It was built around 1750 by William Windham II, but by 1923 it was in a desperate dilapidated state. Wyndham Ketton-Cremer took up the call to restore it to its deserved and natural beauty in 1937.

It was built into the wall separating the orchard from the vegetable garden, now a flower and vegetable garden. There are some rather unusual features and I cannot tell you with certainty if some were not invented during the 1937 restoration. In four of the six sides there are eyebrow windows. One now provides access to the white pigeons that call this home, while the others are glazed. If you look closely, you can see two of the owners enjoying the sun on the roof. The cupola is fully Felbrigg dovecote rafters, click for larger imagefunctional, so there is really no need for other access, and it is doubtful that these windows existed before the restoration. The two that face the orchard are louvered, and would provide light, but not access. The two walls without windows have or did have doors, with one facing into the garden, and the other into the orchard. The door to the orchard side, however, is now bricked over.

The nest box arrangement is the most unusual, being directly lined up in vertical columns, rather than the more conventional checkerboard pattern with the interior of the nest boxes alternating from left to right on each row. All 968 of these nest holes are rather deep and provide room for each pair to have two nests within a single box, so the structure houses many pigeons indeed. Oddly, there is an interior wall within the dovecote that does not have any nesting holemaps.

It is interesting to note that even though each row of nest holes has a landing and perching ledge, many of the pigeons still prefer to rest up in the rafters.

Leverington, click for larger image Leverington interior, click to enlarge image Leverinton, click for larger imageSt. Leonard Church, click for larger imageTo our good fortune, the Leverington Dovecote was very recently renovated in 1998, so was in very nice condition when we visited and photographed to site on October 7, 2006. It stands on the grounds of Beech Woods which is also known as Crosse Hall, and is located near the main road between the Leverington and Wisbech. The original house on this site was most probably built by Thomas Crosse who was living in Wisbech in 1624, but had moved to neighboring Leverington by 1633 when he died. The dovecote was built during this period.

It is built of brick, and as can see from the window encasement, about three brick lengths in depth. It is quite an ornamental structure, being six-sided, with each face nearly eight feet in length and a height to the eaves of nearly eighteen feet. There is an ornamental course of brick just above the door. It is widely held that this feature served the functional purpose of discouraging climbing predators as well as the obvious ornamental one. This course protrudes so slightly that the ornamental element appears to be the main, if not the only purpose. The cornice from the top of the wall to the edge of the roof is also rather unique. It extends out about two feet at nearly a 45 degree angle. In addition to the lantern, there is a single window in one side to provide light.Leverington floor, click for larger image

The nearly 800 nest holes are built into the wall in the more unusual vertical column arrangement. With the hexagonal shape, a potence for the use of squab collection was probably present. But neither it nor the chute which would have protruded below the lantern has been restored. The lantern is rather ornate as well, but has been blocked to eliminate the possibility of it being used for its raison-de-etre. As commonly found, the bottom few courses of nest rows have been filled in to eliminate all possibility of their use. Since they were once included in the design, extra work was required to close them off ,and the only reasonable explanation that can be offered is that blocking them might have discouraged a predator.
While this dovecote is no longer home to pigeons, we found an entire flock of pigeons living nearby on the roof of the Church of St. Leonard in Leverington. While we were not able to confirm, it does appear that the birds may have access to the tower through the vertical slots, which may have been intentionally designed for the birds. Perhaps someone knowledgable of the church will be able to confirm or denythe assumption.
Helen and I too must say goodbye now, and our hopes are the same.  We have helped carry the message a little longer.  May these grand buildings still grace future generations as they have ours.

Helen Bresler & John Verburg

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