Ancient Monuments

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Dovecote at High House, Purfleet

A Scheduled Monument in West Thurrock and South Stifford, Thurrock

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Latitude: 51.4793 / 51°28'45"N

Longitude: 0.2555 / 0°15'19"E

OS Eastings: 556722.79678

OS Northings: 178006.591093

OS Grid: TQ567780

Mapcode National: GBR W8.H2Y

Mapcode Global: VHHNV.C2YS

Entry Name: Dovecote at High House, Purfleet

Scheduled Date: 12 January 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017234

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32420

County: Thurrock

Electoral Ward/Division: West Thurrock and South Stifford

Built-Up Area: Grays

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Mardyke

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a late 17th century brick dovecote located to the east
of High House, some 900m north of the River Thames on a slightly elevated
position overlooking the West Thurrock Marshes.

The dovecote, which is Listed Grade II, is octagonal with brick walls rising
3m above the exterior cemented plinth towards a smooth cemented eaves cornice
(originally carved plaster). The roof is tiled with a wooden louver surmounted
by a weather vane and has a dormer window of two lights facing north. The
entrance faces west towards the house and has a unusual double door. The
massive inner door is constructed entirely of iron and originally had an
elaborate lock activating three bolts (parts of which survive), while the
outer wooden door is reinforced and secured by iron straps padlocked over
staples. The interior of the dovecote is largely unaltered and contains 517
brick nest boxes set into the walls with a continuous alighting ledge to each
tier. The first tier of nests is 0.36m from the ground, and between this tier
and the floor are two brick string courses projecting about 0.5m, possibly a
precaution against vermin entering the nests. The nests have entrance holes
which are 0.13m by 0.16m leading into `L'-shaped compartments measuring some
0.28m deep. The nests were thus designed in order to accommodate two broods.
The dovecote also retains its two armed wooden potence complete with ladder,
(a rotating structure designed to provide access to the nest boxes), which is
supported upon a circular brick table (cemented over) some 1.25m in diameter.
The main beam of the potence is housed in the intersection of two alighting
beams which also carry the framework of the louver. The internal roof timbers
are to some extent restored but retain a fair number of the original timbers.

The security entrance is unique and was probably fitted to keep out pigeon
thieves who often stole birds for London pigeon shoots in the 18th century.
Documentary sources refer to the dovecote having been used as a temporary
village lock up.

A brick wall abuts the dovecote on its western side, where this impinges on
the monument's protective margin, it is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Dovecotes are specialised structures designed for the breeding and keeping of
doves as a source of food and as a symbol of high social status. Most
surviving examples were built in the period between the 14th and the 17th
centuries, although both earlier and later examples are documented. They were
generally freestanding structures, square or circular in plan and normally of
brick or stone, with nesting boxes built into the internal wall. They were
frequently sited at manor houses or monasteries. Whilst a relatively common
monument class (1500 examples are estimated to survive out of an original
population of c.25,000), most will be considered to be of national interest,
although the majority will be listed rather than scheduled. They are also
generally regarded as an important component of local distinctiveness and

Although a few aspects of the structure have been replaced or strengthened in
recent years, as a whole the dovecote at High House survives extremely well,
particularly so in a region which has seen many such buildings lost to
disrepair and demolition or radically altered.

Following a national review of this class of monument in 1998, the High House
dovecote is now thought to be one of only a small number of exceptional
survivals in Essex, and it is especially notable for the survival of the
potence and nest box array. The dovecote thus retains substantial evidence for
the manner of its use and serves to illustrate part of the economy and
lifestyle of the inhabitants of the associated manor since the 17th century.
The very unusual development of the entrance is also of particular interest,
reflecting the economic value of the dovecote and perhaps other events from
the social history of the area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hansell, P, Hansell, J, Doves and Dovecotes, (1988), p223
Smith, D, Pigeon Cotes and Dove Houses of Essex, (1931), p248
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Film 4 Frames 1-14;Film 5 Frames 3-17, Tyler, S, MPP Visits Films 4 and 5, (1999)
Oxford Archaeological Unit, EH MPP Step 3 Report Site evaluations for Dovecotes, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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