Ancient Monuments

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Dovecote 60m north of St George's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Dunster, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1838 / 51°11'1"N

Longitude: -3.4462 / 3°26'46"W

OS Eastings: 299019.125498

OS Northings: 143728.276222

OS Grid: SS990437

Mapcode National: GBR LK.5QRN

Mapcode Global: VH6GM.7H0T

Entry Name: Dovecote 60m north of St George's Church

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1963

Last Amended: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020408

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33037

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Dunster

Built-Up Area: Dunster

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a dovecote which lies in the west half of the town
of Dunster just to the north of St George's Church. It was originally
associated with the medieval Dunster Priory, its purpose being to provide
fresh meat to the priory throughout the year by the fostering of squabs
(young birds) and adult pigeons. The dovecote is Listed Grade II*.
The dovecote is circular and rubble-built with a conical slate roof
surmounted at its apex by a wooden exit turret also roofed in slate. The
walls are 1.2m thick and the dovecote is 6m high with an external diameter
of 7.2m. There is a single narrow wooden-framed doorway on the eastern
side which is raised from ground level and reached by two steps; there is
also a small window high on the south western side which is likely to be a
later addition. The internal walls of the dovecote are lined with over 500
`L'-shaped nest holes and the structure retains a wooden potence, or
revolving ladder pivoted on a central post, giving access to the nesting
boxes. The central post of the potence also supports two circular feeding
platforms. Restoration work in 1989 enabled the potence to be dated to the
19th century although it is believed to replicate an earlier example. The
dovecote formed part of the agricultural complex attached to the
Benedictine priory at Dunster and it has reputed origins in the 12th
century although the present structure is considered to date from the 16th
century. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the
ownership of the dovecote passed from the Priory to the Luttrell family of
Dunster Castle who are reported to have continued to use it to supply
birds to their table until as late as 1870.
The scheduling includes the garden wall which abuts the dovecote, where it
falls within the 1m protective margin.

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

The dovecote 60m north of St George's Church survives in an excellent
state of preservation having had restoration work undertaken on the roof
and walls in 1989. It boasts a rare internal working potence which, whilst
relatively late in date, is considered to represent an accurate
replacement of an earlier example. Dunster dovecote is open to the public
and provides an insight into the lives and dietary habits of the medieval
inhabitants of Dunster Priory, whilst its post-Dissolution use illustrates
the continued importance of harbouring pigeons for food to the occupants
of Dunster Castle until the late 19th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
McCormick, Reverend M , The Dunster Dovecote, (1994)
'Oxford Archaeological Unit' in Dovecotes, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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