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Avoncroft-fabulous wedding venue

Dovetcote from Haslour Hall, Tamworth, Staffordshire

A Dovecote from Harlaston, Staffordshire.

It would appear that the Dovecote at Avoncroft Museum is from Haselour Hall (I've also seen it spelt Haselover and Haselow), Harlaston, Staffordshire.

The Dovecote is Grade II listed and is believed to date back to the late 16th Century. I cannot find any photographs of it in situ at Haselour Hall, but a watercolour found in the William Salt Library shows the Dovecote just to the right of the Hall.

The Dovecote was built with the door facing Haselour Hall (so anyone accessing the building could be seen) with 750 nesting boxes along with a pivoting pole and ladders to allow access to the birds nesting in the higher boxes.

By 1981 the Dovecote was being damaged by the roots of a protected Copper Beach tree. The then owner was restoring the Hall and had applied for the Dovecote to be demolished as it was already in danger of collapse. Lichfield District Council approached Avoncroft to rescue the building, it was dismantled and brought Avoncroft and construction was completed in 1985, costing £30k (over £93k in 2021 prices).

It appears that Dovecotes were a 17th Century status symbol, with only the richest people building towers just for pigeons or doves which served as an ‘apartment block’ for hundreds of the birds, who were waiting to be eaten by the members of the nobility (the young birds were known as Squab)

It appears the shape, size and design of a dovecote varied greatly.

Dovecots kept the birds primarily for their meat, but their poo was also collected and used for fertilizer, gunpowder, and tanning hides with their feathers being used for bedding. Root vegetables had not yet arrived in Britain, so farmers in winter could not rely on their usual crops to feed livestock such as pigs and cows and consequently went without beef and bacon.

Pigeons were easy to maintain, they went out during the day and their natural foraging habit meant that farmers didn’t have to feed them as such. The pigeons would return home at night to roost in a tower lined with nest-friendly alcoves, meaning fresh pigeon breast was always ready at hand, but only for the elite, who had Dovecots erected as a sign of wealth, with bigger and more ornate being better, with size being directly linked to a higher social esteem.

It appears that commoners were not allowed to keep pigeons and the size of Dovecote allowed depended upon status and land ownership.

Location: Avoncroft Museum, Stoke Heath, Bromsgrove B60 4JR.

Keywords: Avoncroft (23), Grade II listed building (54).