In Collette Cameron’s new Regency romance novel, Wagers Gone Awry, her hero is forced to spend some time in a dovecote, apparently against his will. Fortunately for those of us who are not familiar with these unique structures, which could be found on a great many country estates during the Regency, today Collette is sharing her research on dovecotes. Once you have read Collette’s article, you will be able to understand the hero’s situation when you read her book. Will you sympathize with him, or will you think he got just what he deserved?

And now, Collette will tell you about the dovecotes of Great Britain . . .

Called pigeon cotes, columbariams, culveries, and doocots in Scotland, dovecotes were used to farm doves or pigeons, once an important food source. England alone, had over 26,000 of the structures in the seventeenth century. Built to house between two and five hundred pair, the young pigeons, or squabs, were generally fated for the dining room table since their meat was tender, while the adult birds’ meat was considered tough and unappetizing, though some sources suggest adult pigeons were eaten just as often.

Front of a dovecoat coverd with ivy

Dovecote at Nymans Gardens, West Sussex

I’ve eaten both adult pigeon and dove, and though not as tender as chicken, the meat certainly is edible.

The eggs were coveted as another source of protein, and the birds’ dung, highly prized and valued, was harvested as a superior fertilizer.

Round dovecote of grey stone and cross-shaped window

Round Stone “Doocot”

Either built into the side of house or as free-standing structures, dovecots could be found in many shapes from rectangular to beehive and occasionally even octagon, though the most common shape was square. Their sizes varied as well, from little more than a simple, narrow hut to elaborate tower-like structures.

The latter were more typically found on castle and manor house grounds where it wasn’t uncommon to find more than one dovecote. After all, the presence of a dovecote was a status symbol, so much so, that in medieval Europe, only nobles were permitted to possess them, which is why you might see them prominently displayed where all could witness the property owner’s importance, say at the entrance to an grand estate.

Square grey stone dovecote with pyramidal roof topped by a coupola.

Colombier at Hamptonne, in Jersey

It should be noted, the pigeons and doves were not popular with the surrounding farmers, and were in fact, considered a tremendous nuisance. That eventually led to regulations restricting pigeon farming.

Often made of stone with protruding upper ledges (to keep the vermin out, including polecats and martens) dovecotes were usually accessible through a small, wooden door. The interior was lined with nesting boxes. After the influx of brown rats in the middle of the eighteenth century, the lower levels boxes, those three-five feet off the ground, were patched over to keep the rats from the nests.

Grey stone dovecote with upper half having a peaked roof

Auchmacoy Dovecot

Dovecotes built later simply started the rows of nesting boxes higher or else constructed the dovecote on a stone or cement base dug into the ground prohibiting vermin from digging inside.

Round grey stone pigeon tower with conical roof, near the beach

Newark Castle Pigeon Tower

Wooden doors might have iron bars added to prevent rats from gnawing away at the wood, and dogs were used to deter unwelcome guests who entertained the notion of a free meal. As the popularity of dovecotes faded, the bird entrances were blocked and the buildings were converted to granaries or even stables, depending on the size of the building.

View looking up to the opening in the center of the roof, with the pigeon holes visible

Newark Castle Pigeon Tower Interior

I have Heath, Earl of Ravensdale, locked in an empty dovecote WAGERS GONE AWRY, though it’s not the first time I’ve had to research the fascinating historical outbuildings.


Man and woman in Regency dress with a dovecote in the distance.


Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper, Book I

Brooke Culpepper resigned herself to spinsterhood when she turned down the only marriage proposal she’d likely ever receive to care for her family. After her father dies, a distant cousin inherits the estate and becomes their guardian but permits Brooke to act in his stead.

Heath, Earl of Ravensdale is none-too-pleased to discover five young women call the dairy farm he won and intends to sell, their home. Desperate, pauper poor, and with nowhere to go, Brooke proposes a wager. His stakes? The farm. Hers? Her virtue. The land holds no interest for Heath, but Brooke does and he accepts her challenge.

Brooke loses, and her devastation is compounded when the cousin arrives, intending to haul the Culpepper misses off to London. Heath astounds himself and proposes in order to apply for guardianship of the other girls. Does Brooke dare marry the handsome stranger who’d been bent on compromising her? Will Heath regret his impulsive gesture, or will unexpected love flourish?

Author head and shoulder, with medium blond wavy hair and purple sweater.

About Collette

Bestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron, has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in Teaching. Author of the Castle Brides Series. Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, and Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper Series, Collette writes Regency and Scottish historicals and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. Mother to three and a self-proclaimed Cadbury Chocolate chocoholic, Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, trivia, and all things shabby chic and cobalt blue. You’ll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels. Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, too many flowers, or too many books. She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list.

Connect with Collette:


Blue Rose Romance Blog



Regency Rose Newsletter

You can connect with Collette on LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+, too.
Just click on over to her website for the links.


8 thoughts on “DOVECOTES—NOT JUST QUAINT BUILDINGS   By Collette Cameron

  1. I thought that looked like a doocot on the cover when I first saw it. One of our local farmers sells in his farm shop mixed vermin, I mean mixed game, a mix of pigeon, venison and rabbit, which I simmer slowly in home made elderberry wine. The alcohol, which is denatured as it cooks, helps to tenderise the meat, especially if marinated overnight. With plenty of onion and peas, under a flaky pastry top it’s gorgeous.
    In Medieval times it was considered gracious for the lord who owned a dovecot to gift the odd pair of birds – the older, tougher ones, no doubt – to any of his tenants whose grain had been stolen by the pigeons. It was illegal to kill the lord’s doves or pigeons, to defend your newly sown seed or fresh peas, which must have been very frustrating.

    • Hi Sarah,
      My husband is a hunter and we have venison in the freezer. It’s a little tough, depending on the cut.

      I knew that the tenants weren’t very happy with the doves or pigeons because they basically ate the tenants livelihood.

    • I was happy to have you. Your article was fascinating and informative. I am looking forward to reading your book to learn how the hero fares in the dovecote.



  2. I was surprised to read that the most common shape for a dovecot was square, because I’d always assumed that circular was the norm. I shall re-appraise the old square buildings I’d previously discounted as potential dovecots!

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