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Dovecote, 45 metres south of Gainford Hall

A Grade II* Listed Building in Gainford, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5462 / 54°32'46"N

Longitude: -1.7412 / 1°44'28"W

OS Eastings: 416841

OS Northings: 516806

OS Grid: NZ168168

Mapcode National: GBR JH8W.V2

Mapcode Global: WHC5M.7Z4N

Entry Name: Dovecote, 45 metres south of Gainford Hall

Listing Date: 7 January 1952

Last Amended: 6 January 2017

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1121116

English Heritage Legacy ID: 111076

Location: Gainford, County Durham, DL2

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Gainford

Built-Up Area: Gainford

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Gainford

Church of England Diocese: Durham

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Dovecote, C17 or earlier.


Dovecote, C17 or earlier.

MATERIALS: coursed sandstone rubble with roughly-dressed sandstone interior.

PLAN: circular, 5.6m in diameter.

DESCRIPTION: a tapering, slightly-convex structure, standing about 6 metres high, with three stages defined by projecting stone bands. There is a low, square-headed entrance low down in the NE side, with a chamfered lintel and alternating jambs; it retains a wide-boarded and studded plank door. The interior is filled with stone nesting boxes and alighting ledges. The roof is domed with an irregular, central oculus.


Dovecotes (or pigeon houses) were built from the Middle Ages to the C19 to supply tender and highly prized meat from spring to autumn (with pigeon manure a valuable by-product), and were marks of considerable status. Whether square, multi-angular, or circular, dovecotes were typically of two storeys with internal nesting holes for the birds and a central revolving ladder (or potence) to give access to them. Most frequently these are found in home farm complexes although sometimes they fulfilled a decorative function too by being carefully placed in polite landscapes.

This dovecote is thought to be of at least early-C17 date and associated with the adjacent Gainford Hall constructed in 1600-1603. The structure is depicted on the first edition 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1855 and is annotated 'Pigeon Cote'. The footprint is unchanged down to the present day.

Reasons for Listing

The dovecote south of Gainford Hall, of at least C17 date, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Date: as an early, specialised and high status structure for the breeding and keeping of doves, which continues the traditions of those built in the medieval period;
* Architectural interest: it is an attractive tall and tapering stone structure of three stages defined by projecting stone bands with a domed roof and central oculus;
* Degree of survival: although it no longer retains its central revolving ladder, it is otherwise intact and retains the key distinguishing features of early dovecotes including the original low entrance and a complete set of internal nest boxes and ledges;
* Group value: it benefits from a spatial and functional group value with the adjacent Gainford Hall (Grade I), to which it provided highly prized meat.

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