THE DOVECOTE

Broughton's Dovecote, standing in the grounds of St. Mary's Church, dates from 1340 and was rebuilt in 1684 in the form we now see. Some minor restoration of the fabric was done in 1974.

 

Locally it is also known by its Roman name of the 'Columbarium'.

 

The circular brick structure has a conical tiled roof, that supports the turret through which the pigeons could fly in and out.

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History and Structure

 

There are 482 L-shaped nest-holes set into the thickness of the wall in eighteen tiers. Specially made wedge-shaped bricks form the floors of the nest-holes, and form an alighting ledge to each tier. The brickwork generally is of very high quality.

 

The pigeons flew in and out by a louver on the roof, designed to keep out birds of prey.  The door is original and hangs on original wrought iron hinges.

 

Dovecotes were recorded at Broughton in 1340 and 1674. This dovecote was built in the 18th century near the edge of Oake Manor, to the south-east. In the late 19th century St Mary’s churchyard was extended, enclosing the dovecote.

 

Minor restoration was carried out in 1974 and the revolving ladder (potence) was built to replace one of which traces survived.

The Potence

The round-shaped Dovecote was evolved in the Middle Ages, because the onerous and unpleasant task of tending the nesting boxes could be made easier by the use of a revolving ladder.

 

The massive central post of ash or elm, with its arms and attached ladder, was known as a Potence, a term borrowed from the Clockmaker's trade.

 

The pivots were carefully designed so that the whole apparatus turned easily at a touch from the man up the ladder.

 

As rain was bound to drive through the pigeon access openings, the interior woodwork tended to rot and needed replacing every century or so.

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