Pigeon Doocots

by John Dreczkowski 15th November 2009

doocot3

Pigeon doocots are also referred to as pigeon lofts. These buildings have a long history and pigeons have had and still play a significant role in our social history. There were many doocots spread throughout Europe and beyond, with many different design structures. They were normally built with local methods, manpower and materials.

The roofs of these buildings would normally be made from local timber overlaid with slate or other material. At the top of the doocot there would be a few small holes to allow access for the pigeons and these were normally facing southward for the best protection for the birds.

doocot4

The internal structure of the doocot comprised of a system nesting boxes made from local materials. A ladder attached to a pole would allow access to the nesting boxes for the collection of eggs and cleaning. At the bottom of the nesting boxes there would be a projecting ridge, preventing rats and the like raiding the doocot for the young pigeons and eggs. Some doocots could have up to 1000 plus nesters.

Above are two examples of the external and the internal of a round Doocot, the principal of which are the same as other structures. Doocots were introduced in the 17th century and at this time there was no system to keep meat fresh, also there was not enough feed for the cattle during the long winter months. Therefore after selecting enough cattle for the following seasons breeding, establishing a new herd, the rest of the herd were killed and their meat salted and stored in a dark cool room to supplement the sparse winter diet.

Only land owners and the gentry were allowed to build and establish doocots to supplement their winter diet with succulent pigeon meat. This created some dissatisfaction to the local farmers as the pigeons helped their self to their crops. A law was passed to make it illegal to kill a pigeon adding to the unsatisfactory situation.

One of the by products that had some benefits to the farmers, the waste from the pigeons was successfully used as fertilizer for the vegetable and fruit growth on the farm. An introduction of a new farming system by a Mr Charles Townsend using the turnip as a winter feed supplement meant that the cattle could be fed through the winter months. reducing the need for pigeon meat to supplement the winter diet. This resulted in the demise of the doocot for its original purpose. Very few of the doocots survive and are cared for by historical societies and there is one at Westquarter in Falkirk, but unfortunately many are either demolished or left to ruin.

doocot1

The lintel over the entrance door has the date 1698 inscribed in it. It is divided by the initials S H P for Sir Hugh Paterson 2nd of Bannockburn. Also above the lintel there is a stone panel with the date 1768, divided by the initials M P which probably represent Mary, daughter of Sir Hugh Paterson 3rd of Bannockburn. The date may mark some kind of alterations or repairs to the structure.

doocot2

The upper set of initials have been added at a later date and may represent Mary’s Paterson’s husband, David Rollo Paterson. The doocot in figure 1 is the magnificent Bannockburn House Doocot, a fine example of a doocot, but presently in a ruinous condition. It can be found on the A91 road between Pirnhall and Bannockburn Greencornhill roundabouts. This one was probably built from Bannockburn sandstone, more than likely from Cat Craig quarry behind Craigford House.

 

Share Button

Leave a Reply