Friday, March 25, 2016

Harlestone, Northamptonshire

Doves and dollies

I think I would have shared this dovecote with you whatever its context. I was immediately taken with its circular form, conical roof, and canted walls, a shape that seems to give it extra stability, as does the string course for that matter, while setting off its lovely toffee-coloured ironstone walls to great effect. It’s in what I take to be an outlying hamlet of the Northamptonshire village of Harlestone, a place not so much nucleated as a series of straggling lanes and junctions that is very much in the orbit of the Spencer estate of Althorp, whose park wall I drove past just before stopping by this arresting little building.

However, the context makes it more memorable still: a small group of cottages and associated buildings, plus a larger house (Park Farm House, ironstone again, with quoins), and above all the former premises of the Dovecote Laundry – no longer plying the dolly or posser, but still sporting its sign. It was the sign, course, that made me still more excited: regular readers will know my love of old signs and interesting lettering. Well, if you going to start a laundry here, next to the dovecote, you probably would call it the Dovecote Laundry, and you probably would give it a big blue sign with tall, eye-catching letters like these.
I’ve written several times before about the medieval liking for pigeon-meat and its general restriction to the upper and land-holding classes, noting, with my love of odd-shaped buildings, at least one round dovecote, one octagonal one, and another built into a church. I don’t know whether this 15th-century example sent its young pigeons to the table of the Spencers’ great house nearby or whether they were the preserve of the farmer, but no doubt many thousands found their way to appreciative consumer’s plates across the years. Coo!


bazza said...

Dovecotes are usually appealing (at least, they are to me) because they tend to be in lovely locations. There is an interesting one built into the kitchen garden wall of Valentines Mansion, Ilford, which I think is octagonal.
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Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks, Bazza. I must seek that one out. I looked online and it is very attractive.

Eileen Wright said...

Lovely dovecote, that. Sadly, I've only visited one stand alone dovecote; the one at Avebury, which is a round one. Having said that, there is an interesting one built in Shute Manor in Shute, Devon. There are square holes in the wall above the kitchen with short tunnels for the pigeons to nest, which was handy for the cooks. The house is now owned by the National Trust, but apparently the last Lord of the Manor had the openings blocked up with pebbles because he was fed up with being poo'd on whenever he used that entrance. :)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Eileen. I know the one at Avebury (Avebury I think is a totally marvellous place, especially when visited in the evening or early in the morning when there are not too many other people about). I've not been to Shute Manor, but it sounds fun. As is the poo story!

Stephen Barker said...

There is a fine Dovecote in the Gardens at Rousham.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stephen. Yes, indeed there is. It is round, with a lovely ogee-topped turret in the top for the doves to come in and out.