Thursday, February 20, 2020

Rousham, Oxfordshire

Finishing touch

After my recent dovecote post, I remembered one more dovecote that couldn’t resist sharing with my readers. This is the one close to the great house at Rousham. The little building, tucked away in a walled garden, is unregarded in a place that’s full of interesting architecture: Rousham’s gardens have few rivals in this respect, and because they’re not vast and always open, the impressive array of garden buildings and sculpture is not difficult to see. This dovecote is in marked contrast to the small-scale but grand classicism and gothicism of the garden structures. It’s a country building in the vernacular tradition, with local stone walls and a stone-tiled roof. ‘Dovecote of 1685, with a conical roof with hipped dormers’ is about all Pevsner feels the need to say about it.

But look at the lovely louvre* at the top, with its lead-covered ogee top (mirroring a similar ogee cupola on the nearby stable block), and its neat wooden bars, with wider spaces at the bottom to let the birds in and out. I don’t think there are birds living in it now, but this culminating louvre (being wooden it’s presumably a modern replacement) seems to me a perfect finishing touch. Its artful design seems typical of the place: whenever I’ve visited, Rousham has given me the impression of a place that’s well cared for by the family who own it – and who’ve lived there since the house was built in 1635, fifty years before this charming structure was first erected across the walled garden next to their house.

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* Louvre is the accepted term for the a turret- or lantern-like structure at the top of a roof, open in some way to let out smoke from a hearth or to admit the inhabitants of a dovecote.

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