Dovecote at High House, Purfleet


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017234

Date first listed: 12-Jan-2000


Ordnance survey map of Dovecote at High House, Purfleet
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Thurrock (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: TQ 56723 78007


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Dovecotes are specialised structures designed for the breeding and keeping of doves as a source of food and as a symbol of high social status. Most surviving examples were built in the period between the 14th and the 17th centuries, although both earlier and later examples are documented. They were generally freestanding structures, square or circular in plan and normally of brick or stone, with nesting boxes built into the internal wall. They were frequently sited at manor houses or monasteries. Whilst a relatively common monument class (1500 examples are estimated to survive out of an original population of c.25,000), most will be considered to be of national interest, although the majority will be listed rather than scheduled. They are also generally regarded as an important component of local distinctiveness and character.

Although a few aspects of the structure have been replaced or strengthened in recent years, as a whole the dovecote at High House survives extremely well, particularly so in a region which has seen many such buildings lost to disrepair and demolition or radically altered.

Following a national review of this class of monument in 1998, the High House dovecote is now thought to be one of only a small number of exceptional survivals in Essex, and it is especially notable for the survival of the potence and nest box array. The dovecote thus retains substantial evidence for the manner of its use and serves to illustrate part of the economy and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the associated manor since the 17th century. The very unusual development of the entrance is also of particular interest, reflecting the economic value of the dovecote and perhaps other events from the social history of the area.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a late 17th century brick dovecote located to the east of High House, some 900m north of the River Thames on a slightly elevated position overlooking the West Thurrock Marshes.

The dovecote, which is Listed Grade II, is octagonal with brick walls rising 3m above the exterior cemented plinth towards a smooth cemented eaves cornice (originally carved plaster). The roof is tiled with a wooden louver surmounted by a weather vane and has a dormer window of two lights facing north. The entrance faces west towards the house and has a unusual double door. The massive inner door is constructed entirely of iron and originally had an elaborate lock activating three bolts (parts of which survive), while the outer wooden door is reinforced and secured by iron straps padlocked over staples. The interior of the dovecote is largely unaltered and contains 517 brick nest boxes set into the walls with a continuous alighting ledge to each tier. The first tier of nests is 0.36m from the ground, and between this tier and the floor are two brick string courses projecting about 0.5m, possibly a precaution against vermin entering the nests. The nests have entrance holes which are 0.13m by 0.16m leading into `L'-shaped compartments measuring some 0.28m deep. The nests were thus designed in order to accommodate two broods. The dovecote also retains its two armed wooden potence complete with ladder, (a rotating structure designed to provide access to the nest boxes), which is supported upon a circular brick table (cemented over) some 1.25m in diameter. The main beam of the potence is housed in the intersection of two alighting beams which also carry the framework of the louver. The internal roof timbers are to some extent restored but retain a fair number of the original timbers.

The security entrance is unique and was probably fitted to keep out pigeon thieves who often stole birds for London pigeon shoots in the 18th century. Documentary sources refer to the dovecote having been used as a temporary village lock up.

A brick wall abuts the dovecote on its western side, where this impinges on the monument's protective margin, it is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32420

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hansell, P, Hansell, J, Doves and Dovecotes, (1988), p223
Smith, D, Pigeon Cotes and Dove Houses of Essex, (1931), p248
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Film 4 Frames 1-14;Film 5 Frames 3-17, Tyler, S, MPP Visits Films 4 and 5, (1999)
Oxford Archaeological Unit, EH MPP Step 3 Report Site evaluations for Dovecotes, (1995)

End of official listing