Dovecote 60m north of St George's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Somerset West and Taunton (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 99019 43728

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.

The dovecote 60m north of St George's Church survives in an excellent state of preservation having had restoration work undertaken on the roof and walls in 1989. It boasts a rare internal working potence which, whilst relatively late in date, is considered to represent an accurate replacement of an earlier example. Dunster dovecote is open to the public and provides an insight into the lives and dietary habits of the medieval inhabitants of Dunster Priory, whilst its post-Dissolution use illustrates the continued importance of harbouring pigeons for food to the occupants of Dunster Castle until the late 19th century.


The monument includes a dovecote which lies in the west half of the town of Dunster just to the north of St George's Church. It was originally associated with the medieval Dunster Priory, its purpose being to provide fresh meat to the priory throughout the year by the fostering of squabs (young birds) and adult pigeons. The dovecote is Listed Grade II*. The dovecote is circular and rubble-built with a conical slate roof surmounted at its apex by a wooden exit turret also roofed in slate. The walls are 1.2m thick and the dovecote is 6m high with an external diameter of 7.2m. There is a single narrow wooden-framed doorway on the eastern side which is raised from ground level and reached by two steps; there is also a small window high on the south western side which is likely to be a later addition. The internal walls of the dovecote are lined with over 500 `L'-shaped nest holes and the structure retains a wooden potence, or revolving ladder pivoted on a central post, giving access to the nesting boxes. The central post of the potence also supports two circular feeding platforms. Restoration work in 1989 enabled the potence to be dated to the 19th century although it is believed to replicate an earlier example. The dovecote formed part of the agricultural complex attached to the Benedictine priory at Dunster and it has reputed origins in the 12th century although the present structure is considered to date from the 16th century. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the ownership of the dovecote passed from the Priory to the Luttrell family of Dunster Castle who are reported to have continued to use it to supply birds to their table until as late as 1870. The scheduling includes the garden wall which abuts the dovecote, where it falls within the 1m protective margin.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
McCormick, Reverend M , The Dunster Dovecote, (1994)
'Oxford Archaeological Unit' in Dovecotes, (1995)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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