Dovecote, 45 metres south of Gainford Hall


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1121116

Date first listed: 07-Jan-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Jan-2017

Statutory Address: Dovecote 45 metres south of Gainford Hall, Low Road


Ordnance survey map of Dovecote, 45 metres south of Gainford Hall
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Statutory Address: Dovecote 45 metres south of Gainford Hall, Low Road

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

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Gainford

National Grid Reference: NZ1683416819


Dovecote, C17 or earlier.

Reasons for Designation

The dovecote south of Gainford Hall, of at least C17 date, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Date: as an early, specialised and high status structure for the breeding and keeping of doves, which continues the traditions of those built in the medieval period; * Architectural interest: it is an attractive tall and tapering stone structure of three stages defined by projecting stone bands with a domed roof and central oculus; * Degree of survival: although it no longer retains its central revolving ladder, it is otherwise intact and retains the key distinguishing features of early dovecotes including the original low entrance and a complete set of internal nest boxes and ledges; * Group value: it benefits from a spatial and functional group value with the adjacent Gainford Hall (Grade I), to which it provided highly prized meat.


Dovecotes (or pigeon houses) were built from the Middle Ages to the C19 to supply tender and highly prized meat from spring to autumn (with pigeon manure a valuable by-product), and were marks of considerable status. Whether square, multi-angular, or circular, dovecotes were typically of two storeys with internal nesting holes for the birds and a central revolving ladder (or potence) to give access to them. Most frequently these are found in home farm complexes although sometimes they fulfilled a decorative function too by being carefully placed in polite landscapes.

This dovecote is thought to be of at least early-C17 date and associated with the adjacent Gainford Hall constructed in 1600-1603. The structure is depicted on the first edition 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1855 and is annotated 'Pigeon Cote'. The footprint is unchanged down to the present day.


Dovecote, C17 or earlier.

MATERIALS: coursed sandstone rubble with roughly-dressed sandstone interior.

PLAN: circular, 5.6m in diameter.

DESCRIPTION: a tapering, slightly-convex structure, standing about 6 metres high, with three stages defined by projecting stone bands. There is a low, square-headed entrance low down in the NE side, with a chamfered lintel and alternating jambs; it retains a wide-boarded and studded plank door. The interior is filled with stone nesting boxes and alighting ledges. The roof is domed with an irregular, central oculus.


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

Legacy System number: 111076

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 278
Pastscape Entry, accessed 18-10-2016 from

End of official listing