Friday, 25 April 2014

Doocot at Newark Castle

Doocots (or dovecotes) were once an important addition to any Scottish estate.  This beautiful example is part of Newark Castle in Port Glasgow.  Built in a conical shape, the roof was open and inside are nesting boxes for doos or pigeons which would have provided the castle inhabitants with a good source of food in the lean winter months.  There would have been a ladder for someone to go up and collect the eggs from the boxes.

The meat and eggs could be eaten - a very good source of protein in winter at a time when cattle had to be slaughtered and the meat preserved in some way to last throughout the winter, which was not always successful.  The accumulated bird droppings could be used as fertiliser in the fields.  

Doos were such a valuable resource that various laws were brought into place during the 15th and 16th centuries imposing strong penalties on anyone breaking into a doocot and stealing the birds.  The shooting of doos by bow or gun also incurred harsh punishments.  However, as their popularity increased, problems arose - the birds could decimate crops, leading to shortages.  Eventually by 1617 a law was brought in to ensure that there was only one doocot on each estate, depending on its size.  Once methods of feeding cattle over winter came into place, the need for bird meat declined and doocots fell into disuse.

It is believed that the original inhabitants of doocots were rock doves which nested on rocky cliffs, most of the earliest doocots were on the coast built to attract these wild birds.

This lovely and picturesque example at Newark Castle in Port Glasgow which once stood at a corner of the outer wall was also used as a lookout post.  Because the door could be locked it was a convenient place to keep prisoners and other undesirables!
 The Greenockian


  1. I had never heard of these before seeing one at a National Trust estate in Norfolk. Fascinating that hese present day pests were used as a food source in the past.

  2. That's fascinating - again! And a great picture looking up. I need to put this place on the agenda next time the wife drags me over the border. Have a great weekend.

  3. What an interesting piece of castle history. And what a beautiful structure.

  4. This is so cool - I've often wondered what the inside of one of these dovecotes looked like.

  5. neat-o!! that is so great inside. i enjoy looking up. ( :


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