NS9178 : Westquarter Doocot

taken 4 years ago, near to Redding, Falkirk, Great Britain

Westquarter Doocot
Westquarter Doocot
The doocot is thought to date from the 18th century, incorporating a NS9178 : Heraldic Panel dated 1647. The building is 18 feet 3 inches by 16 feet 3 inches (5.56 x 4.95 metres) and the rubble walls are 2 feet 10 inches (0.86 metres) thick. The roof has been renewed but the rest is original,including the scalloped roof top and ball finials. The doocot is a Category A Listed building and is in the care of Historic Scotland. I was amused to see that the hedge to the left of the gate has been neatly trimmed, but the man with the hedge trimmer has yet to work his way round to the right of the gate!
Doocots
Doocot is the Scottish word for a dovecote; a pigeon is called a doo. Doos are semi-domesticated Rock Doves (Columba livia), the ancestors of the common feral pigeons found in towns.

In mediaeval and later times, it was difficult to provide winter fodder for cattle, so a significant proportion of cattle were slaughtered and the meat salted to preserve it, providing food in the form of salt beef. Chickens too tended to go off laying in winter.

Doos, however, survive all year round, and can breed at any time of year, and they like to nest in holes in dark places like caves. In order to exploit this, doocots were built so that the eggs and birds could be easily harvested for fresh food in winter. Young doos, called 'peesers', were harvested when they were about four weeks old, usually in the morning when the parent birds were out feeding.

The walls inside a doocot are lined with stone nest boxes, open at the front. It is from these that the word 'pigeonhole' is derived, of course. A doocot was also equipped with ladders to give access to the holes for harvesting.

Not everyone could build a doocot, however. It was recognised that the birds would feed on crops, so in 1617 a law was enacted stipulating that doocots must not be built less than two miles from the boundary of the estate, the logic being that the doos would then feed on ground belonging to the owner of the doocot, rather than raiding his neighbours' land. The snag was that of course the doos fed on his tenants' land. Thus in practice only the owner or tenant of a large property could build one, so when you see a doocot you know that it was a fairly large estate or farm.

Doocots come in various shapes and sizes, the commonest being rectangular buildings with a single sloping roof, called lectern doocots. Also common are round doocots tapering towards the top. These are called beehive doocots.

Almost all doocots have a layer of flat stones protruding from the wall high up and right round the building. This is to prevent rats climbing the walls and gaining access through the holes in the roof used by the birds.

There was a belief that the destruction of a doocot would be followed within the year by the death of a family member.
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NS9178, 35 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Saturday, 5 October, 2013   (more nearby)
Submitted
Sunday, 13 October, 2013
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 9133 7871 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:59.3405N 3:44.6123W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 9133 7870
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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