NJ9265 : Mounthooly Doocot

taken 3 years ago, near to Peathill, Aberdeenshire, Great Britain

This is 1 of 7 images, with title Mounthooly Doocot in this square
Mounthooly Doocot
Mounthooly Doocot
Although universally described as a doocot, this surely looks too elaborate to be just for pigeons? It has the date 1800 above one window, but the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland declines to assign it to a period. See LinkExternal link
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.
Mounthooly Doocot
This eye-catching mock Gothic building is perched on the top of a mound with a panoramic view including Rosehearty and surrounding land.

An alternative name for it is Holy Mount.

It lies on the Pitsligo estate and was built for Lord Garden of Gardenstown, who acquired Pitsligo around 1800.

It's a 12-foot square rubble masonry tower with canted angles. Above the anti-rat string course are oval oculi with another string course above, and the top is embellished with a parapet with tall crenels finished with ball finials. Inside the parapet is a pyramidal roof. The date 1800 is carved above one of the windows. There is a plain doorway on the west face.

Inside are about 300 nest boxes with brick slab bases, and a potence, which is a ladder that revolves around a pole in the centre of the building and gives access to all the nest boxes.

It is said that each of the 12 ball finials represents one of Lord Garden's 12 estates.
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Grid Square
NJ9265, 17 images   (more nearby )
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Friday, 20 January, 2017   (more nearby)
Saturday, 21 January, 2017
Geographical Context
Farm, Fishery, Market Gardening  Country estates 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NJ 9246 6594 [10m precision]
WGS84: 57:40.9947N 2:7.6863W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NJ 9241 6589
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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Image Type (about): geograph 
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