Repair works in the Stableyards

Scaffolding around the dovecotes at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Work has been underway to repair the two dovecotes above the Stableyards. The guiding conservation principle at Calke is to preserve what we find in order to tell the story of the decline of the English country, and so the dovecotes have been repaired rather than restored.

Scaffolding has been up around the stableyards for several weeks to allow work to be carried out on the historic dovecotes, which had deteriorated significantly over the years. A team of National Trust skilled craftsmen have removed the roof in order to dismantle the existing dovecotes, before erecting the new structures, re-fixing the lead roofs and touching up decorations. As part of the work the wooden frames have been replaced with almost identifcal new ones, though a little hardier for Calke's winter weather to hopefully have more longevity.

Food and feathers for Calke

Dovecotes can be discovered at many special places cared for by the National Trust, including here at Calke Abbey. Only noble families would be allowed to keep doves, and so most dovecotes can be found at castles and country houses. Workers would harvest young birds for food, feathers and manure to use on the estate. As at Calke dovecotes were often used to house pigeons, which provided eggs and meat for the estate. Young pigeons, called squabs, were prized for their tender meat, while older pigeons were tough and needed longer cooking times. These may have been given to workers on the estate.

The dovecotes atop the stableyards at Calke
The dovecotes atop the stableyards at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
The dovecotes atop the stableyards at Calke

All shapes and sizes

Owning doves was a status symbol, and nobles always liked to show off their riches. As well as providing food for the table, the buildings were made to be seen. Most dovecotes are round with a pointed roof, but some are rectangular, square, or even hexagonal. At country houses like Calke, they were built into the roofs of stables and barns.

Our work at Calke

The dovecotes can be seen in all of their glory later this month. We couldn't carry out this conservation work without your support. Thank you.