Step inside the 16th Century Dovecote at Willington

Willington Dovecote is one of the largest and best preserved examples of a sixteenth century dovecote in England, and a symbol of lord of the manor John Gostwick’s wealth and success.

During the Tudor period pigeon was considered a luxury delicacy. Only the very important could afford to rear pigeons in dovecotes which they then served at banquets or offered as gifts. 

Wanting to boast his hard-won status, John Gostwick commissioned the building of this impressive dovecote in the 1540s, following a visit from King Henry VIII. It was a bold addition to his newly built manorial complex and a clear statement of his importance and the power he held over his tenants who were powerless to prevent the pigeons damaging their crops.

Once inside the cool, dark dovecote look up to see the endless rows of nesting boxes running around all sides and up into the roof, designed to house up to three thousand pigeons. If you reach inside one you will discover that despite their small entrances they have roomy interiors large enough to hold a pair of pigeons and two squabs (baby pigeons). The adult pigeons could produce squabs every few weeks and the noise and smell would have been overpowering.

The Dovecote and Stables are open on the last Sunday of the month from April to September, please see here for our opening times.