Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dovecotes for Food

Doves and pigeons have always been a good source of food. Most castles in England and Europe had an area designated as a dovecote to supply food year round. Often, holes were left in the 12 feet deep walls, which provided an inviting home for the little birds to lay their eggs. When the doves/pigeons were old enough, they would be killed, stuffed with force meat, cooked, and taken to the table. There is ample archaeological evidence to suggest the Romans took the idea of harvesting birds to England, because dove/pigeon holes have been found in many Roman ruins.
There are still many dovecotes in England and Europe. I took this photograph in Dunster, Somerset, England. It is thought to have been built as early as the 14th century, but could possibly have been built later. In the 18th century, the lower nesting holes were closed because they attracted rats, but the pigeon keeper kept the upper floors available for breeding purposes. For easy access to the nests, he used a revolving ladder called a “potence”. Only the lords of the manor and the clergy were allowed to have a dovecote.