Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Secret Tunnel, a Moat, and a Priest Hole, all at Dovecote Dell..



Dovecote Dell is a tiny village, with no more than about a dozen houses and cottages.   The history and beauty of the place always delights me, even on the dullest day.

On Monday I attended the monthly meeting for the golden oldies.   I was reluctant to enter the gloom of the village hall, especially as we were enjoying a rare day of sunshine, but I knew we had arranged for one of our number to give a talk.




Miss Read is a retired village school teacher and she kept us enthralled with tales of her childhood and what it was like to live in the local manor house in Dovecote Dell.   She is a lovely woman and, despite failing eyesight, still manages to paint, decorate cakes, and keep busy.  

She is a marvel!

Without the aid of notes she was able to talk for almost an hour and a half, keeping us all totally engaged and wanting more.




Too many tales to put into one post.

No matter what the weather, I find the old dovecote very beautiful and the history of the place keeps my mind busy.

It is Tudor period,  an early 16th century building and is a protected and listed building.

The interior has/had brick nesting boxes built in floor to ceiling.

Miss Read has only been inside it once, when she was a child.   She remembers that the interior was feet deep in pigeon droppings and the smell was not pleasant.   One look inside was all she needed, and that was probably more than 80 years ago.

The entrance is through that small aperture at ground level, which you can see in the previous photograph.   An adult would have to stoop down quite low to go through.

In the 1960's, after a particularly bad winter, a large chunk of the dovecote collapsed and had to be rebuilt.   If you enlarge some of the photographs, you can probably see where the rebuilding was done.   Interestingly, Miss Read says that the nesting boxes were not rebuilt.   I'm not going to go inside to check, but I believe that only two thirds of the original ones survived.

It looks particularly beautiful when it wears a covering of snow.




This photograph was taken a few years ago, we haven't had any real amounts of snow since then.    The very top of the church bell tower can be seen to the left, hiding among the trees.

Up until relatively recent times there were five farms in the village, but these days there is just one working farm.

As a consequence, the number of households has also diminished as small cottages have been knocked through and larger homes created.

The houses and cottages did not have mains water until the 1950/60's.   They had to go to the local spring - down past the dovecote and to the left, near that tiny gate which is protruding at the side of the dovecote.  

The manor house had a pump, so they were alright, even if that pump took an awful lot of effort to operate.

The manor house was demolished in the 1960's or thereabouts, which is a shame.      The site is moated, the core of the house was ancient and had a priest hole hidden within.   It was also reputed to have a secret tunnel leading to a monastery some 3 miles away... unfortunately this has also been demolished.








16 comments:

  1. Sad that the manor home no longer exists. I saw my first dovecote when we took a walking tour of the Cotswolds. Can't remember know what village it was in. It was very large and we did peer into it to see the nesting boxes. I sent a link to your knitter challenge to my daughter and to a friend. The former said she's too busy to even knit the projects she has planned. The friend said she'd check it out. Hope you find someone.

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    1. Hello Marcia, Thank you! That was very kind of you. I have got about six willing volunteers who are valiantly having a go, but if anyone else wants to try I can send them a pattern.

      It was demolished during a period when far too many interesting old houses were demolished, it would probably have some sort of protection these days, or one would hope so!

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  2. Moated Manor house & tunnel do not go together well, water would flood it so no doubt a myth. Shame it was demolished, priest holes are worth seeing, there is one at Stoner Park at Henley. Bet the pigeons are happy with the dovecote and the fact they are not used for food any more

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    1. Hello Bill, I agree - plus, the soil around here is very heavy clay, then we have the chalk streams which bubble up out of the ground to become the Great Eau - so I don't think so either. There are documents from previous owners, pre Miss Rread's family, which show that they believed in the existence of it, so perhaps there was something or other there.

      The dovecote is home to crows these days, they make a racket and fly off grumbling every time I dare to walk past!

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  3. The title sounds like a Famous Five Tale. Now I'll go back and read the rest

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    1. All that's missing is 'lashings of ginger beer' and 'Timmy' the dog!

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  4. "Miss Read"... -smile-

    Oh how awful that the main house was demolished!!! So very sad. "There should be a law", or some such sentiment.

    It is priceless to have some who remember the past. I do hope you did some sort of copying of her talk...... Of if not, if you could visit her, yourself... And record her memories. Oh that would be wonderful!!!!!!!!

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    1. Hello Luna, I have a couple of books about some of the 'lost houses' which were demolished around that time - they don't make for happy reading.

      As you may know, I don't use real names, for people or places, in this blog.I had quite forgotten which name I had given that lovely woman until I did a search through past posts. When i found that I had named her 'Miss Read', I had a smile! Don't worry, we are recording her words, they are far too valuable to lose forever.

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  5. Miss Read is the epitome of the village teacher & I'm sure her stories were so enthralling!
    I love the dovecote in the snow!

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    1. Hello Christine, I was obviously influenced in the choice of her pseudonym; I admit that I do quite like those gentle books! Our Miss Read is very likable but I imagine that she was fairly strict in the classroom! Luckily, we were all on our best behaviour.

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  6. School teachers can go on and on.... :~) (I am a retired school teacher.) The village must have been a lovely place, but it's a bit sad that there is now only one working farm.

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    1. Hello Chip, Three cheers for teachers!
      There are so many more stories to tell you about the village, and one former resident in particular. He led quite a political life, went to America around 1635/37 and was elected to become a Governor, upon his return he got back into politics, wrote spiritual works, and was eventually beheaded on Tower Hill. Quite a man, and he spent many years living in Dovecote Dell! Plenty of posts to come about him.

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  7. I have always enjoyed your photos of the old dovecote. Such a shame the manor house was torn down. It happens here too. Of course, our structures are not as old as what you have, but nonetheless, it's sad to see them gone for "progress".

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    1. Hello Meggie, That dovecote and the manor house fascinate me and I love the way it looks, too! I think you will enjoy the tales I have to tell you about one of the men who lived there in the 17th Century. So many posts clamouring to be written, too little time at the moment.

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  8. I love to sit and listen to older people talk about times gone by. It must've been so wonderful listening to her. What a pretty name for a village. It's a shame that little cottages have to be taken down to make way for larger homes. : ( Love the photos. xo

    ~ Wendy
    http:/Crickleberrycottage.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hello Wendy, She is quite amazing! She made that pretty, but quiet, village come alive again.

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