Barn owl to interrupt builders as Medieval bird base spreads wings with English Heritage cash

By Culture24 Staff | 01 November 2010
A photo of a stone wall
Sharlston Dovecote, a barn used to shelter birds on a Wakefield farm for centures, is about to get a £74,000 spruce up
A honey-coloured Grade II-listed bird haven used to shelter pigeons and doves on a 160-acre farm in the 14th century has been given £74,000 for a 12-month repair job aimed at causing minimum disruption to its resident barn owl.

Sharlston Dovecote, a classic example of the type of dovecote birds were often provided with 600 years ago, will spend the winter having its slate roof replaced after an English Heritage-commissioned dendrochronological analysis of the roof timbers returns its findings.

A photo of a stone barn on farmland
Dovecotes were status symbols during Medieval times
The crumbling stone structure, on South Farm near Wakefield, was placed on the guardian body’s Buildings at Risk Register due to the level of weather and masonry damage it had suffered.

“Once historic buildings like this are lost they are gone forever, and it would be a shame to see it fall to bits,” said Ronald Cooling, who owns the farm and is contributing to the scheme.

“There used to be quite a few old Dovecotes in the area, but most have vanished, so it’s good to see this one facing a brighter future.”

The project schedule has been planned around the heat-evading mores of a barn owl which has been nesting in the Dovecote. Work will only take place during the winter months in order to avoid unsettling the winger inhabitant.

A photo of a barn owl
The Dovecote's resident barn owl will interrupt building works during the summer
The earliest English examples of dovecotes are found in 12th century Norman Castles, where they were housed as an important food source of meat and eggs. During the Medieval period they also became symbolic of status of power.

Richard Jaques, a Historic Buildings Architect for English Heritage, observed that the “very beautiful” building was “suffering from the ravages of time.”

“Such is the quality of the masonry that we believe stonework was probably taken from nearby Nostell Priory after the monastery was closed by Henry VIII,” he said.
“This timely repair scheme will ensure that a further decline in the building’s condition will be halted and another of West Yorkshire’s lesser known heritage gems will be removed from the Buildings at Risk Register.”
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