Updated January 2022
1. Wollaton Village Dovecote Museum
2. Wollaton Village
3. Parkside Memories from the 1930s
1. A hidden gem
WOLLATON VILLAGE DOVECOTE MUSEUM
Dovecote Drive, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG8 2NB
Down a quiet cul-de-sac a short walk from the centre of Wollaton Village is the 16th century Dovecote where you will step into a remarkable building and back into Wollaton history.
HISTORY OF THE DOVECOTE
Built around 1565 by Sir Francis Willoughby in fine hand-made red brick, with his initials in black brick above the main door, the Dovecote is one of the oldest buildings in the village. It is also one of the oldest dovecotes in the country. It originally stood in the middle of a field to prevent the nervous birds being disturbed.
It continued to be used as a dovecote even after Sir Francis built the “new” Wollaton Hall in 1588. By the 1880’s it had been converted into stables and three windows, a rear door and a floor had been added. However, after the sale of the Estate in 1926 it began to fall into disrepair and by the 1960’s was in danger of being demolished. A local campaign ensured its survival and it is now a Grade II listed building, owned by Nottingham City Council. It was restored by Nottingham Civic Society and is now leased to Wollaton Historical & Conservation Society and volunteers put on a variety of exhibitions in the summer months.
Surrounded as it is by modern housing, it is now difficult to fully appreciate this important building which has stood here for over 400 years.
INSIDE THE DOVECOTE
Originally there would have been no windows, floor or internal walls. Access was from the one door, which now leads to a private garden. The building is 41 ft by 21 ft with a height of 33 ft. It faces south-east to catch the early morning sun. Originally there were approximately 1,180 L-shaped nesting boxes on all four walls, sufficient for over 5,000 birds.
The doves were domesticated descendants of the rock dove, the same size and appearance as the town pigeon of today. They came and went through two glovers, an anglicised French word for “opening”, one centrally placed on the ridge and the other at the eaves. The doves foraged for themselves but, especially in winter, they were given supplementary food such as hard grain or grey peas. There would also be a supply of water and somewhere for them to bathe.
A pair of doves produced two chicks up to eight times a year, often starting a second nest before the first brood flew. From May to September the young birds, called squabs, were a regular source of food. They were usually culled at four weeks before the breast meat was toughened by exercise. Adult birds would be eaten after long, slow cooking and were also supplied to falconers as food for their birds of prey. The feathers and down were used for bed quilts and pillows. The dung was a very valuable fertilizer and a source of saltpetre (potassium nitrate) used for making gunpowder and for tanning leather.
• There is a replica parlour and scullery dressed with objects and furniture from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
• Regularly changing exhibitions of old photographs and plans for Wollaton through the ages
• The history of Wollaton Dovecote and its restoration.
2. WOLLATON VILLAGE
At the heart of the village is the Pump with its 19th century canopy. To the east is the Admiral Rodney Public House. In its car park can be seen the old barn, formerly used as the village school. To the right of the pub is a fine terrace of 18th century houses what once housed the village shop and police station. The 13th century St Leonard’s Church contains monuments to the Willoughby family and also a memorial to Robert Smythson, described as architect of Wollaton Hall. The 14th century stone cottage opposite the church is the oldest house in the village. The Square is surrounded by two-storey 18th century cottages. In 1955 and again in 1969 applications were made to demolish them and build modern shops. The local opposition led to the founding of the Wollaton Village Preservation Society, the predecessor to Wollaton Historical and Conservation Society.
3. NOSTALGIC MEMORIES OF PARKSIDE, WOLLATON IN THE 1930s
First published in The Link magazine in October 2003.
Readers may be interested to know that before the bungalows which back onto Wollaton Park wall were built, numbers 28 and 30, the land was developed as a riding school owned by Harry Piggin. The open space in the front was the paddock where horses were exercised and jumping practice took place. The house now called The Old Farm House, number 42, was originally the site of Walton’s Farm and the house set back from the road at the end of a long drive was built for Lord Middleton’s gamekeeper. An opening in the park wall allowed access to the woods and the park, and a path beside the wall led up to Bramcote Lane, Wollaton village and St Leonard’s Church.
The constant activity of horses and ponies in the riding school was of tremendous interest to three little girls known as The Three Anns, two of whom lived opposite, who spent their entire time there (grudgingly allowing some time to be spent at school). There was a lot of work to be done, grooming the ponies, cleaning the harness, feeding and watering, cutting chaff on a big machine, and mucking out, all performed with enormous enthusiasm by the girls.
The best times were early in the morning and late evening when the ponies were ridden bare-back to the fields, where Wollaton Vale now runs, for grazing. Down The Bumpy (Parkside Rise) we would go, through the fields and over the Tottle brook to more fields and the beautiful pine woods on Bramcote Ridge, and then a long walk home again; a great adventure.
No doubt there must have been times when three youngsters of 7, 8 and 9 years old were in the way and a complete nuisance. The punishment meted out to us at times like that was total immersion in the huge stone drinking trough inflicted on us by John Manning, the head groom, or orders to slide a dozen bales of straw down the wooden stairs from the hay-loft above the stables.
The riding stables were eventually sold to Derek Edwards, son of Lionel Edwards the water colour artist, and later to Joyce and Margaret Stonehouse who rented the stables until the land was sold for building after the war.
Apart from the great sadness of watching seven beautiful lime trees felled in front of Walton’s farmhouse, it was a time of complete freedom and happiness for children who spent their time baking potatoes and chestnuts in the dens made out of sand-pits, wading and catching minnows in the Tottle brook and collecting all the dogs in the neighbourhood to take for walks over the hills.
But of course the best thing was caring for and riding our beloved ponies, whose names after more than sixty years, still bring a tingle of excitement, Safety, Joey and Tiddles!
Anne Houlton, Anne Roughton, Ann Chambers (Howard).