Pigeons and peers – a des-res for doves and aristocrats

For my non-British readers, ‘des-res’ is an informal term for ‘desirable residence’.

And last Thursday we got to visit three in the Worcestershire countryside, only a handful of miles from our home in Bromsgrove.

The Hawford and Wichenford dovecotes
Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively, Hawford and Wichenford dovecotes are today owned by the National Trust, and open for anyone to explore. Probably associated with a former abbey in the case of the Hawford dovecote, and the nearby Wichenford Court for the Wichenford dovecote, both are half-timbered structures, in a remarkable state of repair, notwithstanding their age. Although access to both dovecotes appears, on first glance, to be restricted, the doors are open and inside you can see all the nesting boxes, several hundred in each dovecote, where young pigeons or squabs and eggs would be collected for food.

The Hawford dovecote (map)

The Wichenford dovecote (map)

Next to the dovecote is a complex of semi-derelict farm buildings, dominated by a huge medieval barn that has obviously seen better days. We did wonder if some group was intending to ‘rescue’ this beautiful building and restore it to something like its former glory.

Witley Court (map)
Then we headed off to Witley Court near the village of Great Witley, which we have visited many times over the past three decades. Even though it’s now just a shell of a building, having been gutted by fire in the 1930s, Witley Court still has an awsome presence in the countryside, and in its heyday it must have been a magnificent residence, truly a ‘des-res’. Now managed by English Heritage, much has been done to refurbish the grounds in recent years, the parterres have been replanted, and the impressive Perseus and Andromeda fountain is now in full working order. It fires up every hour on the hour.


The Perseus and Andromeda Fountain in the foreground, and the south face of Witley Court behind. On the left, behind the ruins of the orangery is the parish church of St Michael (with the gold domed roof), one of the finest examples of baroque architecture.


View from the south parterre and the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain. The orangery is on the right.


The refurbished East Parterre at Witley Court.

Here’s a short video I made in 2008.

English Heritage have placed on its website a floor plan of how the mansion developed over the centuries. A house was first built on the site in the mid-17th century, and was added to extensively during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Beside the ruined house is Great Witley parish church of St Michael, untouched, fortunately by the 1937 fire, and one of the country’s outstanding examples of baroque architecture, and a feast for the eyes inside. The organ is said to have been played by Handel.



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