|© Mr Michael Perry|
Water tower disguised as dovecote. Circa 1907-1940 OS Map Ref ST 53438 26628
Lytes Cary is a manor house with associated chapel and gardens near Charlton Mackrell and Somerton in Somerset, England. The property is now owned by the National Trust, has parts dating to the 14th century, with other sections dating to the 15th, 16th, 18th, and 20th centuries. "Yet all parts blend to perfection with one another and with the gentle sunny landscape that surrounds them," comments Nikolaus Pevsner. The House is listed as Grade I by English Heritage. At the end of the formal 'Apostles' garden sits a dovecote which is in fact a disguised water tower built by the Jenners family in imitation of the dovecote at Avebury Manor as not to detract from the house.
Sir Walter Jenner (1860-1948) was the eldest son of Sir William Jenner, who was physician to Queen Victoria and, as a fashionable London consultant, had become very wealthy. Sir Walter bought Lytes Cary in a dilapidated state from the Dickinson’s of nearby Kingweston and began a major restoration. Perhaps inspired by the work of his brother, Leopold, who purchased Avebury Manor at much the same time, Sir Walter was a champion of the English Arts & Crafts movement and also collected appropriate antique furniture and tapestries to adorn the house and also did much in the garden and grounds. In 1940 he bequeathed the house and the 365 acre estate to the National Trust.
ST52NW CHARLTON MACKRELL CP ILCHESTER ROAD (East side) LYTES CARY 5/34 Dovecote about 120 metres north east of Lytes Cary - GV II Dovecote. Possibly C18. Local lias stone cut and squared; stone slate conical roof, with timber and stone roof upstand for birds; horse weathervane. Circular plan; plinth, four offset buttresses to near full height, eaves course: east side boarded and studded door and 3-light casement with ornate leaded-lights, both set in voussoired segmental arched openings. Interior not seen.
Dovecotes from Photographers Resource.
For centuries pigeons and doves were an important food source and were kept for their eggs, meat, dung and feathers. Their down and feathers were used to fill pillows and feather beds and a common superstition was that those who slept on pigeon feathers would live to a ripe old age. Their dung was also highly rated and had a number of uses, not only being used as a fertilizer, but was also used in the tanning industry to soften leather, and in the early 17th century it was a major source of salpetre used in the manufacture of gunpowder. However it was for their flesh and eggs, especially in winter when other meat was scarce, that they were particularly valued. In 1600 Oliver de Serres wrote in his book on agriculture that ‘no man need ever have an ill-provisioned house if there be but attached to it a dovecot, a warren and a fishpond wherein meat may be found as readily at hand as if it were stored in a larder.’