Haggerston Dovecote

Has been described as a Questionable Uncertain

There are major building remains

NameHaggerston Dovecote
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishAncroft

Circa 40ft high, probably used for sheltering cattle in medieval period against Scottish raiders. Fine example of a dovecote, perhaps late medieval. Originally may have been a windmill as there are two doors at ground level on the east and west sides, with at least eight windows at various levels. (Northumberland HER ref. DOE (IAM) AMs Eng: Northum 114)

Haggerston Dovecote is a small tapering stone tower rising to 9 metres, with a diameter of 6.7 metres. The dovecote had a conical roof with stone tiles, though today it stands roofless. In the interior of the tower are 527 brick nesting boxes, which are accessed by means of a rotating ladder called a potence - believed to be the only surviving example in the North East.

'The tower has several blocked windows and doors (including diametrically opposed ground floor doors - one blocked) and some arch stones at present ground level, which together with the fact that existing walls seem to have been lined with the nesting boxes, all suggest a former windmill.' (Stafford Linsley's annotation)

It has been suggested that this structure may have originally been a tower used to shelter cattle from Border Rievers.

Haggerston Dovecote is somewhat reminiscent of the Scottish vaulted tower mills, five of which were converted to dovecots (Douglas G., Oglethorpe, M, & Hume J. R., (1984) Scottish Windmills: A Survey, Glasgow: University of Strathclyde, p2). (Structural Images of the North East)

SMR report reads 'This circular building may originally have been a tower used to shelter cattle from Scottish raiders. It is then thought to have been converted into a windmill and then a dovecote, sometime between C17 and C19. It has a conical roof, built of timber, and roofed with stone tiles, though it is badly damaged

It contains over 500 brick nesting boxes and the remains of a rotating ladder which was used to reach the boxes.' The SMR include this in a listing titled 'castles, forts and defence'

Gatehouse Comments

It certainly seems to be a solid circular tower. If built to protect cattle then this is a defensive structure but is it a fortification? Why cattle would need a 'tower' (as opposed to a cheaper and more useful walled enclosure) for shelter from raiders? It is otherwise described as a C17 dovecote, with no suggestion of an earlier date or of being 'defensive'. Clearly this was built as an impressive building far in excess of what was needed purely for the function of dovecot. The builder seems to have impresses at least one person into thinking something about martial prowess.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNU035435
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  • Pevsner, N. et al, 1992, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London) p. 297


  • Johnson, M., Mitchell, S. and Whitelaw, L., 2012, 'Haggerston Dovecote Hidden depths...' Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 21 p. 34 online copy


  • Mitchell, S., 2010, Haggerston Dovecote, Ancroft, Northumberland: archaeological watching brief (CFA Archaeology Report No 1822) online copy
  • Archaeological Research Services, 2008, Archaeological desk-based assessment for Haggerston Dovecote