WHO knew there was a dovecote hidden in the heart of Hurworth almost opposite the Spar shop? Dorothy Nattrass did, because it overlooks the walled garden which is now the home of Flowers by Nattrass.

Dorothy and her late husband, Ronald, came to the village in the late 1950s when Ronald got a job as gardener for Mr Parsons, a Stockton sweet factory owner, who lived in the Old House in Hurworth, and kept white fantail doves in the square cote.

The Northern Echo:

“My husband used to go into the dovecote to check to see if any rogue pigeons had got in,” says Dorothy. “If they had, he would give them to Mr Parsons who would release them on his way to the sweet factory.”

Let’s hope they weren’t homing pigeons.

Over time, the Nattrasses let and then bought the Old House’s walled gardens, establishing the floristry business which is now run by their daughter, Sally Bennet, and her husband, Mark.

The dovecote dates from the early 18th Century and is a Grade II listed building – as is the “pigsty with hen-house over” beside it.

The Northern Echo: Stumbling out into Vane Terrace, in Darlington, having found the Johnson grave, we spotted a dovecote-like building right in front of us along a scorriae-bricked back lane. It still has pigeon doors at the top of it. Can anyone explain this strange

Whoever built the Old House – and we’d love to know more of its story – would have used the dovecote as a source of fresh meat and eggs, as Memories 514 told. Since that article, we’ve also been alerted to dovecotes at:

Heighington: A village with three dovecotes. The earliest is the one in Hall Lane, which once belonged to Heighington Hall. Then there’s one at Trafalgar House, which was built in 1830 by Captain William Pryce Cumby, who was a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar. And, just outside the village, at Coatsay Moor Farm on the edge of Shildon, there’s a dovecote in the upper floor of a square tower – dovecotes usually had high access to prevent poachers from sneaking in at ground level.

Houghton-le-Side: In this hamlet a couple of miles west of Heighington there is the medieval Manor House, where there’s a 17th Century dovecote. It is described as “one of the largest and best preserved examples in County Durham”.

The Northern Echo: Houghton-le-Side Manor's dovecote dates from the 17th Century, or earlier. Picture courtesy of Peter Giroux

Killerby: At the Grange, there is a dovecote from about 1800 with 160 of its original nesting boxes.

Neasham: At Sockburn Farm, there’s an early 19th Century dovecote which is now used as a garage. This farm was built in the 1730s by Thomas Hutchinson, a celebrated breeder of shorthorn cattle. In May 1799, William Wordsworth called at this farm with his sister, Dorothy, and his travelling companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to see his childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson, who had grown up in the Lake District. At this meeting, Wordsworth fell in love with Mary, whom he later married, while Coleridge canoodled with her sister, Sara. Indeed, Coleridge even wrote a poem about the moment their canoodling began in Sockburn:

The Northern Echo: Heighington Hall dovecote, which has recently been restored. Picture courtesy of Peter Giroux

"She half enclosed me with her arms,

She pressed me with a meek embrace:

And bending back her head, looked up,

And gazed upon my face."

If only he’d found something to rhyme with the dovecote he was undoubtedly leaning against when they first embraced.

Walworth: At Parkside Farm, there is an early 19th Century dovecote above an old cart-shed that would once have been connected to the nearby castle. Like all the others, it is a Grade II listed building, and in the schedule, its description says: “Small round-arched niche, possibly a beebole, to right.”

The Northern Echo: The Old House dovecote in Hurworth with the listed pigsty on its right

Never before have we encountered a historic beehole. In fact, we’d only ever encountered the word “beehole” before at Burnley Football Club’s Turf Moor ground where there was a Bee Hole End, which was named after the nearby Bee Hole Colliery.

Are there any other historic beeholes we should be aware of? And what about any more dovecotes?