WE'VE been on a flight of fancy chronicling the area's dovecotes recently, and now, thanks to Ian Hillary, from Hurworth, we're able to link the wife who survived Henry VIII with a North Yorkshire pigeon pie.

Now lockdown has eased, Ian has been out into North Yorkshire to check on some dovecotes which we haven’t yet mentioned in our tour of these curious structures.

Dovecotes, of course, were important in the days before refrigerators as they proved a fresh source of eggs and meat. They became fashionable accessories to a country estate around 1700, although the older, more rustic, Durham ones are centuries older than that. Most of the building of dovecotes in our area was done by 1800.

Here are another three from Ian for our survey:

Arbour Hill, Patrick Brompton: Last summer, when we were obsessing about icehouses, we told how Hornby Castle, between Richmond and Bedale, had at least three of them in its landscape which was created by Robert Conyers-Darcy, the 4th Earl of Holderness, in the 1760s. His parkland may have been designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown with the renowned Yorkshire architect and bridge-builder John Carr in charge of realising the designs.

They built bridges, summerhouses and grottoes, and fringed the gardens with a ribbon of ponds which looked like a flowing river, and on the ridges all around built “eye-catchers” – three model farms to break up all the boring greenery of the Yorkshire countryside.

Apparently, this was because the earl’s wife, Lady Mary, was missing her Italian homeland where every hillock has a farm on it.

Due south of the castle, they built Arbour Hill in 1760. It is perfectly symmetrical with a pair of Palladian pepperpots on either side of the house. One is a summerhouse and the other is a dovecote. Both have recently been converted into bijoux holiday accommodation.

Aiskew House: Standing beside the A684 on the road into Bedale, Aiskew House is a Grade II listed property built in 1734. Its huge, square, brick-built dovecote is easily visible from the main road, and is large enough to have a couple of stables beneath it.

Snape Castle: Like at Arbour Hill, the dovecote at Snape Castle, near the Thorpe Perrow arboretum, has recently been converted into a holiday let, but it could be that a lady involved in the most famous of all royal stories once collected eggs here.

Chiselled into the rafters of the dovecote is the date “1414”, which suggests that it was standing in 1534 when its owner, John Neville, the 3rd Baron Latimer, married his third wife, Catherine Parr, who was 19 years older than him.

John had Catholic sympathies and, in 1536, he was captured at Snape by rebels who demanded that he should lead the Pilgrimage of Grace which aimed to overthrow the new Protestant faith that divorce-happy Henry VIII was imposing. They carried John off and he played a major part in the rebellion – perhaps he was pleading with the rebels to calm down.

A few months later, the rebels returned to Snape and held hostage Catherine, who had Protestant sympathies, threatening to kill her, until John arrived to talk them out of it.

Such hostile activity might have been one of the reasons why Catherine did not really care for Mashamshire and she and John moved to the south, where John died on March 2, 1543.

And, of course, on July 12, 1543, Catherine became Henry VIII’s sixth wife. She had the good fortune to survive him, and so, with four marriages to her name, she is the most-married English queen of all time. She is also the first English queen to have written a book (a prayer book) and, quite possibly, from her time all alone in Snape when the rebels had carried off her husband, she knew how to knock out the tastiest pigeon pie in the country.

AND another one: Des Needham, who lives near Neasham to the south of Darlington, reports that there is a Grade II listed mid 18th Century square, brick dovecote at Rose Hill Farm, Over Dinsdale,