Early 17th century, 2-chambered symmetrical, rectangular-plan lectern doocot in pink sandstone rubble with boarded doors to each chamber, a rat course above and crowsteps to the side walls. There is a central recessed rectangular panel rat course. There are 5 flight holes at eaves level above the doorways and 16 flight holes to each chamber set in the mid-roof band. The roof is pantiled with beak skewputts.
The interior was seen in 2015. There is a concrete floor and a timber roof and over 2000 stone nesting boxes extending from floor to ceiling on all sides of each chamber.
Statement of Special Interest
This rare, early 17th century doocot (dovecot, or pigeon house) is the largest remaining doocot in Edinburgh. It retains many of the characteristics of the classic lectern type doocot and is remarkable for the large numbers of nesting boxes still in situ. 17th century examples of surviving doocots are rare, the majority of surviving examples date from the 18th century onwards.
A N Robertson in his article Dovecots in and around Edinburgh, notes that the Inch doocot was built in the seventeeth century. James Winram, Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland bought the estate in 1617 and it is likely that the doocot dates to his ownership. The panel to the south wall would have likely contained a coat-of-arms. The size of the doocot indicates the significant wealth of the owner and the two chambers in the doocot would serve as both security and also would also mean that the birds were disturbed less.
The earliest surviving doocots or pigeon-houses date from the 16th century. Doocots provided shelter, protection from vermin and nesting facilities for pigeons. These distinctive structures, found principally on monastic establishments and estates with large households, provided a welcome and easily caught source of meat, particularly in the winter months, while the accumulated manure was a rich fertiliser for the land. They are an important building type as they tell us much about our agricultural and domestic history and they are often prominent landscape features. They are most common in arable areas which could provide sufficient food for the pigeons and are therefore more prevalent in the east of Scotland. Doocots largely ceased to be built after the mid-19th century when the need for them diminished, although a few decorative examples were constructed in the Edwardian period.
The early doocots were in a circular, or beehive design, and this was superseded by the lectern plan as seen here. So named on account of its characteristic sloping mono-pitch roof, this shape was first introduced in the late 16th century and became the dominant form of doocot in the 17th and 18th centuries. The shape allowed more nesting chambers to be accommodated and the lean to roof faced south so that the birds could sit in the sun, whilst being protected from the north wind by the high back wall. The design is very uncommon outside of Scotland. The rat course prevented rats and other predators from accessing the flight holes and also served as a preening ledge for the birds.
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed as 'Gilmerton Road, Inch Dovecot'.
Canmore: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 238016.
John Laurie (1766) Plan of Edinburgh and Places Adjacent. Edinburgh.
Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1852, Published 1855) Edinburghshire Sheet 6. 6 Inches to the mile. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
RCAHMS Midlothian Inventory (1928) p 134-5.
Gifford, J. et. al.. (1988) The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. London: Penguin Books. p.492.
Robertson, A. N. (1945) Dovecots in and around Edinburgh in The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club Edinburgh. Vol 25 p.185.
Information on the history of Inch house, from http://www.southedinburgh.net/history/greater-liberton-heritage-project/inch-house (accessed 26 October 2015)