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Edinburgh, Malleny House, Dovecot

Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, Malleny House, Dovecot

Classification Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Malleny Doocot

Canmore ID 50283

Site Number NT16NE 21.01

NGR NT 16502 66527

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Currie
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT16NE 21.01 16479 66526

(NT 1650 6652) The dovecot at Malleny House (NT16NE 21) is rectangular and one-chambered. Its 40" thick walls are of yellow sandstone. The gables have ten crowsteps. There are two small skylights in the lean-to roof. The pigeons entered by nine holes in a dormer window which faces N. There are 915 sandstone nest holes.

A N Robertson 1945

This dovecot is as described above.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 19 August 1965

No change to previous field report. The dovecot is National Trust property.

Visited by OS (BS) 23 December 1975

NT 165 665 Archaeological recording was conducted in September and October 1998 of the doocot at Malleny House (NMRS NT16NE 26), in advance of refurbishment. At present the structure is filled with rubble and only the NW wall nesting boxes survive to their full height. An initial assessment of the structure was necessary, as clearance of the internal rubble would likely have resulted in the collapse of any interior features.

Malleny doocot is within the grounds of Malleny House, beside the Water of Leith. Malleny House itself lies only 30m to the NW of the doocot. Rebuilt in 1634, the house lies on an earlier site; above the kitchen chimney the lintel bears the coat of arms of William Knychtsoune with the date 1589.

Scale drawings of internal and external elevations of the doocot were made, alongside a full photographic record being prepared. In addition, all observed features were recorded in a context regime, providing a database of features which could allow for a phased interpretation of the building.

Based on the results of the building survey, the development of the doocot from its erection around 1634 to its final state today can be summarised in four periods of construction, occupation, and decline.

Period 1 Construction (c 1634)

The present house and the doocot share similar architectural characteristics, with crowstep forms on the gable and wall construction. It is considered likely that the two were constructed around the same time. At this point in time the ground surface was much lower, as is evidenced by a blocked door in the SE gable. It may well have been free-standing, built directly onto a river terrace overlooking the Water of Leith. It may be viewed at present as an unusual example, because of the entrance holes being on the N side, as opposed to the more normal S-facing entrance. However as the only surviving features in the roof from this period are the two primary rafters it is impossible to say whether this was always the case. The floor is of rough sandstone pieces set closely together, and this may still survive beneath interior debris. The doocot was constructed to hold a maximum of 915 nesting boxes.

Period 2 Alteration (early 19th century)

Around 1810 the then owner, General Thomas Scott, constructed several additions to the house. During this period the ground surface was raised to the NW and NE of the doocot. In doing so it covered the original entrance in the SE gable, which was then blocked, and a new door was forced through the SW wall. It is likely that the iron fittings are also from this period, and they are for the attachment of climbing plants which would have grown from the new ground surface.

Period 3 Maintenance (mid-20th century)

Records show that by 1945 no pigeons were in residence within the doocot. However in 1960 there were 38, and so it is possible that the rebuilding of the roof (including the replacement of all the common rafters), may date to this period. Much of the exterior was repointed and repaired with cement, showing that the building was being maintained.

Period 4 Decline and partial collapse (1961-present)

After the loss of the pigeons through disease in 1961, the interior of the structure fell into disrepair. The nesting boxes on the NE, SE and SW walls were either removed or collapsed internally. This caused a loss of structural integrity in the main walls, causing the collapse of much of the interior skins of the masonry.

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland

D Connolly 1999

NT 165 665 Detailed building recording of the doocot at Malleny House between October 2003 and February 2004 followed an earlier programme of recording (DES 1999, 43).

Archaeological monitoring was also undertaken of the machine-excavation of drainage trenches on three sides of the doocot. The bottom of the external SE elevation was also recorded as part of this work. It was noted that the decayed mortar of the original build is no worse than the mortar of the later door insertion or even the external harling.

The structure noted under both the SW wall of the doocot and the stairway to the W may be foundations for the SW wall, but could also indicate a structure continuing to the NW, demolished when the steps were built.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: NTS.

A Radley 2004


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