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HER Number:MDV1971
Name:Dovecote at The Old Rectory, Stoke Rivers


Octagonal dovecote with a conical thatched roof. Referred to as a pigeon house in 1727 it was subsequently adapted for use as an apiary.


Grid Reference:SS 633 353
Map Sheet:SS63NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishStoke Rivers
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSTOKE RIVERS

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • International Bee Research Association: 1127
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS63NW/13/1
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS63NW/13/2
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*)
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS63NW13

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • DOVECOTE (Built, XVII to XVIII - 1601 AD (Between) to 1800 AD (Between))
  • APIARY (XVIII to XIX - 1701 AD (Between) to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Bevan, E., 1827, The honey bee. Its natural history, physiology and management (Monograph). SDV73311.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

Circular building depicted.

Holman, H. W., 1920 - 1921, Ancient Dovecotes, 11 (Article in Monograph). SDV340205.

The author recalls the old dovecote at the rectory.

Copeland, G. W., 1937, Devon Dovecotes, 400 (Article in Serial). SDV266150.

This dovecote is smallest and latest in the series. It stands on rising ground in the rectory garden, east of the house onstructed by Copeland. It may have been a rectorial dovecote. Externally octagonal, internally rounded, white-washed. Walls are built of thin flat stones, also used for the triangular heads of the doorway at the south-west, and of the two large windows, one on each side of the doorway. Above the entrance is a deep pointed quatrefoil panel, probably purely ornamental. Projecting from the walls externally is a series of wooden platforms, or ledges, before narrow horizontal slits through the walling. These slits apparently cut when the nest-holes within occurred to allow bees to enter when it was used as an apiary. The hives stood on stands on tiers, but alternately placed. The conical roof is thatched and has a vane at its apex. Probably late 17th to early 18th century. Seems to have been altered; an entry in a terrier of 1727 refers to the 'the pigeon house which is round built with stone and covered with helling-stone'. Last used as a chicken house.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1978, SS63NW13 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV73307.

According to Copeland, the dovecote is the smallest and also probably the latest in the county. It probably dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. It may have been a rectorial dovecote. It is octagonal in shape but rounded internally and stands on rising ground in the rectory garden, to the east of the house. It was last used as a chicken house.

Crane, E., 1983, Archaeology of Beekeeping, Fig. 187 (Monograph). SDV73310.

Department of Environment, 1986, Stoke Rivers, 98 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV343182.

Apiary. Early-mid C19. Stone rubble with conical thatched roof with wrought iron weathervane at apex. Polygonal on plan, Gothick style. Triangular-headed doorway with stone lintel and plank door to south-west with two similarly triangular-headed windows with Y bars and transoms to the flanking facets. Above the doorway is a cruciform small stone opening. On each facet are three tiers of horizontal timber pieces, set into the stone and pierced as flight holes to and from the hives, which were stacked inside. The top tiers have wooden landings.

Ogden, B., 1993, The Apiary, The Old Rectory, Stoke Rivers (Correspondence). SDV340206.

The bee house appears to be unique in Devon. It's not listed by Crane (1983) who records two other 8-sided structures. Bevan (1827) describes a structure which could have been a model for this building. The bee entrances may not be original, and would probably have been smaller than the current 18 inch openings. The present openings are divided into three by two batons running the whole width of the wall, giving rise to possibility of three entrances of about 6 inch width giving access to separate bee boxes. Alternatively the batons may be a device to prevent restriction of bee space by warping.
Internally there would have been an open framework along five walls on which to place hives, with platform shelving to service each layer of openings, probably fixed at top to the beams, as at present (see Crane, Fig. 187).

Walker, P. + Ogden, R. B., 1995, Bee Boles and Other Bee Keeping Structures in Devon, 119 (Article in Serial). SDV2631.

Bee house at The Old Rectory. A listed stone building with a conical thatched roof, covered in vegetation. It was constructed c.1685 and referred to in an ecclesiastical terrier of 1727 as a pigeon house. It was converted to a bee house about 40 years. Shelves were fixed inside on three levels and 21 flight entrances were made Each has a small alighting board with a projection above.
International Bee Research Association No. 1127.

Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC, 2015 onwards, 2015 onward Aerial Photographs (Aerial Photograph). SDV362959.

Octangonal thatched roof of building visible.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV2631Article in Serial: Walker, P. + Ogden, R. B.. 1995. Bee Boles and Other Bee Keeping Structures in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 127. A5 Paperback. 119.
SDV266150Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1937. Devon Dovecotes. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 69. Hardback Volume. 400.
SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV340205Article in Monograph: Holman, H. W.. 1920 - 1921. Ancient Dovecotes. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. Unknown. 11.
SDV340206Correspondence: Ogden, B.. 1993. The Apiary, The Old Rectory, Stoke Rivers. Letter to P. Child. Letter + Digital.
SDV343182List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1986. Stoke Rivers. Historic Houses Register. A4 Bound. 98.
SDV362959Aerial Photograph: Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC. 2015 onwards. 2015 onward Aerial Photographs. Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC. Photograph (Digital). [Mapped feature: #140240 ]
SDV73307Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1978. SS63NW13. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV73310Monograph: Crane, E.. 1983. Archaeology of Beekeeping. Archaeology of Beekeeping. Unknown. Fig. 187.
SDV73311Monograph: Bevan, E.. 1827. The honey bee. Its natural history, physiology and management. The honey bee. Its natural history, physiology and management. Unknown.

Associated Monuments

MDV39997Related to: The Old Rectory, Stoke Rivers (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Mar 2 2023 10:20AM