The Dovecote, which is a round building, located to the North West end of the churchyard of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Somersham is a Grade II listed building, believed to be late 18th Century. According to the book ‘Dovecots of Cambridgeshire’ written by Peter Jeevar in 1977, the building is one of only three round dovecotes remaining in the County. It is therefore of historical interest to both Somersham and the County
The building, for which the church has sole responsibility, had deteriorated over the years despite self-help maintenance carried out by volunteers from the church congregation. In 2002 the Parochial Church Council (PCC) took the decision that the damage to the roof of the building, loss of tiles as a result of the winter gales, required expert help if the building was to be saved. Close inspection by the architect revealed that the roof was unsafe, only being held together by Ivy in some places, and that some of the timbers were showing signs of rot and would need replacing. Estimates for the work, were in the order of £19,000 which could not be met by the PCC, as the church building was itself in need of major repair work to its roof.
The PCC decided that they should look outside of the parish for funding for the Dovecote as the parish were already being asked to help with the repairs to the church.Working closely with the Area Conservation Officer and others keen to see the Dovecote restored, SITA Trust was approached to see if they could help with the funding of the Dovecote Project. Their initial response was very encouraging and gave the PCC a warm feeling that things were getting brighter.
SITA Trust was established in 1997 to receive and distribute landfill tax credit donations from SITA UK and provide funding for community and environmental improvement projects. To qualify for funding this project, the restoration of a historic building, we had to meet several criteria. One of which was that the building must be within 3 miles of a landfill site and another that we could find a Third Party to pay reimbursement and management fees amounting to10.2% of the total cost of the restoration. Fortunately, because we have a landfill site run by SITA UK located within a mile from the village and that Huntingdon District Council had agreed to meet the Third Party Reimbursement, the PCC were able to proceed with a bid for funding. The SITA Trust board met on the 21 September 2004 to consider our application and agreed to fund the full cost of the restoration, £18,477
Work on the building commenced on 7 April 2005 and was expected to last 11 weeks, however, it soon became evident that most of the plate (the timber ring supporting the roof timbers) would have to be replaced. Being curved, each timber length had to be cut, shaped and spliced by hand. This unforeseen additional work to the roof and the need to replace the window frames added a further £6,000 to the original estimate. Fortunately, following our second application, SITA Trust agreed to the additional funding.
The external work was completed August 2005. This included
- Clearing of the Ivy from the building.
- Removal and the retention of the pan tiles and roof fittings for reuse.
- Replacement of rotten roof timbers including the plate, while retaining as much of the original wood as possible.
- Re-tiling the roof using the original pan tiles where possible and using reclaimed tiles to replace those missing or broken.
- Replacement of the door, door frame and door lintel in keeping with the original design and materials
- Replacement of the 2 window frames