girl feeding pigeons in the street

What is the Meaning of ‘Pigeonhole’?

Before we delve into the intricacies of a pigeonhole, have a look at the joke below if it’s not too much of a birden…

Why don’t pigeon noises echo?

Because a coo sticks!


Pigeonhole - a girl feeding pigeons in the street - from willowbrook education

Dreadful bird puns aside, today we’re delving into the history and uses of a pigeonhole. Maybe it’s a passing phrase you’ve heard in school or at the office, “Pop it in my pigeonhole,” “Have you checked the pigeonhole?” Or maybe you envision a literal hole for pigeons, and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong for thinking that.

Back in the days before electronic devices, schools and businesses opted to sort their documents using shelves with dividers. These were adapted into the modern-day pigeonhole.

So get your paperwork in order because we’re about to give you a flying guide on pigeonholes.

The History of the Pigeonhole

The term ‘pigeonhole’ has been around since at least the late 1500s and at the time was used to describe “a small recess for pigeons to nest in.” Hence the bird box-like shape we still see today in modern units.

During medieval times, farmers and those in the agriculture trade often used pigeonholes to keep domestic birds to feed their families. These were also sometimes referred to as dovecotes and resembled tiny houses for birds to nest in.

In the late 1700s, people began referring to their office furniture, which housed and organised paperwork, as ‘pigeonholes’ due to their close resemblance to domestic pigeonholes.

Today, of course, pigeonholes are still used in schools and businesses around the world. And, the most commonplace to find one in the UK is at the sorting office. Pigeonholes improve the organisation of mailrooms when mail needs to be manually sorted.

Even with the inception of remote working and digital workspaces, we still love our paper and cardboard. One report found that 12.5 million tonnes of paper products are used each year in the UK, so it makes sense we still need somewhere to store it all.

Pigeonhole Storage for Organising your School

It’s no secret that space seems to be a recurring issue in schools. For years, we’ve heard from teachers everywhere that their classroom storage space is more than unimpressive. This is no doubt why pigeonholes are just as helpful today as they were back in the 1700s.

So, besides housing actual pigeons, what are some of the other benefits of using pigeon holes in the classroom?

What are the Classroom Benefits?

  • Pigeonholes are designed to maximise classroom space and are a must-have in limited-space classrooms.
  • Along with student reports, EYFS documents, and all the other stuff teachers have to focus on, pigeonholes can eliminate unnecessary stress caused by a messy classroom. Simple, yet effective.
  • Modern pigeonholes come in a range of shapes, sizes, and materials, making them something you need to create your perfect area of organisation. Flexibility is a must.
  • Pigeonholes are built to last. They’re highly durable and have survived (and thrived) in classrooms for decades. Truly a staple of school furniture.
  • Unlike digital sorting systems, pigeonholes are one of the most low maintenance sorting systems available. Once constructed, they can be left to serve its purpose for years (with a bit of cleaning now and then).

Looking to jazz up your classroom or staffroom? Check out our top tips on picking your school furniture!

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