Birds in the Bath

By Man vyi (own scan of illustration in old book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Man vyi (own scan of illustration in old book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I was in London last week and had my first ever look inside Westminster Abbey. The price of entry almost put me off – £18! And as we all queued to pay, everything paused  for a prayer to come over the public address system – it’s good that the Church makes Mammon wait for God now and again.

There’s lots to see in the Abbey but the wildlife highlight of my visit was in the Henry VII Lady Chapel where are displayed the crests and banners of the Grand Knights  of the Order of the Bath.

I was struck by the number of birds on display: ostrich, secretary bird, kestrel, black grouse, chough, some eagles and a strange looking black bird of prey (?).

That black bird of prey belongs to Sir John Chapple who is a proper birder, so that’s no surprise, I guess – I’ll have to ask him about it when I next see him (maybe at the Bird Fair).

The choughs were chosen by Lord Armstrong of Ilminster – it’s a while since there have been choughs seen in Ilminster, but it’s a good reminder of how widespread these birds were when there was more rough grassland around.

The late Lord Moore of Wolvercote (nr Oxford) laid claim to the blackgame – I once lived in Wolvercote and didn’t see any black grouse on my cycle rides.

Sir Patrick Hine has an eagle on his crest.

The late Sir David Fraser used an ostrich on his crest.

Sir Kenneth Stowe has a bit of wit about him – he was a Permanent Secretary and his is the secretary bird!

But I haven’t tracked down the owner of the kestrel on his (or her) banner – any ideas anyone?

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7 Replies to “Birds in the Bath”

  1. You'd be surprised - look at Black Grouse distribution in the late 18th/early 19th C (basically around the time of enclosure) in Mike Shrubb's brilliant Birds, Scythes & Combines (p86) - and then look at the decline in the 1875-1900 Historical Atlas, with which people are more familiar. What is fascinating is that the map in Shrubb shows Berkshire (and Norfolk & Lincs) as having introduced populations of Black Grouse - maybe Lord Moore took Black Grouse for his arms because he was sufficiently keen on them to have introduced them to Wolvercote ?

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  2. I'm afraid my uncle, as previous Receiver General of the abbey, is responsible for the high entrance fee Mark!

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  3. For some reason the only buildings that excite me are Cathedrals.When in Tuscany we went for a ticket for Sienna Cathedral which is absolutely fantastic 100% various coloured Marble including a large area surrounding it.What a surprise when the ticket was 4 Euros.Some difference to your visit.
    All Cathedrals are great places but think Sienna a bit extra special.

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  4. I think I can find out but can you point me towards the kestrel? Unless I have missed it, it is not pictured.

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    1. Alan - I can't find anything about it on t'internet. It's a male kestrel hovering facing the viewer of the banner. I know that's not a great description but it's the best I can do.

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