my london diary

july 2001

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some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.

this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at

london pictures
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and you can read what I think about photography at

>Re:PHOTO

 

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Swan Upping

   
It was Henry II who first stole the swans in 1186, declaring that any birds found wild were his. Swans were too much of a delicacy for the common people; later laws prevented anyone except the wealthy from keeping them. These were further tightened in 1486, from when a licence was required from the crown to keep them, and special swan courts set up to adminster harsh penalties for those who broke the swan laws.
Uppers manage to close the gap as swans make a break for open water at Laleham
A myth that Richard the Lionheart (Richard I, 1189-1199) had brought the first mute swans back from Cyprus (or Turkey) was used as a justification for these actions. Licence holders were required to identify their swans by special marks cut into their beaks - there were almost a thousand different marks in the sixteenth century. This became done in an annual ceremony known as 'swan upping' which was probably designed mainly to remind the people of the power of the swan owners and the penalties for those who killed swans - up to 1895 you could be sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour, and earlier it had meant transportation and probable death.
Upper holds swan and is tying its legs
The crown still claims all swans on open water, but only exercises this on the main part of the Thames above London. Two of the London livery companies, the Vintners and the Dyers also have licences on this water, and although the swan is no longer eaten at their feasts, having been ousted in public taste by the considerably uglier turkey. (One Cambridge college, St John's, retains the right to serve swan at its banquets.)
Carrying an adult swan - they weight around 10kg.
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