THE SWAN HOLDS A UNIQUE POSITION AS A BRITISH BIRD, AS IT HAS BEEN A ROYAL BIRD SINCE 1186, AND IS THE ONLY BIRD THAT CAN BE "ESTRAY.
ALL SWANS AT LIBERTY ON COMMON OR OPEN WATER BELONGED TO THE CROWN AS A PEROGATIVE RIGHT. THE CROWN COULD AND DID GRANT THE PRIVILEGE OF KEEPING SWANS ON COMMON OR OPEN WATER PROVIDED THEY WERE PINIONED AND " MARKED".
HOWEVER IF A WAYWARD BIRD STRAYED AND WAS NOT RECAPTURED WITHIN A YEAR AND A DAY THE OWNERSHIP PASSED BACK TO THE CROWN. SWANS WERE KEPT FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, AS A ROYAL BIRD, THEY WERE HIGHLY VALUED AND CREATED AN AIR OF DISTINCTION. THEY MADE HIGHLY PRIZED GIFTS AND WERE CUSTOMARILY EATEN AT BANQUETS AND CHRISTMASTIME.
THE SWANS ROYAL STATUS WAS FORMALLY INSTATED IN THE " ACT OF SWANS" WHICH CAME INTO BEING IN 1482.THIS ACT PROVIDED FORMAL LEGISLATION, RE OWNERSHIP AND MARKINGS OF SWANS. LATER ORDINANCES PROVIDED MORE REGULATIONS ON THE KEEPING AND CONSERVATION OF" THE KYNGES SWANES AND SYGNETES"
IN 1482 THE ACT INTRODUCED A RIGHT OF "POSSESSION BY PRESCRIPTION" AND A PROPERTY QUALIFICATION THAT RESTRICTED THE POSESSION OF A "SWANMARK" TO LANDOWNERS. "SWAN MOTES "OR "SWANNING COURTS" WERE SET UP TO ENFORCE SWAN LAWS. TRANGRESSORS WERE TRIED BY JURY.
SWAN MARKING WAS NECESSARY TO DISTINGUISH OWNERSHIP OF THE SWANS. THESE SWAN MARKINGS WERE MAINLY IN THE NATURE OF CYPHERS IN THE UPPER MANDIBLE MADE WITH SHARP KNIVES. THESE SWANMARKS WERE MADE WITH DEVICES MAINLY TAKEN FROM EACH FAMILIES COAT OF ARMS. THESE MARKINGS WERE THEN REGISTERED IN " SWAN ROLLS".
ONCE LEGALLY OBTAINED BY A GRANT FROM THE CROWN, THE SWAN MARKS AND TOGETHER WITH THE "GAME OF SWANS" MARKED WITH IT, BECAME THE ABSOLUTE PROPERTY OF THE OWNER.
SWAN ROLLS WERE KEPT TO RECORD EACH MARK AND THE NAME OF IT'S OWNER.
THERE ARE CERTAIN SWAN ROLLS BEARING THE IDENTITY OF THE ARMS OF BLOMFIELD, BLONVILE AND BLONDEVILLE. IN 1484-3, A STATUTE OF 22, EDWARD THE 1VTH ENACTED "THAT NO ONE COULD HAVE A GAME OF SWANS" UNLESS " HE MAY DISPEND 5 MARKS A YEAR FREEHOLD"
5 MARKS IN THOSE DAYS WOULD BE EQUIVALENT TO APPROX 100 POUNDS.
MAJOR BOILEAU DISCOVERED THREE SUCH MARKS BELONGING TO THE BLONVILLE FAMILY, IN PRIVATE COLLECTIONS, IN THICKTHORN , NORWICH, GOWDY HALL, HARLESTON, HEYDON, QUEBEC HOUSE, AND EAST DEREHAM.
NO.1 " BLONVILE".
NO 2 "BLOMEVYLE
NO 3, "BLONDEVYLL.
THE ROLLS ARE NOT DATED, BUT PROBABLY BELONG TO DIFFERENT DATES IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.THE ARTISTS WERE NOT EXPERT, BUT MADE CLEAR THE DISTINGUISHING MARKS OF THE SWANS OF THE BLONVILLES, OR BLONDEVILLES, WHICH WAS FOUR CIRCLES AND A CHEVRON ON THE UPPER SIDE OF THE SWANS BILL:
SEE, "BLOMFIELD, A SUFFOLK FAMILY" BY SIR REGINALD BLOMFIELD. NO. 3.
THE COUNTING AND TALLY OF THE ROYAL SWANS
THAMES WEB CO/UK/WINDSOR UPPING..
BLOMFIELD COATS OF ARMS..
BLOMFIELD" THE STORY OF A SUFFOLK FAMILY"
Swan Upping dates from medieval times, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans at a time when swans were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts. Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked Mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were both granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century. Nowadays, the swans are counted and marked, but rarely eaten except perhaps occasionally at State Banquets.
The first swan master was appointed in 1361 and the Act of Swans in 1482 decreed that only landholders could own swans. Eventually, 900 people were granted ''swan marks'' - a carving on the swan bill that designated the ownership of semidomesticated birds allowed to range freely. Swan upping - an annual sorting out of these bill-marked birds - started about 400 years ago.