November 11th 2017 British Archives of Falconry opens its new building

On November 11th, the British Archives of Falconry formally opened its new exhibition facility, attracting falconers from around the world to share in celebrations. This not only formed Britain’s contribution for the 2017 World Falconry Day, but also commemorated the foundation of the British Falconers’ Club’s 90 years earlier to the day. The event began for a number of visitors with flights – sadly, for most of them, these were on aircraft, but a small hawking party did manage to take to the field to enjoy the sport we had gathered to celebrate.

We were delighted to welcome HE Majid Al Mansouri, International Association of Falconry Vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa and Executive Director of the Emirates Falconers’ Club, and Lt Col Kent Carnie, founder and Curator Emeritus of The Archives of Falconry in Idaho. Other overseas visitors included Dick ten Bosch from the Netherlands, Klaus and Elisabeth Leix from Germany and Gary Timbrell from Ireland. A whole host of falconers, young and old, from all over Britain were also able to attend, and the atmosphere of positive enthusiasm for the Archives’ work was incredible.

The exhibition was filled almost to its rafters with art and artefacts celebrating Britain’s falconry heritage, focusing primarily on the host county of Wiltshire’s particularly prestigious history of the sport. Items from the Archives’ ever-expanding collection were complemented by exhibits on loan from keen collectors of objects linked to our shared passion. There were scarce and beautifully bound treatises on the sport, hawking diaries, items of furniture belonging to some of British falconry’s best-known names and a striking collection of artwork including original works by George Lodge, Ron David Digby and Richard Treleaven. A lovely collection of images of falconers spanning many generations, arrayed along the stairs leading to the main exhibit, occasionally caused tailbacks in accessing the main collection as many guests stopped to pause and reflect on those they knew, those they may have liked to have met and, in some cases, images of their younger selves.

The formal opening incorporated speeches from Founding Director Mark Upton, Honorary Patron Kent Carnie, local MP Robert Buckland and falconers John Loft and Elisabeth Leix, of the BFC and Deutscher Falkenorden respectively. All reflected on the achievements of the British Archives of Falconry and upon the significance, to falconers near and far and indeed the wider world, of the 1,500 year heritage it represents. Following the speeches, guests were welcome to enjoy refreshments, hosted in a nearby barn displaying further information on falconry heritage, and to partake in a get-together with like-minded friends whilst continuing to explore the fascinating items on display.

With so many falconers of all ages present, the evening offered great opportunities to recall old memories and more recent ones of falconers, of hawks and of days afield. Falconers who personally knew the greats of the Victorian and Edwardian era were known by, and passed their memories on to, some of the more senior falconers present; those current falconers in turn were able to pass their experiences onto the younger generation present, and so the evening was, in many ways, an example of our living heritage in action.

The gathering was conscious of the very recent loss of Roger Upton MBE, whose pioneering work in the field of falconry heritage was the original inspiration for all of the British Archives’ Directors and many others worldwide. His immense influence and enthusiasm was very much in evidence amongst all present and, whilst we will all sadly miss his companionship, guidance and example, we carry on his endeavours with grateful thanks for everything he did for our sport. By making our collections more accessible, the new premises will hopefully encourage and enable future generations of falconers to pick up the torch Roger kindled in all of us, and to pass on that same love of falconry’s long, distinguished role in Britain’s cultural heritage to those who follow them.

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