Peacocks have been in the news this week. Firstly there was
the mischievous peacock causing mayhem in a Derbyshire village, then we heard
about Henry the peacock who was so tired of being the only male in a flock of
peahens (exhausting work!) that he flew away for some rest.
The peacock is a familiar sight at many of our stately homes
in the UK. The one at the top was displaying for us at Corsham Court in Wiltshire. The peacock is a native bird to India and was probably introduced into
Britain by the Romans. It has many sacred connotations. The name derives from the Old English. The earliest
example of it referred to in writing comes from 1300: “Foure and xxti wild ges
and a poucock.” In the 14th century Chaucer first used the word to
describe ostentatious people who strutted about and it still carries this
meaning to this day. In art a peacock feather in a painting was used as a
symbol of pride and vanity.
I’ve been trying to discover how peacocks first became
associated with stately homes. Perhaps it was their
designer plumage that the
lord of the manor first identified with. Or perhaps it was simply that they
were popular to eat at medieval banquets and a peacock on a table was a sign of
The other notable thing about peacocks is their call, a
mournful cry you often hear echoing around the gardens at mansions or haunting
the ruins of castles. When we went to Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire earlier
this year the cry of the peacocks as they perched on the walls seemed perfect
to the setting of a half-ruined Elizabethan mansion. Above is a picture of the bad-tempered Kirby peacock which would try to bite you if you got too close!
Labels: Corsham Court, Kirby Hall, Peacocks