Falcons return to Stonehenge with public displays

For the Victorians, the skies above Stonehenge were a prime location for the sport of falconry.

English Heritage is reviving the tradition with public displays of historic hawking and falconry over the bank holiday weekend.

During the 19th century, the open landscape of the Salisbury Plain surrounding Stonehenge was a favoured hawking ground for the Old Hawking Club.

A peregrine falcon will be one of the birds on display at Stonehenge this bank holiday weekend (English Heritage/PA).
A peregrine falcon will be one of the birds on display at Stonehenge this bank holiday weekend (English Heritage/PA).

The army first conducted exercises on Salisbury plain in 1898, and the garrison town of Larkhill was so named due to an abundance of skylarks, making it very attractive to falconers.

From 1900, the rapid spread of army camps, rifle ranges and barbed wire restricted the activities of the club but they continued to hawk where they could in the landscape and parishes surrounding Stonehenge.

In its first series of events since lockdown, English Heritage will be hosting historic falconry events at its sites across the country this September, starting with Stonehenge and including Dover Castle and Eltham Palace.

Jenny Davies, from English Heritage, said: “We are delighted to bring back falconry to Stonehenge for this special bank holiday event, and to be able to recreate yet another element of Stonehenge’s fascinating and eclectic recent history.

“For our visitors and members, events are such a feature of an English Heritage summer, and although we haven’t been able to host our usual programme across the country due to coronavirus restrictions, falconry lends itself really well to social distancing, as the whole sky is the stage.”