Thursday, September 24, 2020

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

Pigeon post

This surprising little building is a pigeon loft. It would not have been so surprising in Bliston in the 1920s when it was built, because keeping pigeons was popular in the area and this loft belonged to a well known local pigeon fancier, Charlie Purslow, whose birds were famous for winning prizes.* Charlie Purslow (1906–98) raced pigeons for some 70 years, and won prizes over most of that period. During World War II he was in the National Pigeon Service, which used the birds’ remarkable homing ability to send messages behind enemy lines.

To keep his thirty or so birds, he did not need anything elaborate – his wooden loft was made for him by a work colleague. Charlie repainted it every year, limewashing the brick plinth on which it stands, and renewing the black and white stripes of the wooden structure itself. I don’t know why he used black and white stripes. Was it thought that the birds could locate it more easily if it was painted in this pattern? It certainly stands out at the Black County Living Museum. Is there no aspect of Black Country life that they don’t cover?

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* Pigeon-keeping has a long history. The Romans used the birds for carrying messages, there were postal services that used pigeons in the 19th century, and pigeon racing became popular in the late-19th century.


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