Something worth crowing about: our new Poultry Archive project

Various chickens on a blank background.

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new project to develop and explore some of our poultry-related archive collections! Whether your interest is professional, amateur or just beginning, we will have delights from our archives and library aplenty for you over the coming months.

Thanks to the generous support of the Poultry Club of Great Britain, we have already acquired the David Scrivener Poultry Collection. We are also working in partnership with the Poultry Club to locate records relating to the Club’s administration and activities. By working together we have the opportunity not only to preserve the heritage of pure and rare breed poultry but to bring it to a wider audience.

The David Scrivener Collection consists of his extensive library plus an archive of journals, yearbooks, postcards and cigarette cards, some of which are over 100 years old. An experienced poultry keeper, David Scrivener was the author of several books on the subject including Starting with Bantams (2002), Exhibition Poultry Keeping (2005), Rare Poultry Breeds (2006) and Popular Poultry Breeds (2009). In addition, Scrivener acted as a judge at shows for the Poultry Club of Great Britain and served at various times as Chairman, Honorary Historian and Patron of the Rare Poultry Society. The collection will be catalogued and rehoused, plus digitised images will be created and made available online.

A watercolour painting of a mid-twentieth century car converted into a chicken coop, with a man smoking a pipe doing a thumbs-up next to it. The caption reads: 'The car's made a top-hole run!'
A postcard depicting a cockerel in front of a sunrise over green fields. Text next to the cockerel reads 'This place is worth crowing about!' and some text at the bottom reads 'Greetings from new Haven, Conn.'

On the back of the exploratory work carried out so far we have received gifts of further poultry-related material.

Will Burdett’s association with the Poultry Club covered 46 years from joining as a member in 1946 to his many positions on the governing body of the Club until 1992.  The material includes:

  • good runs of Poultry Club Show Catalogues, 1973-2007
  • Poultry Club Yearbooks, 1923-1989
  • International Poultry Show catalogues, 1946-68
  • Royal Dairy Show Catalogues, 1950-1968
  • Poultry Fancier journal, 1953-1970
  • regional Show Catalogues
  • and rare breed societies yearbooks.

In most cases these runs are incomplete and we would be pleased to fill these gaps. The collection also includes some of Will Burdett’s personal papers relating to the Poultry Keeping Course he undertook at the School of Husbandry in London and to his role as Keeper of the Queen Mother’s Buff Orpingtons from 1978-1992.

A selection of books from the Burdett collection in the Poultry Archive. All are books from the 1950s and 1960s lying on a black background.

From Malcolm Thompson we have the kind gift of a full run of Poultry Club newsletters from 1973 to 2014.

A deposit from James Wilson Harvey supplied us with his boyhood memories of poultry farming between the wars alongside documents relating to the business of Frank Harvey, a poultry breeder of utility stock at Bretherton Poultry Farm.

The oldest item so far in the collection has come from Mr Jim Owen.  It is a Crystal Palace Poultry, Rabbit & Pigeon Show Catalogue of 1896. We are very grateful to have this and would be delighted to hear about catalogues of a similar nature.

Updates on the project and its discoveries will appear on social media, plus we will explore the collection through various community engagement initiatives to bring enjoyment and knowledge to many people. Having already immersed ourselves in all things poultry by attending last year’s Poultry Club National Show, we are excited to be furthering our commitment to our domestic fowl.

We would be pleased to hear from you if you are willing to donate material which complements these collections. You can contact us via merl@reading.ac.uk or leave a comment on this blog.

In 2016, The MERL’s Library Team entered our Heritage Lottery Fund-ed MERL in Film project, a competition open to all to create films inspired by the themes of our collections. Animals are a significant aspect of the countryside of course, and our Library Team made their film about chickens and poultry in the MERL library. Watch the film here, enjoy and crack up laughing!

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One thought on “Something worth crowing about: our new Poultry Archive project”

  1. As anChairman and president of pure poultry breed clubs I am very interested in this project. Please put me on any mailing lists you prepare and keep me updated on all poultry matters.
    When things are organised I would love to visit.
    Colin Murton

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