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  • Christopher Williams

Dealing with the pigeons in the church tower 90 years ago …



 

Edward (Ted) Morris* recalled in 1991 how the problems caused by the pigeons were handled in the 1930s…

 

 ‘While Assistant Tower-Keeper in the 1930s, I was asked by the Vicar (Rev. W.P. Cole Sheane, 1923-1949) to examine the inside of the roof, which no-one other than workmen had visited for years, and report to him on its state from the point of view of dirt, rubbish and pigeons’ droppings. The amount of the latter was horrifying because for years and years the birds had had completely free access to the Tower and the roof.

 

‘The Vicar found a London firm specialising in pigeon clearance and he asked me to open up the Tower so that the operation could be undertaken. It was one dark winter evening when the man appeared with a van, dozens of sacks and a rifle fitted with a telescopic sight and silencer, and he forbade me to follow him into the roof. There was then no electricity up the Tower stairs or in the bell chamber; he had just one powerful torch. Down below I could hear him padding about above, and his frequent muffled shots.

 

‘Finally he came down with the sack of bodies which he loaded into his van. He then spent a good half hour picking off with deadly aim those pigeons that had been disturbed and were perched on and around the roof. The man told me that the dead birds would be taken to the Zoo next day for food for the animals. The Vicar swore me to secrecy as he did not wish to be confronted by bird lovers. I suppose that the exterminator’s fee appeared in the accounts, somewhere or somehow – perhaps from the Vicar’s Discretionary Fund.’

 

 

 

*Footnotes

 

Ted Morris wrote in 1991 to Donald Simpson, the first St Mary’s archivist, following his request to record as much as Ted could remember about alterations and repairs during his time as a bell-ringer over the very long period from 1922 to 1980.

 

In 1977 he had written a 40-page booklet, The Bells of St. Mary’s Twickenham, as one of the Twickenham Local History publications, and the church archives have a folder of his documents relating to the history of St Mary’s bells.

 

He had a wide knowledge of the history of Twickenham and was a longstanding member of the York House Society, its Chairman 1973-1976 and President 1986-1997. He died in 1997.

 

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A more humane way of preventing pigeons from damaging the tower fabric has been completed this year (2024). Look (it) up

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