Inspiration


Swans of Wells sculpture with the resident swans of Wells at the gatehouse bell behind
    
Swans have been synonymous with Wells in Somerset for centuries, where resident swans patrol the stunning 13th century Bishop's Palace, which has been home to the Bishop of Bath and Wells for over 800 years.

The swans of Wells
have the unusual habit of ringing a bell by the Palace drawbridge to ask for food.  This unusual spectacle started 200 years ago, when the daughter of an 19th century Bishop taught her favourite swan to ring the gatehouse bell for scraps of food, a technique that has been passed down the swan generations!

Click here to see YouTube footage of the swans ringing the bell


With swans also traditionaly a royal bird, the trail of 60 stunning swan sculptures will be a very fitting celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with each of the 60 swans representing a year of the Queen's reign.


The original bell-ringing swan can still be seen today, displayed in a glass case at the Wells Museum!






Historically, the crown of England owns all unmarked swans in open waters, however Queen Elizabeth II only exercises her right on stretches of the River Thames. In the past, swans were seen as a delicacy and would be fattened up and served at banquets and feasts. Centuries ago, an unauthorised person caught killing a swan could be sentenced to transportation for seven years and even up to 1895 people could be sentenced to seven years' hard labour.

The first Royal Swan Keeper was appointed in the 12th Century and today the swans are looked after by the Swan Marker.  The birds are rounded up during Swan Upping, a five-day census of the River Thames's swan population, when the new season's cygnets are marked and counted.



While carrying out the Upping the Queen's Swan Marker and Uppers wear scarlet uniforms and fly a royal flag from their boats. As they row past Windsor Castle they stand to attention in their boats with their oars raised in salute to the Queen.
 David Barber, the Queen's Swan Marker  
Swan Upping taking place in 2007
Swan Upping on the River Thames


The resident swans of Wells - the inspiration for the Swans of Wells 2012 public art event