Peacocks have been a feature of our Victorian Aviary Garden from the start. In our first submission to the Chelsea panel, when the garden was called “A Bird Lover’s Garden”, we had Peacock chairs on the Aviary terrace. The idea of the chairs didn’t survive the first draft but the peacock imagery re-emerged when Maggy Howarth designed her lovely peacock mosaic for the pathway leading to the aviary. Today we have learned that the aviary which inspired ours, the one at Waddesdon Manor, was built in honour of a visit in 1889 by the Shah of Persia, the occupier of the Peacock Throne. The Shah’s host was Baron Frederick de Rothschild, who completed the magnificent rococco structure just in time for the Shah’s visit. This is how the aviary was described by the Bucks Advertiser at the time:
“The enlarged Aviary was only completed just before the Shah’s visit and is now a little showground in itself. There is a superb collection of birds such as parrots, doves and pheasants of the brightest plumage, and with every arrangement for their well being in the shape of lofty caged enclosures. The aviary surpasses that of the Zoological gardens…”
It’s good to think that, however inadvertently, this peacock imagery has been carried forward over 121 years.
My thanks to an article by Sophieke Piebenga in the Historic Gardens Review for these fascinating details.