Storks capture imagination again after 600 years

Imagine a lovely village with a stream flowing in the middle- thatched houses in a row and at the top of the chimney a huge nest which welcomes storks every year. These would have been the scenes many Eastern European countries, the Netherlands and Germany would have witnessed - nesting storks bringing luck to the families in the houses.

In Britain we can finally get excited again as we have just  welcomed our first white storks in centuries amongst this lockdown. Several eggs have just hatched in early and mid May in Knepp Wildland- a nature reserve in West Sussex. The reserve has been trying for several years to rehabilitate this species with a project called White Stork Project.

More than 600 years ago, in 1416, storks were spotted breeding on Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. However persecution, habit change and hunting meant that they had become very rare.

Stork colour print 1955 -Etsy 

Storks return from migration to nest in Europe in the spring and during the autumn equinox they fly fly back to Kenya, Uganda and as for South Africa.

They have long been associated with fertility and birth because it’s exactly 9 months after they have arrived that they return. German stories told that storks found babies and would bring them in baskets to new families.

Biscuit tin 

made by Barringer, Wallis & Manners for William Crawford & Sons 1932-36

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 It’s in the 19 century with the publication of Hans Christian Anderson Fables including the storks in 1839 that the story became popular, and designs of storks and storks carrying babies were used in the decorative arts. From the mere card to biscuits tins to tiles to luxury fabrics this new imagery emerged.

Stork -vintage postcard image by riptheskull on flickr

In St Étienne , the centre of the Ribbon industry in France ribbons depicting storks were also a design that captured the imagination and were probably used to signify rebirth- regeneration and hope.

A My Billet Doux cushion made with a 2nd 1/2 19th c silk taffeta ribbon

So who else shares this excitement- 2020 has been a good year for the storks- maybe this story can help us see the light?

2nd 1/2 19th century silk taffeta ribbons from My Billet Doux archive

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