The Raven in the Bailey

ravenKnaresborough Castle, North Yorkshire: ‘Why would they keep ravens at a castle?’ I ask Isabella, Her Majesty’s Keeper of the Ravens, Duchy of Lancaster, ‘because they did from back in medieval times?’

She explains that there is no documentary evidence to suggest that anyone was paid specifically for the role at the Tower of London in medieval times; it appears to be a story told by the Victorians to visitors to the Tower but perhaps they had some inkling of a genuine tradition.

There are plenty of legends; ravens were sacred to Brân the Blessed of Celtic legend whose head was said to have been buried on Tower Hill, long before William the Conquerer built his bastion there. There’s a nice story that the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, begged Charles II to employ someone to control the ravens at the Tower that were leaving their droppings on his telescope.

Door in the keep, Knaresborough Castle.
Door in the keep, Knaresborough Castle.

Perhaps ravens were valued for the work they did in scavenging around castles.

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