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Histories of Windsor

Swan Upping

Annual 'Swan Marking' on the Thames by the Vintners' Company,
The Dyers' Company and The Monarch's Swan Marker

DATES The Swan Upping event takes place in July each year, commencing on the third Monday at Sunbury and ending at Abingdon on the Friday. Lower down on this page you will find a Typical Timetable for the week. To go there now, click here

For dates this year please see
the web site of the
Queen's Swan Marker
Dates are not normally announced until the early Spring

Swan Upping fleet departs from Eton College Boathouses, July 2000

The Swan Upping Fleet prepare to depart from
Eton College boathouses, 9.00am, 18th July 2000

The Swan Uppers set off from Windsor

The Swan Uppers set off from Windsor

The flotilla of Swan Uppers boats in Romney Lock Cut on the River Thames
at Windsor in the late 1940s. Note the flag featuring GR (centre right) indicating that
George VI (George Rex) was king at the time.

The photograph above records a ceremony associated with Swan Upping for many years,
where the Vintners and Dyers Companies stand to drink a toast to the Monarch
after passing through Romney Lock, the nearest lock to Windsor Castle, with the words:

"His/Her Majesty The King/Queen, Seigneur of the Swans."

Click here for the Loyal Toast illustrated in 2001


Brief History

For more comprehensive information see Swan Upping History

Swan Upping dates from medieval times, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans at a time when swans were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts. Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked Mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were both granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century. Nowadays, the swans are counted and marked, but rarely eaten except perhaps occasionally at State Banquets.

The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, accompanied by the Swan Uppers of the Vinters' and Dyers' livery companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five day journey upstream as far as Abingdon. By tradition, scarlet uniforms are worn by The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies their appropriate flags and pennants.

Swan Upping on the Thames at Windsor around 1908

Swan round up

The swans are 'rounded up'...

In the above picture the flag flying on the right hand boat features an 'E' and 'VII' so this picture was taken during the reign of Edward VII [1901-1910]. The king's Swan Master would travel in this boat. These pictures date from around 1908 as the picture below also features the Thames Hotel, extreme right, which was constructed at about that time.

Swans are caught that the swans can be caught...

Swans ready for ringing

...ready for ringing.


Monitoring the Swans Welfare

Swans at Windsor Reach - July 2000

Swans at Windsor Reach - July 2000

The Queen's Swan Marker produces a report at the completion of Swan Upping each year, which provides data on the number of swans accounted for, including broods and cygnets. The cygnets are weighed and measured to obtain estimates of growth rates, and the birds are examined for any sign of injury (commonly caused by fishing hooks and line). The cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, whose role is scientific and non-ceremonial.

Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties: he advises local organisations throughout the country on swan welfare and incidents involving swans, he monitors the health of local swan populations, and he briefs fishing and boating organisations on how to work with existing wildlife and maintain existing natural habitats. He works closely with swan rescue organisations and carries out the rescue of sick and injured swans when relevant, and coordinates the removal of swans from stretches of the river Thames used for summer rowing regattas.

The following Press Release
was issued in 2002 and is included here for reference

Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on certain stretches of the River Thames, was announced today by David Barber, The Queen's Swan Marker. 
The ceremony of Swan Upping dates from the twelfth century and takes place during the third week of July each year.  It has always been the duty of the Sovereign's Swan Marker to count the young cygnets each year and to ensure that the swan population is maintained.  With the assistance of the Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, the swans are also given a health check.
Announcing the dates for Swan Upping, David Barber said:

"There has been a significant increase in the number of breeding pairs nesting this year, with cygnets hatching earlier than usual.  Fortunately the swans have avoided the spring floods that have washed away many nests in previous years. 
  Vandalism has once again taken its toll on the swan population as nests have been destroyed and eggs broken.  These incidents occur mainly where the swans have nested in unsuitable locations within easy reach of riverside towns.
  Fishing hooks and line are a significant factor in the injuries and deaths of many young cygnets. Discarded fishing tackle poses a severe threat of drowning and ingested hooks and line cause immense suffering which often results in death.
  The dedication and vigilance shown by swan rescue organisations, combined with the support of the public and the work of the Environment Agency, is helping to maintain swan numbers. 
  Conservation continues to play a vital role in the ceremony of Swan Upping.  It collates important data that reflects the enormous changes in the river's environment over past years, and a greater awareness of methods of conservation has resulted in a higher level of protection for the swans.
  Education will play an important role in Royal Swan Upping this year and several schools will be visiting the banks of the River Thames. This educational programme will give young children an insight into how to protect the welfare of the swans.
  Children from local schools will accompany the Swan Uppers as they carry out the swan census and health checks.  They will have the opportunity to learn the history of Swan Upping and to understand the conservational impact of the ceremony today.
  I hope this will increase their awareness of the value of our wildlife and import a sense of the respect with which it should be treated."

Local schools seeking further information should contact the Swan Marker's office on 01628-523030.

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A Typical Timetable for Swan Upping on the Thames.
This normally takes place during the third week of July .

Monday Sunbury Lock 09.00 (Departure point)
Shepperton Lock 10.45
Penton Hook Lock 12.30
Romney Lock 17.30
Tuesday Eton College Boat House  09.00 (Departure point)
Boveney Lock 10.15
Boulters Lock 13.30
Marlow Lock 17.45
Wednesday Marlow Bridge 09.15 (Departure point)
Hurley Lock 10.30
Hambleden Lock 11.45
Henley Town 13.30
Marsh Lock 16.30
Thursday Sonning-on-Thames 09.00 (Departure point)
Caversham Lock 10.30
Mapledurham Lock 12.45
Goring Lock 17.30
Friday Moulsford 09.00 (Departure point)
Benson Lock 10.15
Culham Lock 16.00
Abingdon Bridge 17.15

1940s Skiffs in Romney Lock Cut

1940s. Part of the flotilla rows upstream from Romney Lock

The Vintners Company skiff. July 2000. Note the Swan feather in the cox's cap!


Swan Upping July 2000 In Pictures

Swan Upping History

News of The Regal Swan Project, Florida, USA

News Stories Home Page

River Thames Home Page

Royal Windsor Home Page

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