8 Annotations

First Reading

George  •  Link

It may seem strange that a flighty bird such as a pigeon was a valuable food scource especially in town where one could not go arround shooting them.
They are however an opportunist feeder and the young stay in the nest to be fed by the parents for as long as they can. At the point of fledgeing they are bigger than the parent bird and can easily be taken by hand.

Ian  •  Link


In Gascony, South West France, there are thousands of very large, beautiful, ancient stone built pigeon houses around where we live. The grander the owner, the grander the "pigeonnier", and the further away it was built from the chateau or farm house (because of the "pigeonnier's" attractiveness to rats and other vermin). Clearly, as George says, the young "squabs" provided much fresh meat during winter. Today "pigeonniers" are not much used as pigeons feed on the valuable seeds sown in winter in this mainly agrarian area, and consequently pigeons now are very unpopular with the local farmers. Presumably not a problem at all in Sam P's time.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Raising and eating pigeons

David Quidnunc  •  Link

From three annotations at the 30 June 1660 page:

" I know in those days pigeons were a hot commodity in country estates, and rules were strictly enforced as to the number of birds one could raise in accordance with the acreage of the place ..."
-- Colin Gravois

"... pigeons were kept in medieval times (and probably considerably later), as fertilizer factories. They could of course be eaten but that

dirk  •  Link


I would also like to point out that many merchants - and probably also other people with interests abroad - used to keep pigeons somewhere in the higher parts of the house (even in crowded cities), so they could exchange them with people they wanted to stay in touch with. Homing pigeons were the closest you could get in the 16th-17th century to mobile phones and emails...

And of course you also eat them. (Pigeons are still eaten on the continent today - I don't know about the UK.)

At least that was the case in continental Europe, and I suspect that it wasn't very different in Britain.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Pigeons -- medicinal use

"Pigeon posessing 'hot and moist' qualities, was an excellent antidote for the cold and dry excesses of melancholic and phlegmatic humours (Cogan, Thomas The Haven of Health London, 1584, 161, p. 134)."

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Fowl Medicine: The early modern ‘pigeon cure’
In October 1663 news spread around London that Queen Catherine was gravely ill. Fussed over by a gaggle of physicians and priests, things got so bad that Her Majesty was even given extreme unction in the expectation that she might not pull through. In an effort to turn things around, as Samuel Pepys noted in his diary on the 19th October, “pigeons were put to her feet”. In another diary entry in 1667, Pepys recorded visiting the dying husband of Kate Joyce who was in his sick bed, his breath rattling in his throat. Despairing (for good reason) for his life his family “did lay pigeons to his feet while I was in the house”.

Pigeons? Laid to the feet? Was Pepys mistaken, or was there a misunderstanding of his complicated shorthand? Actually, pigeons were a surprisingly common ‘ingredient’ in medicine and were even recommended for various conditions in the official pharmacopoeia (catalogue) of sanctioned remedies. But what were they used for, and how?

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



  • Apr