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Falconer and the Talbot Vervel Photo: Kevin Hale, Flickr / PASFalconer and the Talbot Vervel Photo: Kevin Hale, Flickr / PAS

The Talbot Vervel

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Shropshire Council’s museum service has acquired a remarkable find by local metal detectorist, Frank Taylor – a small hoop and shield that gives us a glimpse into the life of the Earl of Shrewsbury around 380 years ago.

Although small, this hoop and shield are inscribed with the name IOHN TALBOT (John Talbot) and emblazoned with a hound or ‘talbot passant’ which was the family crest of the Earls of Shrewsbury. The design and style of the lettering suggests that the owner was probably Sir John Talbot, 10th Earl of Shrewsbury (1601-54).

Vervel of John Talbot - Earl of Shrewsbury. Image: Portable Antiquites Scheme

Vervel of John Talbot - Earl of Shrewsbury. Image: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Sir John Talbot inherited the title, Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1630, a title which became somewhat disgraced by the family’s connections with Catholicism and involvement with the Gunpowder Plot. The family owned a significant estate at Pepperhill, Albrighton, not far from the field where Frank made his discovery.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and leisure, said:

“Frank Taylor has been very supportive of the museum service for over thirty years and has, with the agreement of the landowners, donated many of his finds. Working with responsible metal detectorists like Frank helps us to research and display fascinating insights into Shropshire’s past. It is crucial to our work.”

Vervels are small inscribed tags which were worn on a hawk’s leg to attach leather jesses

Frank took his find to be recorded and identified by Peter Reavill, Finds Liasion Officer for Herefordshire and Shropshire as a vervel.  Vervels are small inscribed tags which were worn on a hawk’s leg to attach leather jesses. These tags are often inscribed with the owners name, residence or coat of arms [often the coat of arms was placed on the vervel as not all the locals would have been able to read].

Emma-Kate Lanyon, Curator with Shropshire Council’s museums service, said:

In broad terms a vervel fulfils the same function as modern racing pigeon rings. If a valuable bird was lost whilst hunting it could be identified and returned to the owner. Falconry was a sport for nobility and rings similar to this at the British Museum belonged to King Charles II. The discovery of this example in a field in the adjacent parish to the home of the Earl of Shrewsbury fits well with a loss whilst out enjoying the hunt and gives us a glimpse into the life of a family which has been at the heart of political affairs in the county from medieval times.”

At the moment museum staff are working to develop the seventeenth century displays for the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery which is due to open in 2012. Hopefully, the verval will be displayed here as part of the story of Shropshire during this period.

Leather jesses. Photo: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

Leather jesses. Photo: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

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