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Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.701

Francis Henry Salvin to John Hancock (12 May 1871)

Salvin describes a visit, with Colonel Radcliffe, to the home of the Maharajah Duleep Singh in Norfolk, commenting on his collection of live birds. He then covers a number of unrelated topics including the purchase of a set of pruning saws and his pet monkey, Oko Jumbo.




address Whitmoor House


May 12th. 1871

Wrote to Capt. S

On the 22d. May 1871 [Hancock’s hand in pencil]

My dear Sir,

As I have some things to tell you that will interest you I think I cannot do better than begin now that I have a little time.  I am on a visit to H. H. The Maharajah. He bought this place in Norfolk some four or five years since.  The House has been refaced & added to & is in the Italian style, but the [p.2] inside inside is in the Indian [1 word crossed out] & very rich in ornament.  What however would please you most is the collection of live birds.  Parrots &c are flying about at large all the summer. The Australian piping Crow has quite established a colony having bred & reared its young. The Capercailzie [sic Capercaillie] & Black Cock ditto.  There is a good collection of the new pheasants and amongst other things there is a bird [p.3] (the Californian Rail) which lays a most extraordinary egg being plum=coloured & just as bright as if it had been varnished.

Colonel Radcliffe is here from India where he has been a most successful Falconer.  He is a very good naturalist & it would almost take a volume to tell you all I have picked up from him.  He has brought over a beautiful little Falcon nearly related to the Peregrine but less, & larger than the Barbary Falcon[;] it is called the [p.4] Red naped Shaheen F. Babylonicus.  I have got a list of the Hawks used in Falconry in India & I find there are some not represented here, these are called Hawk Eagles & are something like very large Goshawks.  How I should like one for Hare Hawking!

What are you now doing? I can highly recommend “Ibbotson’s curved pruning saws” which are drawn towards you.  A set consists of 3 viz a small hand one for shrubs or small branches, a large hand one, & a pole saw.  They go rapidly thro’ [p.5] a wonderfully large branch or even a good sized Tree.  All my firewood is cut by the large curved hand saw.  They are like this

[drawing of two hand saws in ink]

This is the makers address

Mr Ibbotson

Cutler etc

36 Whitechapel


You can mention my name if you like –

“Oko Jumbo” The monkey is flourishing.  He rides a dog.  By the bye Mr Simmonds [p.6] promised to write to me & tell me how he was getting on with his Hawks in Rome but has not done so.  Do you know how he has succeeded?

You got me a case made to pack the Icelander & Raven.  I wish you would be so kind as to see it packed & sent off to Elveden to this addressed

H. H. The Maharajah

Duleep Singh



Glass with

great care


Any news will be acceptable & believe me | Yrs very truly | F.H. Salvin [signature]

PS.  I forgot to tell you about two stuffed birds which are curious.  One is a young Grouse shot in Scotland with a perfect tuft or topknot on its head & breast.  The other is an Iceland Falcon with one wing exactly the colour of the Greenland Falcon.

Let me know what I owe you for the packing case?



Capt. Salvin

Whitmoor House  [Hancock’s hand]





1.  Francis Henry Salvin (1817-1904), authority on Falconry and Cormorant fishing, born at Croxdale Hall, County Durham. He joined the 3rd battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment in 1839, retiring with the rank of Captain in 1864.

In 1857, he inherited an old Tudor mansion called Sutton Place, near Guilford from his uncle but preferred to live more modestly at Whitmoor House in nearby Woking.

He was a prominent member of the old Hawking Club which met on the Wiltshire downs; contributing frequently to the “Field” on Falconry and collaborated on two publications.

As well as his monkey, Salvin kept pet otters and a pet pig named “Lady Susan” at his home in Woking. He was an exponent of the old sport of fishing with Cormorants and when his famous Cormorant, ‘Izaak Walton’ died he gave it to John Hancock to join his collection of stuffed birds.

2.  His Royal Highness the Maharaja Dalip Singh, (1838, Lahore – 1893, Paris, France), commonly called Duleep Singh and later in lifenicknamed the Black Prince of Perthshire, was the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire.

He was exiled to Britain at the age of thirteen following the British annexation of the Punjab and famously made to present the Kohinoor Diamond, which had been in his family’s possession, to Queen Victoria as decreed in the Treaty of Lahore.

Duleep Singh lived at the country estate of Elveden on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, close to Thetford, from 1863.

3.  The Australian Piping Crow is a black and white Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen the size of a small crow. It is a good mimic and is often kept in aviaries.

4.  “Californian Rail?” Possibly the Clapper Rail Rallus longirostris which lays purple-spotted buff coloured eggs.

5.  Lieutenant Colonel Emilius Charles Delme-Radcliffe (of the 88th Indian Regiment) (1833-1907) an experienced Anglo-Indian falconer who wrote a small pamphlet ‘Falconry: Notes on the Falconidae used in India in Falconry’ published in1871.

His Falcon the Red-naped Shaheen Falco pelegrinoides babylonicus was a favourite game hawk of Indian Falconers.

6.  The Iceland Falcon now known as the Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus.