Panel 1. Local Identities 

Rupert de la Bère and the Cranwellian Cranes

Melanie Jackson, Department of Arts & Humanities, Bishop Grosseteste University, UK

This paper will explore the significance of the crane in a unique local and historical context. The crane is a tall, long-legged, and long-necked bird, often noted for its elaborate courtship dances. It was once fairly common across lowland Britain, hunted, and eaten at feasts. By the early sixteenth century it faced extinction, but has recently been re-established. In mythology and symbolism, the crane is a messenger of the gods, a herald of death or war, and an intermediary between heaven and earth, and has been associated with qualities including goodness, happiness, immortality, longevity, loyalty, prosperity, protective motherhood, and vigilance. The crane is associated with numerous place-names, of which the association with the village of Cranwell, Lincolnshire, is distinct. From February 1920, Cranwell became a key location for the newly-formed Royal Air Force, with aspirations for excellence in the training of flight cadets. In 1930, Rupert de la Bère, Professor of English and History at the Cadet College, wrote about the College’s new armorial bearings, which, with reference to an historical account of Cranwell village, included three cranes with wings outstretched or volant. This description, highlighting the connection between Cranwell, the crane, and the Royal Air Force Cadet College, was included in the College Journal, where poems about cranes also featured. This paper will further explore the above, and will be supported by work being undertaken at RAF Cranwell as part of a funded PhD project focussing on Rupert de la Bère’s work as Editor of the College Journal, 1921-1938.

The Cuckoo’s Leah: Birds, Naming, Belonging and Place in Early Medieval England

Michael J Warren, Independent Researcher, UK

This paper proposes that Old English place-names and references to boundary clauses in legal charters not only reveal a great deal about pre-modern ornithological knowledge but, more significantly, are highly under-studied sources for understanding the nuances of ecological relationships by which early medieval people defined place and their connections to place. Birds, which is by far the best represented of all wild fauna in English place-names--are remarkable indicators of local, intimate experiences with the place, suggesting how people conceptualized space as identified, named place. Birds, moreover, reveal to us how medieval geographical concepts may have been considerably more fluid and imaginative than our own. After all, birds are so often mobile, transient and often even absent for large parts of the year. Their repeated presence in Old English place-names, though, may suggest ways of understanding and confirming a 'sense of place' that included the dynamism and impermanence of nonhuman beings alongside more usual static, permanent elements. Birds' flight and song--key avian characteristics--are integral aspects of pre-modern spatial concepts, as indicated by the names of our towns and villages which remain with us to this day.