Bempton Cliffs, on the spectacular Yorkshire coast, is home to half a million seabirds who gather to raise a family overlooking the North Sea. But it's also where Victorian plumage hunters once stalked the kittiwake population – all for the millinery trade, and women's hats. Emily Williamson's RSPB bird protection campaign ultimately helped save Britain's seabirds from becoming fashion accessories.
It's the first important stop in our Emily maquettes tour. From 10am to 4pm, campaign Chair Andrew Simcock will be encouraging visitors to examine the four beautiful bronzes of the RSPB's inspirational founder. Cast your vote, chat about the campaign, and get your children involved with our free activity booklets. We want to hear what they think!
From the mid-19th century, Flamborough Head was besieged by day-tripping plumage hunters for kittiwake. The millinery industry used seabird wings and feathers by the ton, and there was good money to be made by hunters. All you needed was a boat and a gun. But by 1892, a professional hunter complained to The Times of the effect that Emily's Society for the Protection of Birds was having (founded 1889). He would normally hunt kittiwake gulls by the thousand for their black-tipped wings; a single order from a plumage dealer might demand 8,000 at a time. ‘This year I have not shot one sea swallow,’ he said. ‘This ladies’ association has stopped the demand.’
If Yorkshire is too far to travel, catch up with the Emily Williamson maquettes at another RSPB reserve over the summer and into autumn. Voting ends 31 October 2021.
THURS 12 AUGUST Saltholme, Middlesbrough
TUES 17 AUGUST The Lodge Nature Reserve & Gardens, Sandy, Bedfordshire
THURS 19 AUGUST Dungeness, Kent
TUES 24 AUGUST Minsmere, Suffolk
WEDS 8 SEPTEMBER Leighton Moss, Lancashire (Emily's birthplace)
TUES 14 SEPTEMBER South Stacks, Anglesey, Wales (date TBC)
FRI 8 OCTOBER Loch Leven, Perth, Scotland (date TBC)
SUN 10 OCTOBER Belfast Window on Wildlife, Northern Ireland (date TBC)
MONDAY 18 OCT - SUNDAY 31 OCTOBER Manchester Art Gallery together with portraits, RSPB photographs, plus a programme of talks and children's activities.