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January 2007 Show was the memorial show of the late Victor Carr,

9ct Gold and silver medals awarded in the 1930s


The National British Bird & Mule Club


VICTOR CARR died in January 2006. Ten years earlier, he had put pen to paper to record his memories of one of the foremost organisations in British aviculture; the National British Bird & Mule Club (NBB&MC). He was uniquely fitted to do so. Not only was he one of the most influential British bird fanciers of the 20th century his father, Percy, was equally prominent before him, having begun keeping native birds in the late 1800s.


Victor was chairman of the NBB&MC from for 25 years, until 1999. Anybody who is anybody in the British bird fancy has belonged to the club and he recalled many names from the past, including that of Walter Lewis who, as well as being the leading breeder and authority of his day, was one of the great secretaries of the NBB&MC until his death in the late 1980s.


Around 1980, Walter Lewis, wrote about NBB&MC members he had known and recalled some of their winning birds. Both Victor Carr and Walter Lewis wrote definitive books on British birds.


Here, Roy Stringer, an ex-president of the National British Bird & Mule Club, brings their notes together. (end of introduction)


Victor Carr wrote:

“THE National British Bird & Mule Club was founded in 1896. Its first secretary was John Frostick. He remained secretary until 1900, at which point the membership was more than 200.


Mr. Frostick organised and ran the first specialist show of British and foreign birds at the Crystal Palace in 1898, where he showed a tree creeper, the second of its kind ever exhibited. He also kept a Dartford warbler for 9 years which created a record for the number of firsts and specials won by a single bird.

It was a London-based society founded on a need for comradeship and to provide an avenue for information, advice, exchange of birds and, perhaps, just gossip. The club formulated rules of conduct, show standards and organised bird watching outings.


W.A. Lott succeeded as secretary followed by Plumbridge and J. Carr. In 1917, E. Stephens took over. Then came Parker Robinson, Brian Armstrong, the Mason brothers and F. Mattingley.


I cannot remember exactly when I became a member by paying the half-a-crown (12½ p) annual subscription. There were no reductions for juveniles or OAPs in those days. But I do remember attending an AGM held at the old Crystal Palace National Exhibition which, incidentally, burnt down in 1936.


Activities ceased during the Second World War (1939-45), then Mr.  & Mrs. R. Perry carried the club on to 1954, when Walter Lewis took over. His sister D. Lewis held the reins after Walter’s death. The present secretary is Yvonne Broadbent.


One treasurer, named Trower, was a seed merchant and he left the club £100 in his will. This was soon swallowed up in honorariums without being put to use to attract new members. It was when Walter Lewis was elected secretary/treasurer that the Club was raised to new heights in membership and finance.


Many well-known fanciers were associated with the club and I remember Allen Silver, an expert on foreign birds and British birds; Ralph Pearce, famous for his light mules during the 1930s and George Weston, an all-rounder judge of renown. He was chairman of the NBB&MC for many years; a journalist and show manager of the National Exhibition at Olympia. As chairman, he was followed by John Parfitt.


I can remember 16 of the club’s officials (out of 35) who served during 1928-29. Of the 36 who served in1937-38 I remember 31.


I can remember the occasional All-British Show in the 1930s, but they became more popular after 1946; the first being sponsored by Hounslow CBS the strongest club in the south of England at the time, with many members interested in British birds.


Fred Harding, Ernie Lewis and George Lynch (all extremely well-known fanciers) ran the show for several years. When it became no longer viable for the Hounslow club to run the show the NBB&MC committee took over and, for economic reasons, moved the show to the Midlands.


NBB&MC produced a list of British birds that were eligible for exhibition and granted patronage. In the early days, patronage was awarded partly on merit, partly on geographical location and the appointment of a judge of experience and integrity.


This patronage encouraged members to exhibit their British birds and points were awarded from 7 to 1 according to their placings. These points were added together over the whole of a show season and those with more than 500 points were awarded a gold medal. Those with more than 250 points won a silver medal. Hardbills and softbills were treated separately and those with most points over a three year period won silver cups outright. The ease of exhibiting far and wide was wonderful and cheap thanks to an excellent rail service.

I can remember many fanciers of distinction, some of whom exhibited near-perfect specimens; Bert Chard, G. Wilkes, Mrs. Wallace, W. Naismith, Clark, Watt, Arnott, Baxter and many others from Scotland. Minshall, Pullinger, Harris, Sibley – they have all left their marks and their memory means something.”


Walter Lewis


Walter Lewis wrote:

“FAMOUS exhibition birds are always remembered. In the early 1930s I took a great interest in all exhibitions of cage birds with my late brother, Stan. Good exhibition birds were owned by fewer people than today and it was often a foregone conclusion who was going to win. If a well-known winner was beaten by a comparatively unknown bird, we certainly took notice.


One of the best show reporters in the Midlands was W.G. Poole who covered all sections. George Weston reported on many shows in the South and a good description of the winners could be relied upon from this excellent writer on all aspects of the Fancy.


I remember very clearly Mr. Weston reporting on a show at Bournemouth where a Redpoll x Bullfinch, shown by Mr. Summerfield, was awarded best in show. By Mr. Weston’s description it was certainly a wonderful bird and I remember how we scrutinised reports of later shows for mentions of this grand Hybrid. It was later exhibited by Ralph Pearce and Ben Minshall with great success. This was the best Bullfinch Hybrid I have ever seen. The wonderful Yellow Goldfinch Mule ‘Golden Wonder’ was also exhibited by Ralph Pearce.


Bert Chard, of Nuneaton, exhibited a superb team of Mules and Hybrids in the 1930s. His two Canary x Bullfinches, his Greenfinch x Bullfinch and his Redpoll x Bullfinch took turns in taking the top prizes around the shows.George Wilkes, also of Nuneaton, owned some outstanding Dark Mules.


Bullfinch Hybrids were not as numerous then as they are today. The first Redpoll x Bullfinch I ever saw was exhibited by W. Munday and Son. It did a lot of winning around the Midland shows. Claude Payne bred and exhibited a lovely Redpoll x Bullfinch in the late 1940s which won many prizes. Probably the best Goldfinch x Bullfinch I have seen since the Second World War was exhibited by I.G. Rees of Torquay. It was best Hybrid at one of the National Exhibitions in the late 1940s and was remarkable for size and colour.


In the1930s the Hardbill section at most English shows was supported by Percy Carr, Ben Minshall, Jack Hanlon, Archie Tonks, P.R. Perry and A.G. Lewis. Percy Carr (Victor’s father) was renowned for his wonderful Bramblings and Hawfinches, Ben Minshall for his Linnets and Bullfinches, Jack Hanlon for Redpolls and Bullfinches and Archie Tonks and A.G. Lewis for Goldies.


Many winners passed through Mr. Carr’s hands; he was a most successful breeder and exhibitor of British Hardbills. I clearly remember a wonderful Goldfinch he bred because I had bred a very good one the same year. My bird, as a young one, beat Mr. Carr’s bird – but after the first moult his was a vastly improved bird, which won at many shows. I am sure that it would make present-day winners look ordinary.


A.G. Lewis, of Kettering, was a big Goldfinch enthusiast who won at Crystal Palace Shows on many occasions. He had rather different views to the average fancier on the diet of Goldfinches and eventually weaned his on to plain canary seed as a staple diet.


Ben Minshall exhibited big teams of Hardbills and possibly did more winning at major shows than any other fancier. He was also successful with Softbills and for many years exhibited a wonderful Chough.


Jack Hanlon’s well-known winning Bullfinch was admired by everyone. A true Britisher, it was wrong-classed by W.G. Poole as a foreigner at a show in the North of England. Mr Pool must have been wearing the wrong spectacles that day.


Archie Tonks was a well-known figure at most Midland shows and always passed a critical eye over all the exhibits. He was a past-master of spotting good birds ‘in the rough’, so to speak. His favourite bird was the Goldfinch.


My late brother, Alan, and I exhibited an Albino Song Thrush in the 1930s which became so well known it put our names on the map. This bird was hand reared and, for a Thrush, was rather late hatched in July. It won the best Softbill trophy at the Crystal Palace Show in 1935.


Living in the Midlands, a hotbed of British Bird fanciers, I was privileged to meet many well-known fanciers, all members of the National British Bird & Mule Club.”



Victor Carr Judging a Hawfinch in 1972

at that time Hawfinches could only be shown under licence.

  Old Report from Cage and Aviary Birds 1967

The National British Bird and Mule Club held their first open show in 1899 in 1967. The show was held at Fulham Baths Hall, and was reported to be the finest display of British Birds, Mules and Hybrids for some years. The last show held by this club was in November 1899. The secretary of the club was John Frostick – the clubs first secretary. The entry for the show in 1967 was a massive 850 birds.
The judges were V.A.V Carr, A.B Paterson, W.G Deem, R. Adair, P.R Passley, Herbert Marshal and W.G. Oliver. Mr & Mrs J Ryan of New York donated six trophies to be won outright. The best British bird was a Goldfinch cock, the runner up a Chough. The late Grosvenor Ridgeway, who was a very young man then won no fewer than nine firsts. He gained fourth best hardbill with a Linnet cock. Also mentioned was the well known Jimmy Rutter who took fifth best hardbill with a Brambling hen. The Mule and Hybrid section contained all the best known winners of the day. Best bird was a well known Crossbill x Canary exhibited by J Dalrymple, which had previously won the National Supreme Award. A clear buff goldie mule was second, this bird had also won at the National and the Scottish National. There was an international competition between England, Scotland and Wales. England won with 140 points out of a possible 147. Runner up was Wales with 105 points


  Grosvenor Ridgeway, who was a very young man then   won no fewer than nine firsts. He gained fourth best hardbill with a Linnet cock. at the 1967 event.

 Grosvenor Became Secretary and moved the show from Fulham baths to the Midlands

 Grosvenor was the only person to win the supreme award at the National Exhibition with a British Bird in 1985 with a Greenfinch and repeated this in 2000 with a Yellow Bunting


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