From at least the thirteenth century until the late eighteenth or nineteenth century it was customary in England for swans, even although left on the open water, to be regarded as private property. Ownership was restricted and was closely regulated by officials appointed by the Crown. Marks applied to the beak (and sometimes to the feet or legs) of the birds signified the identity of the owner, ail such marks having to be registered with the royal Swan-master. Books or rolls of marks were drawn up by the royal officials as aids to the administration of their duties. Many such documents survive, and, together with the laws and ordinances relating to swans which were promulgated from time to time, they allow tnany détails of the practice of swan keeping to be reconstructed.
Swans, Swan rolls, Beak marks.