Most conservatory owners view their room’s finials and cresting as one of its most beautiful features. However, it’s interesting to note the more pedantic purpose that these features served in Victorian times. And, that they still serve today.
Pigeons! The cities of England were filled with pigeons. In fact, when Mary Poppins sings out, “Feed the birds. Tuppence a bag,” she is referring to pigeons, which readily flock around anybody with food in their hands. Most Londoners didn’t want to “feed the birds” since it increased the odds of gentlemen’s top hats and bowlers, and ladies’ expensive millinery, becoming the target of a pigeon’s deposit.
There were black pigeons and blue pigeons and cinnamon pigeons, but what they all had in common was bright, white poop that, once excreted, had a tendency to run down and form long, glaring streaks on the conservatory roof. “What to do, what to do?”
Enter finials and crestings designed to keep the offending birds off of the conservatory’s roof line. You see, a pigeon is flat-footed and prefers to walk and sit upon a horizontal surface. So, the vertical lines and graceful curves designed into finials and crestings make it difficult for the pigeon to land on, and when and if one succeeds in landing, make it difficult to retain their balance.
“But why the fleur-de-lis?” you may ask. Well… as the “petals” of the flower curve out and over the base of the cresting, they form a barrier just tall enough so that when the pigeon attempts to land on the trough of the fleur-de-lis, they actually bang their heads into the petals. The result for the pigeon is sore feet and a headache.
Since they were designed over 100-years ago, finials and crestings have changed little. In fact, some of the cresting that we install on the finest conservatories hasn’t been redesigned in a century. Why? Because they’re beautiful and they still work as effectively as ever. They are one of the purest examples of great design following form and function.