YORK Open Studios artist Gerard Hobson has produced a limited-edition screen print of the York Minster Peregrine falcons for sale in the Minster shop from Saturday.
In the wild, Peregrines are to be spotted on sea cliffs and rocks, but they have taken to occupying city buildings too, not least a pair residing on the towers of northern Europe’s largest gothic cathedral, where Mr and Mrs Minster, as they are known affectionately, have bred successfully each year since 2017. This spring, they have returned once more to build a nest for the new breeding season.
Typically, the eggs are laid towards the end of March, hatching at the end of April. The young Peregrines fledge early in June, and remain around the Minster until late summer, although some may stay longer.
“York Minster’s Peregrines have a dedicated following, and the best bet for information is to look at the yorkperegrines.info website for the latest news and to follow the @YorkPeregrines Twitter feed for the latest sightings,” says Clifton printmaker Gerard.
Although “Mr and Mrs Minster” have been seen perched on each side of all three of York Minster’s towers, they are most often to be spotted on the north face of the north-west bell tower. This is best viewed from Dean’s Park, usually open to the public from around 07.30am to 7.30pm each day.
“The Peregrine is one of those unusual cases in which an iconic species has somehow successfully come back from the brink of becoming extinct in Britain and has somehow adapted to city living,” says Gerard.
“That’s such a positive outcome in what seems to be a rather gloomy time when so many things are being wiped out, so I’m delighted to have done this limited-edition print for York Minster.
“I look back to when I grew up in the 1970s, when Peregrine falcons were incredibly rare in the country, as with most birds of prey. One reason was that egg collectors were taking the eggs; another was because of a pesticide that got into insects, and at the top of that food chain was the Peregrine.
“The eggshell became thinner, so the eggs couldn’t survive the hatching stage when the parent sat on the nest. Fortunately, that pesticide was banned, and the Peregrine – the fastest bird in the world when it goes into a swoop – has made a remarkable comeback.”
Gerard’s regular artwork comprises hand-coloured, limited-edition linocut prints and cut-outs focused on nature and wildlife, inspired by the countryside around where he lives in York.
As well as prints and bird, animal, tree and mushroom cut-outs, he creates anything from cards, mugs, cushions and coasters to chopping boards, lampshades, tea towels, notepads and wrapping paper. Now comes his commission for a 50cm by 45cm print of York Minster’s male Peregrine, a work that has been a year in the making from roof visit to Minster delivery.
“The starting point was the fact that several cathedrals in the UK now have resident Peregrines, and the Minster caught on to the public’s interest in the birds as much as the building, leading to the website being set up,” he says.
“Two members of the Minster staff visited my shop [now closed] that I ran in the old Bulmers building on Lord Mayor’s Walk, and they thought, ‘would it be worth having some of my work for the Minster?’.
“My initial reaction was, I thought they’d got the wrong artist as I don’t do buildings! At first, they were talking about mugs and tea towels, but I suggested doing a print. They were up for it, and at that point I managed to convince them that I needed to go up on to the roof to see the Peregrines. Thankfully, I’m OK with heights!”
Gerard had the nest site pointed out to him. “It’s around a corner where you can’t see it, where they’ve nested for the past five years, and now they’ve paired up again for this year. That’s wonderful news,” he says.
On the day of his visit last year, Gerard had the joy of seeing both birds in flight. “The female’s favourite perch is on a grotesque on the belfry window – grotesques don’t have waterspouts whereas gargoyles do – and as if on cue, she landed on the grotesque while I was there,” he says.
Gerard settled on designing a print of the male Peregrine perched on a grotesque against a backdrop of the Minster with the female in flight.
“I’d never done a screen print before, so I went to Penfold Press, Dan Bugg’s studio just outside Selby, which does York artists Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton’s prints [along with Ed Kluz, Jonny Hannah, Angela Harding, Clive Kicks-Jenkins, and more besides],” he says. “I took him the linocut and Dan worked on the screen print from there.
“Because I’d gone there, I really wanted to keep as many things as possible local, aside from the print being printed on Somerset Printmaking Paper [from St Cuthbert’s Paper Mill in Haybridge, Wells].
“The tubes for the prints come from a company outside Selby; Make Your Mark Rubber Stamps, in Goodramgate, have done the labels; the tissue for wrapping is from an independent business at Clifton Moor; Gillygate Framing is doing the framing for the print on display in the Minster shop.”
York Minster has acquired the entire 150 Peregrine print run for sale in the York Minster Shop and online at shop.yorkminster.org from Saturday, priced at £95.
“If you want to have it framed like the one in the shop, Gillygate Framers is only four minutes from the Minster,” says Gerard.
A second framed Hobson Peregrine screen print went on display in the new York Minster Refectory to coincide with King Charles III and the Queen Consort’s official opening of the restaurant during Thursday’s visit for the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster.
The brasserie-style restaurant, in the converted Grade II-listed 19th-century Minster School, is taking bookings at yorkminsterrefectory.co.uk from April 20 when it formally opens to the public.
The restaurant will be run day to day by Joshua Brimmell, executive head chef of The Star Inn The City, in Museum Street, York, while he and Andrew Pern, the Michelin-starred restaurateur behind the Star Inn at Harome and The Star Inn The City, are overseeing the development of the menus and hospitality functions.
Later this month, Gerard Hobson will be opening his printmaking home studio at 51, Water Lane, Clifton, for York Open Studios on April 15, 16, 22 and 23, from 10am to 5pm each day.
Full details of more than 150 artists and makers taking part in the two weekends at 100 locations can be found at www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk. Work will range from ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery and mixed media to painting, print, photography, sculpture, textiles and wood.
Did you know?
IN keeping with many other birds of prey, the female Peregrine, charged with brooding duties, is significantly larger than the male, the fast-moving food collector. Just as Mallards are ducks and drakes, the female Peregrine is the falcon; the male, the tiercel or tercel.