Aylesbury Duck

Nominated by: Pam Noden

I think the Aylesbury Duck is important to Buckinghamshire as the breed is named after the County town and one of the main breeding areas was Weston Turville, just outside Aylesbury.  The duck was used in many recipes, including one of Mrs Beeton’s and there are special recipes using cherries, which used to be grown across the Chilterns.  It was reported that, at one time, 25,000 Aylesbury ducks were sent to London from Weston Turville annually.

Known around the world, the Aylesbury Duck is probably the most famous thing to have come out of Aylesbury.  Its trademark features are its large size, white plumage, orange feet and, most importantly, its pink bill (some Aylesbury Ducks are mistakenly depicted with yellow bills).  

Its origins are obscure, first appearing in Aylesbury in the mid-1700s as a result of intensive breeding by poorer families in the ‘Duck End’ of town looking for a second income.  It is suggested that raising white ducks became popular in Aylesbury in the 18th century owing to the demand for white feathers as a filler for quilts, and that selective breeding may have given us the Aylesbury Duck.  It was a runaway success due to its quick growth – from chick to adult size in 8 weeks (closest equivalent took 6 months).  

Originally reared in the small back yards of Aylesbury cottages, by the mid-1800s it had moved out to surrounding villages such as Weston Turville and Haddenham.  ‘Duckie’ Weston’s farm, however, on the edge of Aylesbury, remained one of the largest suppliers right up until the late 1950s.  Its former location is now remembered by the Duck Farm Retail Park near Friarscroft car park.  Very few ducks were sold locally but thousands were sent by railway to London every year.  In the mid-20th Century, competition from ducks and chickens from elsewhere lead to a massive decline in sales and the number of duck farms. Today, only one commercial Aylesbury Duck Farm survives, run by Richard Waller (from a long line of Aylesbury Duck farmers) at Chartridge Lane, Chesham

The photograph above shows three ducks purchased (dead) from Lawrence Waller (father of Richard) in 1979 and stuffed for the Bucks County Museum collection.  The other shows a photograph of a fully grown juvenile ‘ready for market’ also from the Museum collection.  Below you can see an image of ducks on a pond at Weston Turville that no longer exists.

The Aylesbury Duck was nominated by Pam Noden