The ‘Lauderdale’ Chicken


A dead chicken was recovered from a first floor chimney recess in Lauderdale House, Highgate, along with three other chickens (two were strangled and two had been suffocated), plaited hemp, a Borderware candlestick, a glass tazza and two shoes.

This is the most complete ‘builder’s sacrifice’ known from London. Objects like shoes, clothing, other domestic items and dead animals were sometimes deliberately concealed inside houses to act as lucky charms and protection against harmful spirits.

The Lauderdale chicken has a piece of egg shell attached to its rear, indicating that it was alive when it was sealed inside the chimney recess and laid an egg before it died. (Courtesy of Museum of London)

Photo credit: From the Archive of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution