The English Cinnamon canary, Part 3

The Second World War had taken its toll of the Cinnamon canary.  According to Mr. E. Jenkins, “the Cinnamon studs still in existence could be counted on one’s fingers” (1).

His statement seems to be endorsed by the lower number of birds exhibited at the National Exhibition after the war.  In 1947 some 24 Cinnamons, self or foul, were exhibited; in 1948 only 15, in 1949 it rose to 34, all below pre-War figures.

Mr. Jenkins added that “limited in this manner it became essential to dip into normal green blood with disastrous results to the colour of the cinnamons so produced”.  He won a special prize at the 1950 National Exhibition, which raises the possibility that his winner had been bred in this manner.  If so, it wouldn’t be the last time.

Another correspondent, Harry Turner had a different explanation for the decline in colour:

“White blood has done untold harm to Greens and Cinnamons.  It is responsible for those ash grey Greens one sees, which are useless for Cinnamon production.”

His answer to the problem was not to improve colour, but to reduce the points from 40 to 25, and transfer the balance to a new feature which he termed ‘head and neck’ (2).

Harry Turner Cinnamon canaries
Harry Turner, from ‘Cage Birds’ 7 February 1952. With thanks to Paul Dodds

He received a dismissive reply from A. Bounds, who had exhibited at the ‘Bird Fancy’ show of 1936.  As you can imagine, Mr. Bounds was an advocate of colour.  His parting shot suggested that

“if there are any other Cinnamon breeders besides Mr. Turner who are at variance with the present Standard and prefer drab-coloured birds, it would be as well if they formed a new club and named it the ‘Society for the Production of Nutmeg-coloured Canaries’. “ (3).

Mr. Golder was still Secretary of the CCC in 1952 and he now stepped into the fray.  He had previously written articles in Cage Birds seeking support for the revival of the breed and was given the front page to make his case. 

“I disagree with Mr. Turner in his contention that type is as important as colour in Cinnamon Norwich.  He seems to think that a Cinnamon is just another variation to the standard classification for Norwich plain heads, but I maintain that a cinnamon is in a class of its own as a specific colour variety . . .

The chief and most valuable properties of a true Cinnamon are purity of colour with richness and evenness of tone over the entire plumage.  I contend that a Cinnamon Norwich is essentially a bird of colour.  If deprived of this special feature it quite definitely loses its most fascinating charm . . .

I unhesitatingly affirm that a Cinnamon Norwich must be bred and judged primarily for colour.  Type is always an attribute but cannot be entertained at the expense of colour in a colour variety.” (4)

Harry Turner replied:

“The real issue seems to be this: Do we want just Cinnamon Canaries or do we want Cinnamon Norwich?  I am emphatic on this point.  I want Cinnamon Norwich.  Mr. Golder leaves no doubt that he desires just Cinnamon canaries.” (5) 

This is the crux of the matter, and it is evident from the National show reports that Andy Early has sent me that it was the ‘Cinnamon Norwich’ that would prevail at shows over the second half of the century.  

In 1959, for example, the best Cinnamon was benched by Mr. E. Jenkins whom we met in the opening paragraphs of this article.  P. W. Butler, the canary expert for Birds Illustrated magazine, described his bird as “nice quality and type but lacked colour” (6).  If so, it must have been disheartening for traditional Cinnamon fanciers to be beaten by such a bird.

The debate reached its climax twenty years later.  Andy Early has found no less than eight articles on Cinnamons in Cage Birds in the twelve months from January 1978.   There were three participants: Harry Turner and Alf Barnes in the Cinnamon Norwich camp, and Derek Dix defending the traditional Cinnamon canary.  Unsurprisingly, they covered much the same ground as the letters of the 1950s, so I’ll just pick out some of the highlights.

Alf Barnes Cinnamon Norwich canary
“For the second year in succession, Ipswich fancier Mr. A.W. Barnes benched the best champion Cinnamon Norwich Plainhead”. National show report, ‘Cage Birds’ 27 November 1952. With thanks to Paul Dodds.

First, Alf Barnes on ‘type’:

“Good Cinnamon Norwich should possess type as laid down by the Southern Norwich Plainhead Club or the Scottish Plainhead Club.  It should be ‘thick’ in build and ‘round all over’ with a good head and bold cheeks.  Pinched-headed specimens are definitely out of favour” (7)

Reply from Derek Dix:

“The narrow heads are found because cinnamon feathering tends to be finer and silkier than a Normal Norwich and, lying closer to the body, influences the outline”. (8)

Alf Barnes Cinnamon Norwich canary
A Cinnamon Norwich canary by Alf Barnes from ‘Cage Birds’, 31 August 1978.

Harry Turner on the use of Green Norwich:  

“In 1945 I wrote an article for CAGE BIRDS stating that good Cinnamons could not be bred without good Greens and I was ridiculed by Cinnamon breeders.  They said the only pairing was Cinnamon to Cinnamon.

Over the years I have found a regrettable tendency of Colour breeders to think that they know it all and that the average Norwich fancier knows nowt”. (9)

Reply by Derek Dix:

“The frequent crossing into Norwich blood is to pursue this idiotic idea that the Cinnamon must look like a Norwich.  This is the futile concept that is the ruination of the Cinnamon Fancy, and that is why Mr. Turner’s statements are so dangerous.  The Cinnamon will never be of real Norwich type. . .

While I agree that is is possible to cross a Cinnamon with a normal Norwich and produce birds of good type, these tend to be of poor colour and Foul-marked.  Although they might, because of their good type, satisfy the aesthetic requirement of the Norwich breeder, the light feathers are anathema to the serious Cinnamon breeder, whose ideal is a Self bird.” (10)

Harry Turner on judging the Cinnamon:

“While I agree that there are many Norwich breeders who do not favour either Greens or Cinnamons, I do not think they allow it to affect their judging.  They judge the birds on their merits.” (11)

Comment by Derek Dix:

“Invariably the Norwich judge is asked to adjudicate on the Cinnamon classes.  All too often he is neither interested nor well-informed about the few of these birds which come in front of him.  He regards them as a brown Norwich which he then evaluates on type.

Sensing his own inadequacy, perhaps, he salves his conscience by declaring ‘I have done my best with them, but they are a poor lot of Norwich’ – a remark I have heard a hundred times.  Of course they are a poor lot of Norwich.  They are not Norwich.  They are Cinnamons.” (12)

Alf Barnes Cinnamon Norwich canaries
Winning Norwich canaries by Alf Barnes. From ‘Cage Birds’ 18 January 1979.

Finally, a bold proposal from Alf Barnes, a year after his first contribution.  He had been a successful exhibitor of Cinnamon Norwich since 1951, and had recently won a class at the 1978 National with a bird that Harry Turner had described as “a Buff cock – magnificent bird.  I have only seen one other in my lifetime that was its equal” (13).  It seems to have given him the confidence to press for a reappraisal of the Cinnamon standard:

“It is many years since the Cinnamon Norwich club [sic] existed (14).  It was responsible for the points system for the Cinnamon Norwich.  Much water has passed under the bridge since then.  In my opinion, we should now review these points and I would like to see colour and type awarded equal points (see accompanying panel).

Many of our good Norwich adjudicators hold the same view and what is more, judge that way now! . . .

Mr. Dix’s objection to birds being called Cinnamon Norwich and his desire for Cinnamon Canaries to be regarded as a separate breed are, in my view, retrograde steps.” (15)

Cinnamon canary show standard
New show standard for Cinnamon Norwich canaries proposed by Alf Barnes in 1979. From ‘Cage Birds’ 18 January 1979.

The debate had come full circle; there were no winners.  Messrs Barnes and Turner may have felt that their vision of the Cinnamon Norwich had been vindicated, but time would tell a different story.  We can see the decline in interest in the breed at the National Exhibition over the last 50 years:

  • 1968 – 42
  • 1978 – 21
  • 1988 –   8
  • 1998 –   7
  • 2003 –   6 (last of the ‘old’ Nationals)

It is no wonder that the breed was running close to the threshold of extinction as the twenty first century loomed.  That is where I will resume the story of the Cinnamon canary in the final part of this series.



  • I would like to thank Andy Early for his extensive contributions from Birds Illustrated in the 1950s and Cage Birds from the 1970s.
  • Thanks also to Paul Dodds for his generous donation of Cage Birds collected by his father in law, Frederick Quatermaine, in 1952 and 1953. The quotations from the post-War years are taken from these magazines.


  1. Letter from E. Jenkins published in Cage Birds 10 January 1952.
  2. Letter from H. Turner, Cage Birds 7 February 1952.  He claimed that the standard allocated 40 points for colour, but I have not seen any evidence for this.
  3. Letter from A. Bounds published in Cage Birds 14 February 1952.
  4. “The Cinnamon Norwich Controversy”, Cage Birds, 20 March 1952.
  5. Letter from H. Turner, Cage Birds 17 April 1952.
  6. “Canaries as I saw them at the National” by P.W. Butler, Birds Illustrated, February 1959.
  7. “Do judges appreciate Cinnamon Norwich?” by A.W. Barnes, Cage Birds 26 January 1978. 
  8. “Cinnamons need a separate variety” by Derek Dix, Cage Birds, 13 April 1978
  9. “Who applauds the judge when ‘wrong-class’ warfare divides the Fancy?” by Harry Turner, Cage Birds  9 March 1978. 
  10. “Accept the Cinnamon for what it is” by Derek Dix, Cage Birds, 31 August 1978.
  11. “Who applauds the judge when ‘wrong-class’ warfare divides the Fancy?”, by Harry Turner, Cage Birds  9 March 1978. 
  12. “Cinnamons need a separate variety” by Derek Dix, Cage Birds, 13 April 1978
  13. “Best Cinnamon Norwich in fifty years” by Harry Turner, Cage Birds, 4 January 1979.
  14. Presumably he was referring to the Cinnamon Canary Club.  His reference to the ‘Norwich Cinnamon Club’ seems to have been a Freudian slip.
  15. “Time to review the Cinnamon Norwich standard” by A.W. Barnes, Cage Birds, 18 January 1979.

4 thoughts on “The English Cinnamon canary, Part 3

  1. It is interesting to read the ‘diverse’ veiws of these two camp’s going back in time. Ultimately, “Cinnamon” or “Yellow Brown” as Continental Colour Canary breeder friends would have it, is ultimately, merely a colour mutation. A ‘pallete’ colour, painted onto a form – or more importantly “Type” as it is in the Type canary world. Every Type that has developed out of the wild type “Common Canary” of the Victorian era has been created by Fanciers and that Type can be used to carry any of the pallete colours – restricted to ‘3’ in the Type Fancy of Green, Brown(Cinnamon) or White.
    Every ‘Type’ led Fancy needs a physical form to follow to promote an “Ideal”, or “Model”. That is obviously the basis of the opposing views promoted from the earliest days of the Cinnamon ( in Self form) being popularised. In most matters of stock-manship, it has generally been held ( until the Gloster came along ) that “a good big’un will always beat a good little ‘un” ….despite the fact that a good “little ‘un” by virtue of the nature of it’s feather form in the case of canaries may well promote a better optical impression due to the intensity of it’s pigmentation.
    Having some insight into Cinnamon’s – and regard to the history of the breed and the ongoing debate “then” and presumably still to come, as it has clearly not been settled, it is clear that cross-breeding of suitable visual O.V. ( Other variety, not Old) visual Cinnamon cock bird stock with Green Norwich hens is how they were created/improved and how to maximise the potential for their re-popularisation. “Modern” Borders, are suitable, Cinnamon cocks have limited value to Border men (and women) and ‘moderate’ (Type) birds would be more suited to the purpose than exemplary ones, ie. shorter in the leg, thicker through the neck etc. Such pairings would give 100% Cinnamon hens and 100% Cinnamon carrier green cocks for ongoing work. Chicks can be sexed in the nest via their ‘pink’ ( not red!! ) eyes.
    From experience, I would stand firmly with those parties who argued that they didn’t need to look like a Norwich ( certainly not a modern one ) but did need to have quality of form and feather to create a bold ‘model’ framework AND that colour should be foremost after that.
    But – how will Continental breeders take to the warm, rich, deep, “cinnamon” colouration as most Uk standards define the correct colour. With the Browns of the Colour world and their almost “chocolate” brown and emphasis on maximising striations, will yet another struggle for dominance ensue if COM/OMJ become involved ? And is ongoing colour-feeding which covers a multitude of weaknesses if not sins to be encouraged ? Interesting articles and more questions than answers. Good luck with the project.

  2. It is to be noted that the cinnamons of the victorian times where what the colour canary breeders of today call the old type (without any streaking on the back) Nowadays the brown colour canaries have well define large dark brown streaking on their backs.
    You can still find the old type mainly paired with phaeo or pastel cinnamon.
    All type canaries could have the present mutations but it seems that the cinnamon mutation is quite common on the original wild canary. So it could have popped up in a stud in the early days of breeding and so forth became very popular.

    1. A good point about the ‘streaking’ (called ‘pencilling’ by Norwich breeders). The Cinnamon canary standard makes no mention of it.

      1. C A House – Canaries – A Complete and Practical Guide to the Breeding, Exhibiting and General Management of these Popular Birds published in the 1920’s has a section on the Cinnamon Canary and the scale of points for exhibition. It includes reference to heavy dark pencilling as a negative quality:

        Negative qualities for which points are to be deducted: – Any green tinge; cloudy or smoky colour; heavy dark penciling; overhanging eyebrows; light throat, thighs or vent, white feathers in wings, tail or body to disqualify for self classes.

        Separately, I have also read old text that refers to the ideal standard:

        “A rich deep shade of pure Cinnamon colour throughout, as level as possible on back and sides, with just a trace of pencilling on the back…”


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