Walter Potter’s Strange Taxidermy

On November 7, 2014 by Tim Newman

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Smoking Squirrel

If you ask me (and most other people on this planet) taxidermy is all strange. It is a bit odd stuffing corpses for a hobby, but like I always say – whatever. If you enjoy it and no one else minds you doing it, crack on.

Walter Potter (1835-1918) got well into taxidermy and in Victorian Britain that was exactly the sort of ‘weird’ people were after. Victorian freak shows were going strong and laughing at the seemingly twisted was in vogue good and strong.

At the ripe old age of 19 Potter stuffed his first animal, his pet canary. This became part of one of his first masterpieces called “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin” and included no less than 98 British bird species. Potter found a small amount of fame and cash in his odd exhibitions and continued in the same vein. He mostly made pieces which were anthropomorphic, but occasionally threw out the odd deformed animal to keep people guessing.

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Squirrel Home

His exhibitions were so popular that people would travel regularly on coach trips from Brighton to see them in Bramber. In fact the platform in Bramber had to be extended to accommodate a glut of visitors.

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Squirrel Cards

As the Victorian era passed and Potter died his collection entered a much slimmer niche market. Walter had a stroke in 1914 which he never fully recovered from, dying at the age of 82. His museum closed in the 70’s having been moved to Brighton and then Arundel. It was eventually sold off and purchased by the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall in 1984 where it brought in 30,000 visitors per year.

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Rabbits At School

When the museum was no longer commercially viable it was sold off in parts and fetched over £500,000. “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin” raised the most cash, being sold for £23,500. Many people thought it was a shame that the collection was split which lead to a touch of controversy just after the sale. Damien Hirst offered to pay £1 million for the lot in order to keep the pieces together, but it was rejected by the auction house – Bonhams – for some reason. The owners went on to sue Bonhams because they had, of course, lost out on a substantial sum.

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Smart Cats

But, legal rowing apart, let’s enjoy the taxidermy shall we?

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Kittens Having Tea Walter Potter Taxidermy - Kitten Girls

Animal Collection on LAZERHORSE.ORG

Walter Potter Taxidermy - Guinea Pig School Walter Potter Taxidermy - Freak Cat Walter Potter Taxidermy - Cat Wedding The Death & Burial of Cock Robin, 1861.

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