Potter's Museum of Curiosity

Richard Cavendish muses on the 'stuffed' of history in the animal kingdom in Bodmin Moor.

Is there a weirder museum in Britain, with its stuffed kit- tens and grotesque freaks of nature? The collection was originally assembled by Walter Potter, a taxidermist born at Bramber in Sussex in 1835. His father owned the local pub and the young Walter left school early and started work at the inn. He spent his spare time on his hobby, busily stuffing animals and birds in a loft above the stables and as his number of specimens grew his imagination was fired by an illustrated version of 'Who Killed Cock Robin?' in his sister's nursery rhyme book.

He decided to create a tremendous tableau of 'The Death and Burial of Cock Robin', showing the funeral procession to the churchyard with the parts all played by his stuffed animals. The owl who dug the grave is there, the rook is the parson, the sparrow has his bow and arrow, the chief mourners are a dove and a senior redbreast, and all the birds of the air are a-sighing and a-sobbing in the trees, some of them with tears (glass beads) about to fall from their eyes.

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