Hello, I’m a big Kate Mosse fan and love gothic literary thrillers, so I was thrilled to see her current book The Taxidermist’s Daughter was inspired by her childhood visits to The Walter Potter Museum.
On an overseas trip to the UK many years ago, David and I visited Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. Not only did we get lost on the moors (another blog post altogether) but we were fortunate to discover Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities before it was dismantled. I found the museum incredibly fascinating and longed for another chance to examine it, so I was saddened to hear in 2003 that such a fine collection of Victorian-Edwardian whimsy was lost forever when it was dismantled and sold at auction. Some might find the taxidermy displays macabre, but I loved the surreal cuteness of the animals in dioramas such as The Death and Burial of Cock Robin (which took Mr Potter seven years to complete and included 98 species of British birds along with a weeping robin widow and a grave-digging owl); his rabbit school with rabbits writing on slates; and kitten tea parties. Intricate details featured on all of his work – including frilly knickers on kittens. There were also many other interesting and strange curios, enough to spend hours browsing. Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities began life in Bramber, Sussex, England. As a teenager, Walter Potter’s fascination with taxidermy started when he attempted to preserve the life of his pet canary. The Death and Burial of Cock Robin was a massive success. So many people were keen to witness his tableaus that a special platform had to be built at Bramber train station to accommodate the hordes of tourists arriving to view it. After Mr Potter’s death at 82, his daughter and grandson took over the business. Public taste in taxidermy had now waned and the displays were considered in poor taste.
The collection, numbering 10, 000 specimens, was moved around to Brighton, Ardundel and then to the owners of the famous Jamaica Inn in Cornwall where visitors come from around the world to experience Daphne du Maurier territory first hand. Sadly, when the museum finally went to auction, a one-million pound bid by Damien Hirst to keep the collection intact was rejected, which meant various pieces were sold separately. Hirst wrote a piece for the Guardian HERE called, Mr Potter, Stuffed Rats and Me.
Another link HERE is a website to a book about Walter Potter which contains lots of fascinating articles.
And a recent interview with Kate Mosse from the Independent where she discusses the Landscape of her Imagination HERE
With all the excitement of a new Kate Mosse book, I thought it was a good chance to publish the notes I took when she spoke at Sydney Writers Festival in 2013. I’d had the best of intentions to put them on my blog at the time, but became so busy with writing Currawong Manor that I never got a chance. I shall post that blog later in the week so I do hope you return. Please share this post with your social online friends if you feel they would be interested. Thank you for popping in. Love and Light, Josephine xx
A short film on Potter’s collection that may be of interest.