Such was the popularity of Potter's Museum in the small Sussex village of Bramber that, by the end of the nineteenth century, it became necessary to extend the platforms at the railway station in order to accommodate the longer trains required to carry the increasing number of visitors and day trippers. Less than a hundred years later, it was all but forgotten.
Born in 1835, Walter Potter spent much of his lifetime creating his museum of taxidermy. Built around his first major tableau of 'The Original Death and Burial of Cock Robin' [now preserved in the Booth Museum of Natural History in Hove], Potter went on to create an extraordinary, if somewhat macabre, collection of tableaux in which not only birds but puppies, kittens, rats, rabbits, mice, et al featured in a series of scenes from grand weddings to tea parties, from schoolrooms to police raids, from croquet to cricket.
Today the collection is dispersed and we, certainly, have none of it. What we do have, and mostly dating from Victorian times, is a number of cases and glass shades housing specimens of birds, the smallest a canary
|a shade containing a canary sits alongside other birds on a table in the drawing room|
and the largest, which actually dates from the mid 1950s, a heron.
|the heron at home in our Brighton 'rooms'|
Exotic birds, from faraway places and warmer climes, have a place in the dining room where a large case of colourful specimens originating from, we are told, Australia sits
|a colourful case of 'foreign' birds in the dining room|
within calling distance of a parrot on the opposite side of the room, no doubt once a much loved companion.
|a nineteenth century green parrot|
Not to everyone's taste, these birds represent a time and a practice which has, very largely, disappeared into history. What was once considered as the height of fashion is now regarded, outside of a museum, with a degree of disdain.
|an Edwardian pot plant stand holds a single shade in the drawing room|
Rather than something we particularly espouse, they are but a small part of the eclectic mix with which we have furnished our homes. And having lived with them for so many years, we should not choose to be parted.
But just occasionally, as in remembering Potter's now far flung tableaux, we look at the lone seagull held captive in our Front Hall in landlocked Hungary and wonder,
|a seagull alone in the Front Hall|
Does he dream of seaweed and scavenging on some distant shore?