Mr. Potter’s museum had over 10,000 stuffed animals which included a tableaux of:
“…a rats’ den being raided by the local police rats … [a] village school … featuring 48 little rabbits busy writing on tiny slates, while the Kittens’ Tea Party displayed feline etiquette and a game of croquet. A guinea pigs’ cricket match was in progress, and 20 kittens attended a wedding, wearing little morning suits or brocade dresses, with a feline vicar in white surplice. The kittens even wear frilly knickers under their formal attire!”
The museum closed in the 1970s, relocated and briefly re-opened at the Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor, in 1984, where it attracted over 30,000 visitors per year. In 2003, the exhibits were put up for auction. Damien Hirst first offered to buy the complete collection for £1million – but auctioneers Bonhams sold each piece individually, raising only £500,000. Amongst the buyers were pop artist Peter Blake, photographer David Bailey, and comedian Harry Hill. At the time, Hirst wrote in the Guardian:
“Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor is a fantastic Victorian-Edwardian collection of stuffed animals and curios. There are hundreds of items, all collected or devised by the original Mr Potter, who was a self-taught taxidermist. You can see he knew very little about anatomy and musculature, because some of the taxidermy is terrible – there’s a kingfisher that looks nothing like a kingfisher. But there’s some great stuff in there, too – two-headed goats, a rhino’s head, a mummified human hand. As an ensemble, it’s just mad.
“My own favourites are these tableaux: there’s a kittens’ wedding party, with all these kittens dressed up in costumes, even wearing jewellery. The kittens don’t look much like kittens, but that’s not the point. There’s a rats’ drinking party, too – which puts a different construction on Wind in the Willows. And a group of hamsters playing cricket.
“I’ve offered £1m and to pay for the cost of the auctioneer’s catalogue – just for them to take it off the market and keep the collection intact – but apparently, the auction has to go ahead. It is a tragedy.”
Last year, a one-off exhibition was co-curated by Peter Blake, who brought Potter’s curios together at the Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill, London.
It should be noted that Potter’s museum claimed all “animals died of natural causes.”
The following film was produced by British Pathe in 1965, and describes Potter as “a genius who made fur-lined dolls into whimsical but veritable works of poetic art.”
– altered by Hystoria