Think our Elmbridge skies are dominated by aircraft alone? Think again!
Long before airplanes took off, Elmbridge had plenty of smaller airborne inhabitants. At Walton Library, Elmbridge Museum is showcasing flight through our natural history collection. See old and beautiful birds, butterflies and moths up close and personal. There’s even a chance to discover where you can find some of these species for yourself within our commons, parks and green spaces!
At Elmbridge Museum, we have a vast array of creatures big and small in our collection - from creepy crawlies, to fluffy mammals!
Although it may seem gruesome, the practice of taxidermy was very popular in the 18th to 19th Centuries, when hunting was a common pastime for the rural upper classes. It involved the preservation of an animal's skin by stuffing it, leaving the outside appearance unnervingly lifelike and untouched. Stuffing rabbits, game, and other animals could make for an impressive hunting trophy. It also leaves a strange collection in our museums today!
Hand-drawn illustration by Richard South from his 1907 'The Moths of the British Isles'
It's our airborne animals who are the focus for our latest exhibition. Many birds and insects were caught and preserved by 19th Century collectors and scientists interested in studying different types of faunae.
Hundreds of years ago, Elmbridge was home to numerous species of uncommon birds, and contained a treasure trove of different flying insects. The Lawpig, a wetland bird which makes its nest on the ground, is incredibly rare because of its susceptibility to predators. In Elmbridge Museum's case at Walton library, you can see a real Lawpig for yourself - or chance your luck at finding a live one in Cobham!
Moths collected from around Claygate, displayed in this case by Edward James Smith in the late 1800s
In our archive, Elmbridge Museum has box upon box, carefully stacked and taped up with cardboard and bubble wrap. On the outside, these square, wooden, and rather plain boxes appear of little interest. But take a peek inside, and there are rows of meticulously arranged butterflies, from tiny Common Blues to larger Red Admirals. More than 100 years ago, Claygate local Edward J. Smith collected each and every one of these specimens from our local area, painstakingly arranging them by hand into the beautiful array that we can still see today.
The specimens were not meant to be hidden, and that's why we have transported them from the corner of our store-room to be proudly displayed in our case at Walton Library until March 2020.
Inspired to find out more about the wildlife in our local Borough? Why not take a look at our handy guide to historic birds in our local area, and explore the abundant green spaces which Elmbridge has to offer?