Taxidermy collection at auction

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AN extraordinary collection of stuffed birds and animals – including a pair of great bustards and a chick which once belonged to the late Earl Spencer – have been put up for sale by and are set to fetch around £30,000 at an auction later this month.

Guy Schooling, at auctioneers Sworders, said: “It is one of the biggest and, in some ways, the most important collections of taxidermy to come up for sale in recent years.

“The museum, unable to display all but a few cases for many years, has been through the formal de-accessioning process for these items and is giving some cases to other museums. However, the majority are to be sold. The sale offers a great opportunity for collectors and interior designers to make some attractive acquisitions.”

The museum in Abington Park plans to use the proceeds from the sale at Sworders on February 22 “for the conservation of important watercolours and artefacts in the collection”.

The rare great bustards and chick – presented to the museum by a previous Earl Spencer – are housed in a six panelled glass-fronted box case and are expected to fetch between £800 and £1,200 at the auction.

Great bustards once thrived in Britain, but were then hunted out of existence by the 1840s.

Now, thanks to the Great Bustard Group charity and with financial help from the EU, efforts are being made to re-introduce the birds to Britain.

The most valuable specimen in the collection coming up for sale is a bearded vulture, which alone is expected to fetch between £1,800 and £2,500.

The museum is also selling 10 lots from the collection of renowned Victorian ornithologist Lord Lilford (1833-1896), who lived at Lilford Hall in Northamptonshire, and who was the first president of Northamptonshire Natural History Society, which was founded in 1876.

Lord Lilford was also responsible for introducing the little owl into England and wrote the classic work, Notes On The Birds of Northamptonshire and Neighbourhood.

The Lilford lots include a quail, which is dated 1895 and which was stuffed after it was found “under a telegraph wire at St Giles Square, Northampton” and “a pair of redwings caught by Lord Lilford, 1890”.

Also in the museum’s collection are several examples of work by the Northampton taxidermist, George Bazeley, who was based at Sheep Street, Northampton.

A Lady Amherst pheasant, in a picture frame case with painted background scene, which is attributed to Bazeley, could sell for between £300 and £400.