Walter Potter was believed to have been inspired by the work of Hermann Ploucquet displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851.  Walter Potter would have been 16 years old at the time.  While he may not have seen the exhibit in person, the book illustrating Ploucquet's anthropomorphic pieces was widely distributed and numerous reproductions were featured in several popular periodicals of the day.  Interestingly, the print reproductions of these pieces were embellished with more decor than the actual displays, which would be in keeping with the greater detail of Potter's tableaux.

WP was married to Ann Stringer Muzzell (from West End Farm at nearby Henfield) and had 3 children, Walter J., Annie and Minnie.

1835 - (2 July) Walter Potter born in Bramber, Sussex.

1854? - Starts producing the mounts that are ultimately used in Potter's first grand scale tableaux, "The Original Death & Burial of Cock Robin".

1861 - "The Original Death & Burial of Cock Robin" first displayed at White Lion Inn (later renamed The Castle Hotel), owned by his father.

1866 - Potter's business moves to larger quarters next to the White Lion Inn.

1868 or 9 - Son, Walter J. born.

1877 or 8 - Daughter, Minnie born.

1880 - Business moves to nearby, specially built building, Bramber Museum.

1914 - Potter suffers from a stroke in the early months of the 1914 War and never fully recovers.

1918 - (21 May) Walter Potter dies at 83 and is buried in Bramber churchyard.  The museum passes on to his daughter, Mrs. Minnie Collins.

1972 - Soon after the death of Walter Collins, his widow sells the collection to Mr. Anthony Irving. Within a year Mr. James Cartland purchases the collection and reopens the museum next to the Palace Pier in Brighton.

1974 - Mr. Cartland move the collection, Potter's Museum of Curiosity, to 6 High St., Arundel, Sussex.

1985 - The collection purchased by by Mr. Watts and moved to The Jamaica Inn, Bolventor, Cornwall.

2003 - 23-24 September. The collection broken up for the first time and sold at auction by Bonhams.

Shame on the British government for not offering to buy this National Treasure to keep it together and on public view.

 

"I have always had powerful, vivid memories of the Exhibition from when I was a young boy - my grandfather (Stan West), who lived in Brighton, took me there when it was in a series of damp, dark and incredibly atmospheric interconnecting arches underneath the pier.  I was fascinated and would stay for hours, demanding to be taken back whenever I visited."  Matt Leys - 2002

WP 62 x 74 x 20in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 13) £20,000  

WP 48 x 43 x 11in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 188) £1,500

WP 57 x 47 x 15in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 167) £1,700

 

WP 67 x 75 x 25in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 20) £2,800

WP 62 x 73 x 24in Price realised at auction (24.9.03 lot 498) £16,000

WP 76 x 26 x 65in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 110) £3,200

WP 38 x 53 x 16in Price realised at auction (24.9.03 lot 466) £2,500

WP 39 x 74 x 21in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 163) £5,500

WP 33 x 55 x 17in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 173) £3,800

WP 180 42 x 73 x 20in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 445) £13,000

The Happy Family - date unknown

Walter Potter's delightfully demented utopian vision... all creatures living together in harmony.

WP 61 x 75 x 24in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 55) £2,700

The Kitten Wedding - circa 1890's

Potter's last complete grand tableaux, also the only one where the mounts are clothed. This is without a doubt the most popular piece with the general public and has been loaned out on several occasions for exhibitions.


WP 24 x 37 x 22in Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 293) £18,000

 

 

WP257 47 x 38 x 15 in (or 48 x 40 x 16in per WP inventory) Price realised at auction (23.9.03 lot 193) £7,000. This piece was rumoured to have been bothered with.

Stay tuned for further comments on this issue with photographic comparisons as well as musing on the concept of "restoration".

 

Click here to see more detail photos, Potter  rats, other displays, freak animals,  & Potter Museum ephemera

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

An amazing self-taught craftsman, Potter made most of the props used in his cases.  Much of the furniture was made from wooden cigar boxes.

When making large cases, it was Potter's usual custom to cut out cardboard figures and fix them in position. These would be replaced with mounts as specimens became available.

Potter had planned at least one more tableaux after The Kitten Wedding but sadly, not many of the cardboard figures had been replaced before his stroke in 1914.  It was to have been a "court" scene with judge and jury, using squirrels.  There was no mention of this work in progress in the Jamaica Inn's inventory of Jan 2003.

Note on kitten colours:  The kittens are all ginger tabby and white because they were all from the same gene pool. 

This has nothing to do with superstitions about black cats.  This author has seen several taxidermy examples of black cats from the Victorian era.


This page was first created July 2002.

RESOURCES:

Potter's Museum of Curiosity catalogue (text by Walter Potter, James Cartland and the Saturday Book), 1977
Mr. Potter's Museum of Curiosities (text by Pat A. Morris) 1995
Photo postcards, vintage.

History of British Taxidermy by Christopher Frost
1901 Bramber Census
Sepia postcard of Monkey Riding Goat is from the D. Chapman collection.
Christopher Linney
Alexis Turner

Jamaica Inn's inventory of Potter Museum - January 2003
Bonham's auction catalogue for sale of The Contents of Mr Potter's Museum of Curiosities 23-24 September 2003

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