Victorian Booth Collection of Taxidermy

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The Booth Collection

Founded by Edward Thomas Booth, naturalist and keen on all aspects of Natural History. He was born in 1840, to a moneyed family. Early years were spent in education in Brighton and then on to Trinity College Cambridge where is studied only intermittently, as finally asked to leave having spent more time on the fens shooting and observing birds rather than studying.


View inside the Booth Museum, Dyke Road as it would have looked in around 1911.

Edward returned to Brighton in 1865 and he created the Booth Collection in 1874. The taxidermy museum was dubbed “home of the dioramas". Being one of the first exponents of observing birds in their natural habitat and then re-creating this as close as practical possible.
His detailed notes and sketches bear witness to this detail. Booth is one of the finest Victorian Natural History bird taxidermy collections in the UK.
Booth like many of his contemporaries was a dedicated naturalist and a genuine “character”. He even had is own carriage at Brighton Station to hook up to the next outward bound train whenever a new or rare bird was spotted.


Edward Thomas Booth. 1840-1890. Pictured here holding a walking stick which is in fact a "410" shotgun.

Introduction to the First Edition dated 1876 by Mr. E T Booth in his own words

As a catalogue does not need a Preface, I will simply state by way of introduction that all scientific arrangements has been given up as hopeless in a collection where the chief objection has been to endeavour to represent the birds in situations somewhat similar to those in which they were obtained. Many of the cases, indeed being copied from sketches taken on the actual spots where the birds themselves were shot. The few notes that I have recorded are solely my personal observations and with two or three exceptions (all noted) not a book of reference has been opened. Those who expect to find a long list of rarities I am afraid will be sadly disappointed as in order to avoid exhibiting or describing a specimen with which I was only acquainted by hearsay, I have restricted the collection entirely to birds that have fallen to my own gun during my various excursions in the British Isles.

Booth in 1865 purchased a, then isolated house, on Dyke Road overlooking the sea, which he named "Bleak House". In 1874 when the taxidermy collection outgrew his home, he erected a much large structure in his garden which is now the museum we see today.

As well as creating the taxidermy museum he prepared some of the taxidermy items himself, having been trained by bird stuffer and barber “Kent” of St Leonard’s in Sussex. Before preparing the cases, Booth made detailed drawings of how each one should look.
These drawings were based solely on notes made in the field. Silhouettes of each bird was the created, cut to scale and arranged in the cases to create the most lifelike positions possible. Other creatures and plants were also incorporated into the taxidermy cases for additional detail.

This is an additional page to compliment the exisitng images.

The Booth Collection

The Booth III Collection

The Booth IV Collection


North Atlantic Gannets at the nest in a colony.Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, September 1874. Birds were taken from this colony for commercial purposes. They were plucked and sent to Market in Birmingham and Manchester and sold for eating for eight pence and ten pence each. The feathers were then used in bedding, once the smell of guano was removed from the feathers.


Common Buzzards at the nest. Specimens shot / obtained from Kenlochewe, Rosshire, May 1868.

Victorian White Tailed Sea Eagles with nest and eggs. ET Booth words dated 1877. Though banished from numbers of eyries where it was formerly in the habitat of breeding, the White Tailed Eagle still holds its own on the Western Coast of Scotland. The male and female shown here with their nest. The case was copied from a sketch made in the Hebrides. The female was shot and the male trapped within a few miles of the same spot in the Spring of 1877. The case was prepared by Pratt and Sons of Brighton and is approximately 20ft by 20ft and still remains insitu.


Male and Female Gyr Falcons. Victorian case. Specimens shot / obtained from Bullocks Hill, South Downs September 26th 1882


Male and Female Capercailles. Specimens shot / obtained from Perthshire, December 1878

Victorian Sparrow Hawks with chicks. I am afraid that this hawk has many enemies but few friends. Those who take an interest in falconry often put in a plea for that still greater robber, the Peregrine, but I have yet heard a word spoken in defence of the poor Sparrowhawk. That he is a bad character, no one who has taken the trouble to watch his habits can deny. Gamekeepers often wrongly accuse certain birds of carrying off young Pheasants from the coops during the breeding season, but with regard to this hawk, I always think that he fully deserves the bad name to which he has acquired. This bird would I should imagine soon become a very numerous species were it not so universally killed down. It is seldom that a brood is allowed to fly on any ground where game is preserved, except where they owe their safety to the denseness of the timber or laziness of the Gamekeepers and trappers. The Sparrowhawk is found all over the county, being the most numerous in the neighbourhood of large woods. It generally makes use of the nest of a the Crow or some other large bird in which to rear its ravenous brood. I have noticed that in the Highlands that the young birds were frequently fed upon the Meadow Pipit, which is one of the most commonest small birds in that part of the Country during the Summer Months. The specimens in the case both old and young were obtained near Lairg, in Sutherland, in June 1868. The nest had been built and occupied by a pair of Grey Crows the previous year.


Hen Harrier (Female with chick as pictured). This bird, which is considered to a connecting link between hawks and owls is common on the flat moors in central and east of Sutherland and also over the greater part of Caithness. It may in like manner be met with scattered over the country where there are large open heaths or furze covered downs. On two or three occasions I have found its nest in the rushy marshes in the neighbourhood of the broads in the east of Norfolk As is the case with other species the immature birds seem to wander more readily from their usual haunts than adults and are not unfrequently obtained in Sussex and the adjoining counties. It is said to be very destructive to game, but my own observations would lead me to believe that it preys more on small vermin and birds of the size of the Titlark than on anything larger. In the summer of 1869, while walking over a moor in the east of Sutherland, I disturbed a ring tail (the female Hen Harrier being known by this name), from her nest which contained one young just out of the shell and five eggs on the point of hatching. As both the old birds were flying around in a state of great consternation, I sat down to watch their actions for a few moments. On rising to leave the spot I discovered that I had laid my gun on the back of an old Grey Hen, who now got up from her nest, in which there were fresh laid eggs. Evidently showing that she herself had chosen this apparently dangerous locality for her nursery, as the Harriers nest was within six or seven paces. This is not the only instance I have met with of game and birds of prey being found in close proximity. As will be seen by the specimens in the case the eye of the male is a bright yellow, of the female a warm brown and of the young a pale blue. When first I found this nest it contained five eggs, but on visiting it a fortnight later there was only a single young bird, either the eggs or young being carried off by Grey Crows which were breeding in a steep rock at no great distance. The whole family were obtained on the moor in the west of Caithness in June 1868


Victorian Hooded Crows with chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Lairg of Sutherland, June 1869. Though only a Winter visitor to the Southern parts of the island this bird may be found at all seasons in the Highlands of Scotland. In the South it usually frequents the sea-coast living on the dead fish or any decomposing remains that may be cast up by the tide. I have often noticed Grey Crows on the large broads in the east of Norfolk, flying one after the other over the litter that was washed up on the lee shore hunting for any dead or wounded fowl that might have escaped from the gunners. As soon as a prize was discovered the croaking and screaming of those near at hand would soon bring the black fraternity together and living or dead the unfortunate victim would speedily have its flesh torn from its bones. In the Winter of 1868, I was punt gunning on Loch Slyn in Ross-shire and having made a successful shot at a large flock of Mallards as they rose from a rough bank, I was unable owing to the long heather that grew near the shores of the loch to collect the whole of the cripples as some the wounded birds crawled into the thick cover before I could gather up those nearest to hand. About an hour later when on the far side of the loch I noticed several parties of Grey Crows numbering in all at least forty of fifty birds flying and quarrelling near the spot where I had fired and shot and on again searching the ground, I found that they had discovered and dragged from their hiding places seven more ducks. Four were picked nearly clean but the remaining three though quite dead with less torn. On looking over the spot on the following morning I found two more skeletons which I had missed on my previous search. On the moors in the North they are quite without exception the worst vermin that a game preserver has to contend with. They may be seen in the Spring quatering the ground like setters and the nest of a Grouse or other game bird once discovered is soon robbed of its contents. They usually have some elevated spot seeming instinctively to know when anyone is in pursuit of them. I have often however shot them by driving or riding along the hill roads in the Highlands as they take little notice of a conveyance During the autumn migration I have occasionally met with them in the North Sea apparently tired out by their long flight and glad of a rest on any boat or vessel they might meet with on their course. Two of these birds and a Jackdaw which had followed us one day in a thick fog for a considerable distance at last settled on one of the paddle boxes of the steamboat. A shot or two which I fired at some Gannets at first greatly alarmed them and one of the crows beat a speedy retreat, it soon however returned and after a time got used to the noise of the guns and the shouts of men who were fishing and stalked gravely about on the bridge seeming to take particular notice of what was going on. Towards dusk the wind freshened and the pitching of the steamboat seem to disagree with them as after looking very miserable for some time in their vain attempts to keep their footing, they at last took a reluctant farewell flying slowly against the wind towards the land. The male and female together with the nest and eggs were obtained near Lairg in Sutherland in June 1869. The case is copied from a sketch taken from a nest in the rocks at Longa Island off the west coast of Ross-shire.


Victorian Sooty Tern. Specimens caught / obtained alive from Black Rock Brighton, April 1911


Victorian Kestrels with chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Canty Bay, East Lothian, June 1867. The case was a direct copy of the nest in the rocks that overhung the road between Kinlochewe and Gairloch in Ross-shire.


Victorian Velvet Scotter. Specimens shot / obtained from the sea off Hastings Janaury 1860.


Victorian Redshanks. Specimens shot / obtained from Glenlyon Perthshire, June 1867.


Victorian Lesser Black Backed Gulls with Kitten prey. Specimens shot / obtained from sea off the coast of Norfolk, September 1872


Victorian Herring Gull. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, September 1874


Victorian Redshanks with chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Glenlyon, Perthshire June 1867.


Victorian Little Stints. Specimens shot / obtained from Rye Nook, Sussex September 1858


Victorian Montagues's Harrier. Specimens shot / obtained from Whittlesea Mere, Hunts, July 1837. Prepared by Pratt of Brighton


Victorian Grey Partridges.Specimens shot / obtained from Potter Heigham Marshes, December 1873.


Victorian Grey Partridge, in close up from the case above.Specimens shot / obtained from Potter Heigham Marshes, December 1873.

Victorian Wheatears. Specimens shot / obtained from the Brighton area, April 1866. This is the plumage in which the Wheatear is seen just prior to its departure. For a month or six weeks in the autumn, during the migration, they are very numerous along the range of the South Downs and on the marshes adjoining the coast. The shepherds in the neighbourhood of Brighton, used in days gone by to catch thousands of these birds in horse hair nooses on the sheep walks. At present time there appears to be but few traps ever set. The nets of the bird catchers taking sufficient to supply the market.


Victorian Common Terns. Specimens shot / obtained from Dornoch Firth, Ross-shire June 1869.


Victorian Golden Plover with nest. Specimens shot / obtained from Glenlyon, Perthshire, June 1867


Victorian Bee Eaters. Specimens shot / obtained from Ashburnham area, Sussex, June 5th 1903


Victorian Common Terns with chicks and eggs. Specimens shot / obtained from Fern Islands, June 1869.


Victorian Arctic Terns with chicks and eggs. Specimens shot / obtained from Dornoch Firth, Ross-shire June 1869, and the Fern Islands of the same year.


Victorian Common Teal with chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Hill Loch, Rosshire, May 1868. The Male was shot at Bonner Bridge, Ross-shire earlier in the season.


Victorian female Yellowhammer and fledgling. Specimens shot / obtained from Brighton, June 1872.


Victorian Great Crested Grebes with chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Hickling Broad, Norfolk,June 1871.


Victorian White Fronted Geese. Specimens shot / obtained from Holmes Marshes, Norfolk, January 1872


Victorian Immature Arctic Skua.Specimens shot / obtained at sea off Bass Rock, September 1874.

Victorian Jackdaws collected from a chalk pit in Susex near Lewes. This postcard is typical of the many produced for this collection .


Victorian Bar Tail Godwits in Summer plumage. Specimens shot / obtained from Breydon Marshes, Norfolk, May 12th 1874


Victorian European Red Kite in close up. Specimens shot / obtained from Perthshire, June 1878


Victorian Pygmy Curlews, which we think is the common name for Knots, in Summer plumage. Specimens shot / obtained from Breydon Marshes, Norfolk, August 1874


Victorian cliff face containing magical Guillimots in Summer plumage. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, June 1867.


Victorian Sandwich Terns in a with nest and egg. Specimens shot / obtained from Fern Islands, June 1867.


Cormorants in Winter plumage. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, September 1874.


Victorian Male Cormorant at a nest scene. Specimens shot / obtained from Fearn Islands, Northumberland June 1867


Victorian North African Cream Coloured Courser. Specimen shot / obtained by a Shepherd from Romney Marshes, May 1907.


Victorian Goldeneyes. Specimens shot / obtained from loch Slyn, Ross-shire March 1869


Victorian Gooseanders. Specimens shot / obtained from Inverness, March 1878


Victorian Grey Plover with chick. Specimens shot / obtained from Glenlyon, Perthshire, June 1867


Victorian Male Hen Harrier with Skylark prey. Specimens shot / obtained from Caithness Moor, June 1868


Victorian Herons in close up. Specimens shot / obtained from Cromaty Rocks, near Cairn Rhui, May 1869


Victorian Herons in close up showing staggering detail in the birds and the groundwork. These mounts are over 130 years old.


Victorian Hoopoes. Specimens shot / obtained from Saddlescombe farm, Poynings, West Sussex, April 1882.


Victorian Little Terns.Specimens shot / obtained from Rye, Sussex, May 1860


Victorian Mediterreanan Gull. Specimens shot / obtained flying over Hickling Marshes, Norfolk, July 1873.


Victorian Guillimots nest, chick and egg. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, June 1867


Victorian European Nightjar in a with nest and egg shells and chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Tarlogie, near Tain, Ross-shire, June 1869.


Victorian Pochards in Winter scene. Specimens shot / obtained from Hickling Broad, Norfolk, November 1871


Victorian Puffins on a cliff scene. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Roack, Winter 1870. The case is also a copy of the old battlements on Bass Rock that the birds frequently nest inside.


Victorian Razorbills in Summer plumage. Specimens shot / obtained from Bass Rock, September 1874


Victorian Roseate Tern in Summer plumage. Specimen shot / obtained from Fern Islands, June 1867. Groundwork and style of taxidermy clearly demonstrate the work of messrs "Pratt of Brighton".


Victorian Smew. Specimens shot / obtained from Hickling Broad, January 1882


Victorian Black Guillimots.Specimens shot / obtained from Island of Fura, Ross-shire, May 1868.


Victorian Black Winged Stilt. Specimen shot / obtained from sand bank between Rye and Lydd, on the shores of the English Channel, May 1866.


Victorian Song Thrushes with 4 chicks. Specimens shot / obtained from Portslade, Sussex, May 1874.


Victorian Sooty Tern. Specimens caught / obtained alive from Black Rock Brighton, April 1911.


Victorian Eider Duck with nest and eggs. Specimens shot / obtained from Gullane Bay, Firth of Forth in May 1867. The nest and eggs were taken from the Island of Fidra in June 1867.


Victorian Red Legged Patridges. Specimens shot / obtained from Heigham Marshes, December 1873.


Victorian Redstarts. Specimens shot / obtained from Catsfield in East Sussex, May 1855. The nest and eggs that comprise the diorama were taken from Glenlyon in Perthshire, June 1855.

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