Pratt & Sons of Brighton, Victorian Taxidermists

Victorian Taxidermy

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Pratt & Sons of Brighton, Taxidermists

Victorian imagry of the Pratt founders in Brighton. This is Edwin Pratt in the early years

Victorian imagry of the Pratt founders in Brighton. This is Edwin Pratt in the later years

Curlew Sandpipers attributed to Pratt of Brighton.

Curlew Sandpipers attributed to Pratt of Brighton.

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Peregrines at nest scene.

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Puffins at nest scene.

Very nice pair of Kestrels by Pratt of Brighton

Trade Label for the above case by Pratt of Brighton

Long Eared Owl by Pratt.

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Sparrowhawks with nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton. It is interesting to note that the Oak leaves depicted are hand painted and cut pieces of cloth. It is understood that Pratt employed women tailors specifically for this task. Try asking a modern day taxidermist to do this?.

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Eider ducks with nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton

Leach's Petrels by Pratt of Brighton

Victorian Cuckoo by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Peregine's by Pratt of Brighton.

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Victorian Osprey's by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Kingfisher's by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Hare's head by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Hare's head by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Hare's head by Pratt of Brighton.

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Golden Eagle by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian imagry of the Pratt founders in Brighton. This is Henry Pratt in the early years

Victorian imagry of the premises in Brighton.

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Victorian imagry of Gargraney Teal by Pratt of Brighton.

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Victorian imagry of Hawfinches by Pratt of Brighton.

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Victorian imagry of Hawfinches in close up by Pratt of Brighton.

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Victorian imagry of Bearded Tits in close up by Pratt of Brighton.

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Victorian imagry of Great Snipe, Common Snipe and Jack Snipe by Pratt of Brighton.

Pratt & Sons from Brighton West Sussex were perhaps the most prolific and best known Victorian taxidermists in this region. The company was begun by John and Henry Pratt around 1852 and continued until 1952. Perhaps the most auspicious project that brought then significant recognition was the Booth museum in Brighton, the work completed around 1901. The brothers were commission by Edward Booth to create the dioramas principally of British birds that is still in existence today. Whilst Pratt & Sons undertook commercial taxidermy, namely fox heads, sporting trophies and cased birds locally obtained the Booth museum in our opinion created and maintained their reputation. It is also understood that Pratt as dealing with William Borrer of Henfield and mounted the birds that he shot locally and ultimately donated and in some instances sold to Edward Booth to complete the collection.

Victorian Golden Eagle with Hare prey by Pratt of Brighton.

Typically and not dissimilar to the work of TE Gunn, another eminent taxidermist of the Victorian era, Pratt cases tend to be “box type”, flat fronted cases with well executed groundwork and attention to detail. Faint / pale blue backgrounds are typical of the style and presentation. Pratt cases also tend to stand the test of time well also, a testimony to the use of arsenic powder in the preservation of the skins, unlike James Gardner who work is well known for falling apart. The standard of the bird mounts themselves is also well observed. Quite a few commercial cases till remain in public circulation but the best examples of their work surely has to be the Booth Museum itself in Brighton. This museum is well worth the visit, with the curator being a taxidermist himself.

Victorian Common Gulls, nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Pratt’s work also tended to be very accurate for the dioramas for the Booth museum. If you closely examine the sea bird and wader cases at this venue you will notice that hundreds of mussel’s shells are used in the creation of a rock pool effect. The work involved in creating this, attaching the mussels and creating an overall effect of a low tide diorama makes Pratt’s cases some of the best we have seen. The TE Gunn work for the Ogilvie Bird Collection in Ipswich, whilst competent goes nowhere near the level of detail as demonstrated at the Booth museum. This is just a personal opinion of having viewed both critically. The Booth museum dioramas as also much larger than those at the Ogilvie, allowing for a significantly larger number of birds to be included and thus making the seabird representations by example much more effective and “true to life”. The debate then must be whether you feel the work of TE Gunn id better than the work executed by Pratt, and again this can only be a personal view.

Other Brighton taxidermists of note are:

Swaysland of Brighton

Other Sussex taxidermists of note include Swaysland of Brighton who company began in 1853 and closed its doors around 1939. Birds and mammals that were created by this firm again were acquired locally. Remember people at that time undertook professions such as bird netters and commercial egg collectors for the London markets as food for the masses.
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Swaysland premises. Walter is stood outside.

Chough by Swaysland.

Golden Eagle by Swaysland.

All perfectly legal occupations of the time, but frowned upon and illegal today. Sussex and Kent are land falls for birds that migrated down from Scandinavia and Russia during hard Winters, so Lapland Buntings, SandGrouse and the like are no surprise to have bee shot locally. We are of the view that out of the 3 most prolific companies in the Brighton area Pratt stand out as perhaps the most competent.
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Swaysland premises. George Swaysland is stood outside and is dated 1939. The company had moved premises since the earlier image above.

Red Necked Phalarope by Swaysland in winter plumage.

Stone Curlew by Swaysland.

Snow Buntings by Swaysland.

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George Swaysland as an elderly man .

Brazenor of Brighton

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Robert Brazenor of Brighton.

This company can trace its roots from 1868 until 1967. Again birds mounted were shot local to the Brighton area, but this taxidermist was perhaps not as commercial as Pratt or Swaysland. The quality is not as consistent either to be fair. There were many more hobbyist taxidermists that operated in both East and West Sussex, but these tended to have full time jobs and taxidermy only served as additional income. Therefore their attention to detail and observance of the birds in questions varied considerably from excellent but infrequent to poor and shoddy.
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Barn Owls by Robert Brazenor.

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Squacco Heron by Robert Brazenor.

This is an additional page to compliment the exisitng images.

The Booth Collection

The Booth II Collection

The Booth IV Collection

A pair of Skylarks with 4 chicks preserved by Pratt of Brighton. This Taxidermists features prominently in the Booth Museum. The above case is the best Pratt of Brighton case I have ever seen in terms of attention to detail and the overall balance within what is a compact case. Pratt tended to produce large cases, which sometimes made the birds look a little lost.

Rough Legged Buzzards by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian label by Pratt and Sons of Brighton.

Common Buzzards by Pratt of Brighton.


Wooden Plaque from the case above, denoting that the case was undertaken by Pratt & Sons of Brighton.

Merganser by Pratt of Brighton.

Male and Female Marsh Harriers by Pratt of Brighton. Victorian case.

Victorian Antique case of Waders preserved by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian label by Pratt of Brighton

Victorian Heron by Pratt of Brighton

Victorian Sooty Petrel by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Teal by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Storm Petrels by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Shags by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Cormorant with eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Guillemot with chick by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Oystercatcher with eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Hen Harriers by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Long tailed Skua by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Golden Eagle with nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Common Gulls, nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Guillemots by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Fulmars by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Ringed Plovers and chicks by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Guillemots, chicks and eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Great Northern Divers by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Arctic Tern by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Arctic Tern chicks by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Sandwich Tern with egg by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Herring Gull by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Cream Coloured Courser by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Black Headed Gulls by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Black Headed Gulls by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Hooded Crow nest and eggs by Pratt of Brighton.

Victorian Nightjar with chicks by Pratt of Brighton.

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