Project Description

Worcester City’s Natural History Collections go back to the Museum of the Worcestershire Natural History Society in the 1830s. In the nineteenth century specimens of animals, birds and plants were collected from all around the world, but any current acquisitions are made in collaboration with local wildlife trusts and are restricted to Worcestershire. Today, the local material in the collection is valuable as a comparison for the biological records produced by the Worcestershire Biological Centre at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

Birds

Some 1300 specimens, with both full mounts and study skins. The birds collected in the nineteenth century include important Australian and New Zealand examples, including the extinct Huia, and the rare Kokako and Kakapo. The noted ornithologist John Gould was amongst contemporary visitors who were inspired by and contributed to the collection.

The curator in the 1900s, W.H.Edwards, was also a taxidermist, and several specimens are his work, such as the large Albatross brought here in the early twentieth century from one of the oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. The largest single part of the collection, including most of the study skins, was bequeathed to the Museum in 1907 by Robert Fisher Tomes, a local Justice of the Peace and collector.

Fish

A small collection of mainly British freshwater fish, but including the amazing sturgeon, nearly 2 metres in length, which was caught in Worcester in the 1830s.

Herbarium

By far the largest part of the collections, with specimens comprising a wide variety of flowering plants, mosses, algae, lichens, liverworts, ferns and fungi. It is now generally very fragile and has never been completely classified, but the majority are British specimens, and a great number of these are from Worcestershire. The nineteenth century collections of local naturalists include those of William Matthews, Harvey Buchanan Holl, and J.H.Thompson, a clergyman from Cradley. The collection of flora from Wyre Forest was amassed by George Jordean, butler to a surgeon from Bewdley.

Insects

Several thousand specimens of mainly British butterflies, moths and beetles, including the collection from the former Malvern Museum. Whilst many specimens in this collection are very beautiful they are also extremely fragile.

Mammals

A selection of British specimens, purchased mainly in the late twentieth century, is enhanced by local examples, groups of horns and bones, and by a collection of foreign specimens, including big game hunting trophies, which came into the Museum in the nineteenth century.

Marine Material

A small group of mainly British corals, sponges, sea urchins and crustaceans.

Shells

Some 10,000 examples of land, sea and freshwater shells, including some exotic examples from the Indian Ocean, as well as some from Worcestershire, making one of the largest such collections in a provincial museum.

Spirit Collection

Comprising over 100 specimen jars which contain examples of material from most of the above groups.

The Geology Collection

This typical Victorian geological collection of around 12,000 specimens has a wide variety of geological material. Its major strength lies in the comprehensive range of local fossils and rocks, particularly those from the Malvern Hills. The collection dates back to the founding of the Museum in 1833 and is associated with some of the early pioneers of geology including Murchison, Owen, Phillips, Buckland, and Strickland.

The collection contains important individual collections of well known 19th century local amateur geologists including W.S. Symonds, H.B. Holl, J. Allies, C. Hastings, G. Reece, O. Biddulph, and A.H. Winninton Ingram.

Stratagraphical Collection – Containing British fossils and rocks from the Precambrian – Pleistocene with around 80% specimens from Worcestershire and the bordering counties. The Malvern material has an interesting range of Precambrian rock types, rare Cambrian fossils and a good selection of Silurian fossils. Some samples were collected in the 19th century during the construction of the Malvern and Ledbury railway tunnels. Other local Palaeozoic material includes Silurian fossils from the Abberley Hills, Storridge, Dudley and Shropshire; Old Red Sandstone fossils from sites at Dog Hill, Ammons Hill, Cradley, Trimpley and Abberely and Coal Measure plants from the Wyre Forest and South Staffordshire Coalfields.

The Jurassic system is well represented, particularly by local Lias and Middle Jurassic fossils from Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds. Beside a wide variety of good quality brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods and ammonites, there are fossil insects from the collection of Rev. W.S. Symonds, some of which are figured in his book Stones of the Valley.

Vertebrate Collection

A small collection of around 1,000 specimens contains good quality material as well as some of the collection’s most spectacular specimens. Amongst the fish specimens are early jawless fish from local and Scottish Old Red Sandstone rocks and two large and almost perfectly preserved Lias specimens of Dapedium politum. Reptiles are well represented with the most important specimens being Liassic ichthyosaur skeletons, mainly from Bickmarsh, Bidford on Avon, the Alcester area, Berrow Hill and White Ladies Aston. There are a number of excellent reptile footprints – Triassic Chirotherium tracks and dinosaur footprints from the Purbeck Roach Beds of Langton Maltravers, Dorset. The section has many local Pleistocene mammal remains, mainly from the Severn and Avon terrace deposits including mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, hippopotamus, reindeer, fallow deer and horse. The Hughs` collection of Australian mammals contains bone fragments of Macropus, Nototherium and Diprotadon. Some specimens were described and figured by Richard Owen in 1859.

Rock Collection

Around 1,000 specimens assembled as an educational reference and containing a reasonable range of different igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.

Minerals

A collection of about 2,000 world-wide minerals mostly collected in the 19th century. There is a good range of mineral species and some fine quality and beautiful specimens. The main individual collections are the Strutt and Tennant Collections. There is a small collection of meteorites.