Hall, near Wakefield, was the home to Charles Waterton, a naturalist
who in the early nineteenth century travelled the world collecting
rare species and, on his return, created the world's first nature
reserve here in West Yorkshire.
animals Waterton collected on his travels can now be seen at
would be enough to make anybody famous - Waterton Lakes, one of
Canada's National Parks is named after him - but Waterton was also
an eccentric and a taxidermist.
his travels, Charles Waterton enclosed 250 acres at his home with
an eight-foot high wall which ran three miles.
Although he fought invasions from poachers and industrialists, he
opened his land to the public so they could enjoy the wildfowl sanctuary
he had created. Inside
Walton Hall he displayed the animals he collected while travelling
and these are now on display at Wakefield Museum. Here you can not
only see the specimens of rare species he brought back to England,
still in their original cases, but you can follow his journey through
From a small boy, Waterton was fascinated by animals - he was even
made the rat-catcher while he was at school. He was happiest when
he was chasing around, climbing trees and collecting birds eggs.
Waterton's specimens wanted his specimens to look lifelike
developed his own system of taxidermy. Having seen specimens in
museums and other private collections he decided, based on close
observation, that he could do a better job and all of his specimens
He famously told a visitor to his house: "Allow me to inform
you that there are no stuffed animals in this house."
used mercuric chloride to prevent deterioration and would adjust
the dead animal until it was lifelike. His collection has survived
in very good condition.
his belief in close observation Waterton also combined parts of
different species to create his own grotesque imaginary specimens.
His Nondescript is said to have been a likeness to the Treasury
Secretary of the day.
birds still show their fantastic colours today
was a Catholic and so a monkey with horns and a grin became Martin
Luther After His Fall. In another grotesque a porcupine (below)
is made to appear weighed down by the national debt. It
is said that Waterton once climbed to the top of St Peter's in Rome
and it is known that he continued to climb trees right up to his
death in 1865.
Walton Hall is a hotel, conference and leisure centre and the Park
is a golf course although there are several public footpaths. However,
you can visit the Waterton Countryside Discovery Centre nearby where
you can enjoy interactive displays and even meet the Squire's ghost.
Bull and the National Debt"
(c) Wakefield MDC Museum and Arts