What do the following have in common – Noddy, Kermadec Petrel, Sea Lamprey and a rabbit? They are all exhibits in the Grosvenor Museum’s new Natural History Gallery.
The museum’s natural history collections were established by Chester’s Victorian naturalists, two of whom – Robert and Alfred Newstead – were former curators of the Grosvenor Museum. The gallery has displays of specimens collected by these naturalists, plus local species, geology and the history of life on Earth.
The newly revamped gallery officially reopens on Saturday (September 2) but has already proved popular with visitors who have been given an advanced look.
Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “The Natural History Gallery was last updated in 1994 and we have been delighted to update the gallery, 23 years later, with original collections along-side contemporary interpretation.
“I would like to pass on thanks to Arts Council England and the Grosvenor Museum Society who have funded the £47,000 gallery and the many partners involved in the transformation.”
The gallery has been themed around the four key areas of Natural Cheshire: Mid-Cheshire Ridge, River Dee, Delamere Forest and Our Gardens.
The new gallery has a lot to explore, including a fuzzy felt forest, microscopes, storysacks and a bug hotel.
The Noddy is a tropical seabird. It breeds on many islands in the southern oceans. William Lawton claimed to have shot it on the Dee marshes in the winter of 1891. He gave the bird to Francis Congreve of Burton Hall in 1897. Henry Dobie of the Natural Science Society went to see the bird and to hear William Lawton’s story. It was never proved that the Noddy did come from the Dee. It was not, therefore, counted as a Cheshire record. The Noddy is still not on the British bird list.
The Kermadec Petrel is a tropical seabird of the southern oceans. The Grosvenor Museum exhibit was the first recorded Kermadec Petrel in Cheshire. The bird was found dead at Tarporley in April 1908. It was taken to Chester market where Arthur Newstead (brother of Alfred and Robert Newstead) bought it; it was then bought for the Museum. Nobody knows if this bird flew from the tropics by itself, or if it escaped or was released from captivity in this country. The Kermadec Petrel is not on the official British Bird list. It has never been seen in Britain again.
The Sea Lamprey is a parasitic eel-like animal. Its mouth is round and sucker-like with consecutive rows of small, sharp teeth. To feed they attach onto other fish with these teeth and suck their blood.
Whilst rabbits came originally from south west Europe and North West Africa. They were deliberately introduced into Britain by the Normans in the 12th century as a source of meat and fur. They have been so successful that rabbits are now sometimes considered as pests, owing to the vast ecological and agricultural damage they can cause.
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Entry is free and donations are welcome.