•  Haslemere Educational Museum
    Culture, Learning & Inspiration Since 1888

    Natural History

    With over 240,000 specimens Haslemere Museum's natural history collection is one of the largest in south east England. The collection spans all aspects of the natural world from mammals, reptiles and birds to botany, shells and insects. As well as enriching our displays for visitors the collection is a vital resource for research.


    This forms a large collection of circa 70,000 shells, with representatives of all the major groups of British and foreign molluscs including freshwater, marine and terrestrial species.


    The large botany collection of approximately 65,000 specimens contains a substantial herbarium collection, as well as seeds and galls.

    We also house a living natural history display of common wild plants on our flower table, a tradition that first began in 1893. The Flower Table gives visitors an opportunity to see a wide range of live species at close quarters and encourages an interest in native plants and the natural world.


    The collection of about 2,000 items of bone material is largely made up of foreign mammals. The only complete skeletons are of small British birds. The collection overall includes skulls, vertebrates, sternums and teeth from mammals.


    Insects account for approximately 75,000 specimens and the collection is made up of butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, wasps and bees from British and foreign localities.

    Taxidermy Birds Cases

    Our bird collection has over 15,000 specimens from over 650 species. The specimens were collected from across every continent in the world and most of them date from the Victorian period up until the first half of the 20th century. The collection is comprised of nests, eggs, birds and their cases. The oldest bird case in the collection dates back to 1838, displaying a male and female Great Bustard (Otis tarda), caught in Dersingham, Norfolk, England.

    The Colonel John French (Newdigate) collection has 183 bird species mainly from Surrey, England, with a few from Galway, Ireland. They were collected between 1924 and 1929. They were prepared by taxidermists T.E. Gunn, F. Ernest Gunn and Rowland Ward Ltd and preserved in Edwardian style cases.

    British Birds

    British Birds Cases

    Great Bustard

    Great Bustards

    Male and female Great Bustard (Otis tarda) from Dersingham, Norfolk in 1838.

    The Great Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in the world, with some males weighing up to 20kg. It is famed for its elaborate mating display where the adult males contort to display their white underside. Great Bustards became extinct in Britain in the 19th century largely due to hunting and habitat change.

    The birds depicted here are believed to be some of the last native bustards collected in England. The Great Bustard remains a globally endangered species, but attempts have been made to reintroduce the birds to the south west of England.

    Extinct Moa Bird

    This extinct flightless bird once lived in New Zealand. These particular bones were found at Enfield on South Island in a shallow peaty hollow where between 800 and 900 moa skeletons were discovered. Captain Hutton, director of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, articulated this skeleton solely of the bones of one species.

    The founder of Haslemere Museum, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, bought the moa skeleton in 1897 from Steven´s Auction Rooms in Covent Garden, London.

    Extinct Moa Bird

    The Moa was similar to the emu or cassowary and its eggshell was about 2mm thick with a width of 14cm. It´s rare to find any moa eggshell today and extremely rare to find feathers. The feather depicted was found in a cave in New Zealand and was presented to our museum by Harry A. De Lautour Esq.

    The Notable Insect Collectors

    Butterflies from the Buckle collection

    Exploration, history and collecting come together in the Buckle Collection. Butterflies and moths were collected in England, India, South Africa and possibly also in Aden and Egypt.

    Major A.S. Buckle started collecting butterflies and moths in 1899, when he was a captain serving in the Goldmohur Valley, Aden (present day Yemen). He was soon promoted to Major in about 1901, serving in India and South Africa. Whilst at these postings, (1901–1908) he collected many different types of specimens. His collection was mostly housed in travelling cases and the date of the specimens gives an insight into where he was serving at a particular time. By the end of his career in India, he had risen to the rank Major General. The Buckle collection came to our museum as a gift in 1930 from Mr A.C.C. Buckle.

    Beetles from the Oliver Hawkshaw's collection

    Another military man with a passion for entomology was Colonel Oliver Hawkshaw (great nephew to Sir Charles Darwin). He donated a collection of mostly British beetles gathered over the late 19th and early 20th century. Colonel Oliver Hawkshaw presented the Hawkshaw collection to the museum in 1935.

    Butterflies from the Rupert Long collection

    Mr. Rupert Long collected over 7,000 butterflies and moths between 1922 and 1959, mainly from Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Cornwall, Dorset, the South Downs, Kent and West Sussex. Mr Long also bred some insects. He lived locally (in Horsham) and gave his collection to our museum in 1977.

    The butterflies depicted here were collected in the early 20th century, primarily from Surrey and Hampshire.

    The Notable Shell Collectors

    Robert Henson Moses Collection

    The collector Robert Henson Moses (1871-1949) bequeathed a large collection of worldwide marine, land, and freshwater shells to Haslemere Museum. The connection with Haslemere was through an associate Colonel J. F. Bensley, whose mother lived in the area. Both Colonel Bensley and Moses were both members of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

    Moses worked as a pharmacist in North London. He had a broad interest in natural history, but he disposed of his collections of plants, birds’ eggs and lepidoptera to specialise in molluscs. He visited the Kent coast often, particularly Sandwich Bay, to collect marine shells. Some of these were placed in his collection, but others were used for exchange. He corresponded with conchologists all over the world and the bulk of his collection is non-British.

    Each specimen is neatly labelled with its scientific name, authority where known and locality where available. Only a few have a date of collection, but most are probably dated 1930 to 1948. A manuscript catalogue to the collection in a bound ledger provides an index to the genera and listings with data. The catalogue covers general marine shells in the first part and land shells in the second part.

    Reverend Eyre Collection

    Reverend Eyre bequeathed his shell collection to Haslemere Museum in 1914. In addition to land and fresh water shells, he also donated mosses and slime moulds (mycetozoa). He was a well known Hampshire naturalist, and a past president of the British Mycological Society. Testimony to his zeal as a conchologist is afforded by the numerous records that appear under his name in J. W. Taylor’s Monograph of British Land and Fresh-water Molluscs.

    His collection at Haslemere Museum is stored in two cabinets and contains several species and varieties of special interest from across Britain and the Channel Islands. The Eyre material also well supplements the museum’s British reference collection.

    The Notable Botany Collectors

    Miss Lightfoot Collection

    The Miss Lightfoot Collection is stored in 16 volume albums and contains over 750 English vascular plants. They were collected between the 1850s and 1880s with the majority from the 1870s. Each plant has a poem accompanying it.

    The Lightfoot Collection provides a fascinating glimpse into common British wild plants in the Victorian period and reflects changes that have occurred since then over the last 150 years.

    Mr Swanton Collection

    This gall was formed in the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur, L.) by a fly (Cynips kollari Hartig 1843). It was collected from St Georges Down, Isle of Wight January 1921. Ernest William Swanton (1870–1958) was the Curator of Haslemere Educational Museum for over 50 years. He was an expert in many fields of natural history but had a particular interest in plant galls. In 1912 he published British Plant Galls, detailing all the gall-inducing species in Britain at that time.

    Swanton´s considerable collection of roughly 200 items is cared for and researched at Haslemere Museum. Most of the specimens are from southern England and were collected in the first half of the 20th century.