Curator's choice - Natural history

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Geology and Topography

Various fossils are featured in the display on Wimbledon’s topography and geology. Some 100 metres of London Clay underlie Wimbledon, laid down under a shallow tropical sea some 45 million years ago. Clay soils are found on the steeper slopes down from the high plateau of Wimbledon towards the Beverley Brook and Wandle. There is a large fossil Nautilus, typical of the London Clay.

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Plants

The museum holds plants collected over the last 100 years in our area. These are available for study by experts wanting to know what used to thrive here. There is also much manuscript material documenting the natural history of our area in the inter-war years of last century.

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Fish

troutA Trout, caught in the River Wandle in 1891 may have been one of the last caught there before abstraction of drinking water caused the spring sources of the Wandle to run dry. Recent work to restore the water quality of the Wandle has enabled Trout to be re-introduced, but there will be a continuing problem from the poorly-treated sewage outflow from Beddington and the many small drains that can carry toxic waste to the main river all-too-readily.

Contact the WandleTrust for more about the river.

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Mammals

badgerOur stuffed Badger, Red Squirrel and Polecat were all shot in the 1880s by a local butcher, Thomas Henry Streeter. At that time all would have been common here.

Badger

In contrast, Badgers are still found locally around the high plateau of Wimbledon, where there are many setts, not only in Richmond and Cannizaro Parks and Wimbledon Common, but also in neglected corners of our larger suburban gardens. This isolated population, cut off from the countryside, is unique in London.

For more information on mammals, the Mammal Society studies UK mammals.

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Birds

Peacocks

Stuffed Peacocks were two-a-penny in Victorian collections, but the museum’s specimen comes from the menagerie kept by Sir Henry Peek in his 100 acre gardens at Wimbledon House, Parkside, in Victorian times; an interesting link with the fashionable past of Wimbledon.

Montague's Harrier

We don’t know the origin of the juvenile Montague’s Harrier, but this raptor has always been a rare migrant, wintering in Sub-Saharan Africa and breeding in the downlands of South-east England. Only about 10 pairs breed annually nowadays. It would have made quite a prize item in the collection of a Victorian gent.

Contact the British Trust for Ornithology or the RSPB for more information on our birds.