Heritage Open Days: Natural Sciences collection

Hampshire Cultural Trust cares for a large Natural Sciences collection, which includes biology and geology specimens that represent Hampshire’s natural environment, past and present.


The geology collection contains fossils from the Cretaceous period (145 to 66 million years ago), through to the most recent geological period, the Quaternary, from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. There are also fossil specimens, along with rocks and minerals, from classic Victorian British and international sites.

Iguanodon femur found on the Isle of Wight and donated to Winchester Museum by collector Reginald Hooley


There are approximately 200,000 specimens of preserved plants, animals and fungi, mainly from the British Isles, in the collection. Most were collected over the past 150 years by many different collectors.


The British insect, or entomology, collection is based on the individual collections of a number of people. The trust's entomological collections are acknowledged as an important regional resource for reference and scientific study.

There are four sub-collections within the insect collection:

· Coleoptera (beetles)

· Diptera (true flies)

· Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants)

· Other insect orders (bugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers)

A male stag beetle (Lucanus Cervus) collected in Portsmouth in 1996
Wart biter cricket

Mammals and Birds

There are approximately 140 mammal specimens and 1,070 bird specimens, some in cases, others uncased, in our collections.

The mammals and birds have been prepared in a variety of ways, depending on what they were used for. Many of the mounted specimens were originally displayed in museums or in the home, while the study skins (not mounted or posed) and spirit material were prepared for use by researchers.

A study skin
A guillemot, uria aalge, collected by James Edward, second Earl of Malmesbury, under the Needles Cliffs, Totland, Isle of Wight in the summer of 1810.

There are approximately 250 bird skulls and skeletal remains in the collections and are used for comparative purposes.  The oldest skeletal remains come from two extinct birds, the Dodo and the Moa.

Various bones from a dodo, Raphus cucullatus, and plaster casts from Ashmolean specimen


There are 2,470 clutches of bird eggs in our collections, representing 266 species of mainly British birds.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians are underrepresented in our collections with only around 64 specimens in total. Most are preserved in spirit or as cast skins.

Italian land tortoise. Prepared in Rome, 1841.

Other Invertebrates

The trust also cares for a relatively small collection of mostly spirit preserved British marine, freshwater and terrestrial invertebrates. Crustaceans (crabs and shrimps), echinoderms (sea urchins and starfish), myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), coelenterates (sea anemonies, corals, hydroids and jellyfish), tunicates (sea squirts) and annelids (worms) are all represented.


There are over 26,000 plants held in the collections, most of them collected in Hampshire, although our oldest plant, Ling, Calluna vulgaris was found at Alderly Edge, Cheshire on 18 June 1737.

The bulk of the collection are vascular plants, with around 21,000 specimens, but also represented are: lichens, mosses, liverwort, algae and fungi.

Wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa, found at St John's Wood, Ryde, Isle of Wight, 1839

To find out more about the collections we care for please visit the link below.

Online collections | Hampshire Cultural Trust Online Collections

This article was written by:
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Ross Turle

I am the Curatorial Liaison Manager for Hampshire Cultural Trust. I help with the care of the collections held and enable access to the collections so as they can researched and exhibited.
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