Diane Cooke discovers some wonderful things on sale at a shop run by taxidermy enthusiast Norman Wright
TAG antlers, stuffed crows and baby pigs in jars are big business in Accrington.
Strange as it may sound, natural history artefacts are very de rigeur among interior design enthusiasts. It seems antlers and stuffed deer heads are the art forms to decorate one’s sitting room walls these days, according to style bible Marie Claire, which has twice featured unusual specimens from Weird and Wonderful on the town’s Whalley Street.
The shop is celebrating its first birthday and its founder Norman Wright, 23, from Clitheroe, is planning to register the shop as a natural history museum.
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Norman has transformed the dilapidated old building using skills he acquired whilst studying for a 3D design new practice course at Loughborough University which taught him everything from blacksmithing to carpentry.
His interest in all things...erm...dead stems from his visits to museums and castles as a child with his grandma. “I’ve always had an affinity with old things. “Taxidermy is an art form which is really gaining in popularity. Some see it as preserving life. It’s a very skilled job.”
Norman started collecting things in his bedroom and his interest progressed into an online store. His customers range from barristers to six-year-old boys with a fascination for fossils.
A set of antlers can cost anything from £25 to £700 and Norman is keen to make it clear that all his products are ethically-sourced without impacting on the environment. “We don’t go out shooting deer at weekends. They come mainly from Scottish wildlife reserves and country home estates and are the result of a culling operation.”
Likewise the taxidermy crows, magpies and other animals are the result of pest control or roadkill.
But Norman can’t quite get to grips with the trend for baby pigs preserved in jars of formalin: “They come from farms or vets and may have been still born. But girls love them and want them for their rooms.”
And at a cost of £50 to £100 some would say that’s plain freaky.
His osteology collection includes human bones, skulls and skeletons. Some are finds from archaeological excavations others are ex-medical school specimens. “They use plastic ones these days because they’re easier to come by and cheaper.”
Tropical butterflies, particularly large and colourful ones from Africa or Madagascar literally fly out of the shop and online. At around £28 each, Norman sells out every week.
“I can also source rarer antiques, a giraffe skull, for example,” says our intrepid explorer.
“When I was at college I just wanted to paint pretty pictures, but I followed my feet and it brought me here. Accrington is an unusual place for such a shop, but the town could do with more entrepreneurs.”
The large retail space is shared with the North West Barber Co. Haircutting and taxidermy – now that is Weird and Wonderful.