Happy birthday to museum's Nelson

THE town’s favourite feline has celebrated 65 years as a resident at Clifton Park Museum and “he’s still looking good for his age,” according to staff.

Nelson the Lion’s anniversary celebrations were hailed as a roaring success as fans of the famous cat—who was reputably immortalised in bronze at the foot of Nelson’s Column—flocked to visit him in his den on Wednesday.

Drawing and poetry writing competitions and birthday card making were all on the agenda at the birthday and guests were invited to sink their teeth into a special Nelson the Lion cake and biscuits baked on the museum’s Victorian range.

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Nelson has been the pride of Clifton Park Museum since he moved to Rotherham in 1947.

Senior Officer at the Museum, Rachel Reynolds, said: “Everybody loves Nelson and whenever people visit the museum, the first thing they usually do is visit the Lion’s Den.

“Over the decades Nelson has delighted thousands of people, many of whom have now grown up and brought their own children and even grandchildren to see him.

“He’s still looking good for his age and it wouldn’t be the same without him.”

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Nelson’s good condition is all the more remarkable given the adventures of the lion, who is one of the last remaining specimens of the South African Cape Lion, a species which became extinct as a result of big game hunting in the late 19th century.

A spokesman for Clifton Park Museum said: “Nelson is believed to be the lion that was used by artist Edward Landseer as the model for the bronze statues of lions that sit at the foot of Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square...hence his name.

“His origins are shrouded in mystery. However, it is known that after he toured Europe in a travelling menagerie of animals he settled down in Regents Park Zoo, where he died in 1872, at the grand old age of 25.

He was loaned to the museum in 1947, and finally donated in 1970, by Joseph Whitacker, the owner of Blythe Hall and a significant collector of natural history material from all over the world.”

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Since 1947 Nelson has been living in various parts of the museum, eventually finding a permanent home in his den, which was created as part of the £1.6 million renovation of Clifton Park Museum, made possible by funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Nelson’s new home allows children to learn all about him as they explore aspects of South African natural history via a special interactive Fig Tree.


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