A wife who found her late husband's secret taxidermy collection in the loft of her Worcestershire home is putting it up for auction.
The collection, which includes a number of cased animals, will be auctioned at Derbyshire based auctioneers Hanson's on Monday. It is expected to be worth ten thousand pounds.
Julie Gittoes, who is 62-years-old and from Blakedown near Kidderminster, had no idea her late husband Kevin had a collection of cased animals hidden in the attic, until she had some building work done.
Ms Gittoes said: “I was never allowed into the loft but, after I lost Kevin, I needed some work done in the attic.
"The workman said to me, ‘Did you know there are a lot of boxes up there?’ I found 12 pieces of taxidermy I had no idea about.
"I’m amazed Kevin managed to squirrel them away without me knowing."
A collection of birds and animals including a Lions head with real teeth, Rabbit, badger, fox, hartebeest (African antelope), plains zebra and a multitude of fish and birds were all found hidden away.
Ms Gittoes explained that while she knew her late husband had an interest in taxidermy, she had no idea just how vast his collection was.
"When I met Kevin 32 years ago, he had a couple of pieces. Though it was never my thing, I never stopped him displaying them in the house.
"I just limited it a bit. I never begrudged him doing it.
"He was very proud of his collection. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve decided to sell it at auction.
"I want to pay tribute to Kevin and share something that was really important to him.”
Kevin collected taxidermy as a hobby for more than 30 years, whilst working as an engineering manager for the Mirror Group.
However, once retired he got a part-time job at an auction house, which was something he loved and according to Julie, the perfect place to source taxidermy.
Julie continued: "I know some people think taxidermy is a bit strange but Kevin was fascinated by it
"He always loved country pursuits. When our daughter, Esther, was small and had sleepovers, some of her friends were terrified when they walked into the hall.
"Esther did a school project on taxidermy when she was 10. The teacher must have thought we were a bid odd."
Ms Gittoes said it made her smile to think of Kevin smuggling all the pieces into the loft, but that now feels like the right time to part with most of the collection.
She is, however, keeping a badger and a few of the birds.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: "Kevin’s collection is quite extraordinary with examples dating back to the 1860s. Some people may find it a little bizarre but you have to put taxidermy into its historical context."
He explained people in Edwardian and Victorian times had deep fascinations with natural history, but they had no access to modern technology such as television programmes.
Therefore, taxidermy was used for educational purposes, and was also regarded as an art form.
Mr Hanson said: "Kevin’s interest in it fascinated him for decades and led him to acquire one of the most unusual private collections I have ever come across.
"Now the finds he made over the course of decades look set to interest future generations for years to come."