The Nelson Room

The Thomas Hudson Nelson collection of birds and eggs was bequested to the museum in 1914. Nelson was a respected ornithologist of his time who wrote the first descriptive works on the ‘Birds of Yorkshire’.

Nelson moved to Redcar from Bishop Auckland on doctors advice. There his interest in birds grew as he watched the annual migrations to and from the vast sand and mud feeding grounds of the Tees estuary. He struck up friendships with the local sailors, duck hunters and fishermen who would bring him birds they had found or shot.

He also travelled around the country with fellow collectors and ornithologists visiting many of the classic bird sites. His enormous collection of guillemot eggs was amassed through liaisons with egg collecting gangs established at Bempton cliffs near Flamborough. They sold sea bird eggs for eating but ‘specials’ (egg with unusual colours or marking) were reserved for avid collectors like Nelson (at inflated prices!).

Over 100 mounted bird specimens are on display in the gallery. Most were mounted by a Mr. Mussel, who had a taxidermy shop in Middlesbrough and many cases have colourful landscape backgrounds painted by Nelson and his friends. A number of interesting birds nests have also been added to the displays over the years. The gallery has been preserved in its original Edwardian setting as a reminder what the museum was like when it opened in 1904.

The Nelson Collection