Oct. 31, 2019 – The mummified cat was buried under the servant’s entrance at the Ella household in the late 1800s. The building is now known as the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Mummified cat found in heritage Victoria home

The owners of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum made an interesting discovery

WARNING: Some images in this story may be disturbing

Halfway up Fort Street sits a heritage building which was one of the first and largest settler homes to be built outside of Fort Victoria.

Now known as the Wentworth Villa Architectural Museum, the home was built in 1862 and belonged to the Ella family, immigrants from England. The family lived in the abode for 80 years before it was purchased and turned into an antique store and eventually to today’s museum.

It wasn’t until Stefan and Magda Opalski purchased the property in 2012 and began renovations and preservation techniques that an interesting discovery was made under the floorboards of the servants’ entrance at the back of the house: a mummified cat.

“It seemed they uncovered other bones of different animals that lived in this area but they’d all decomposed naturally, but the cat well preserved so they think it was intentionally dried or mummified,” said Angela Andersen, director at Wentworth Villa.

The Opalski’s did some research and learned that it was a common practice in Europe to bury cats underneath homes or near the threshold in order to keep out rats and witches and bad spirits.

“Whether this was the goal of the people who lived here or the people who worked for them, that is unclear,” Andersen said. “But it’s something unique and unusual.”

ALSO READ: Meet Clover the Commonwealth Cat

The remains of the cat are now kept in an air-tight crate upstairs amongst headstones, glass bottles, broken plates, children’s toys, and jewelry also found in the yard and between the walls of the house.

Oct. 31, 2019 – The mummified cat was buried under the servant’s entrance at the Ella household in the late 1800s. The building is now known as the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

The very large cat is frozen in a snarling pose, with flecks of dark fur still attached. It’s unclear if the cat was male or female, how old it was when it died and when exactly it was buried.

As it is now, however, the cat and the other discoveries offer a look into the layered world of Victoria’s past.

ALSO READ: Leash your cat or face a $150 fine in Victoria

“It’s all the things they brought here from all over the world; perfume bottles form New York and Europe… the house itself is built of parts made in California,” Andersen said. “It showcases Victoria as a hub for things happening all over the pacific.”

Visitors to the museum are welcome to visit the cat and the other finds at its 1156 Fort St. location from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

For more information you can visit wentworthvilla.com.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

CatsCity of VictoriaHalloweenHeritage

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

On Oct. 31, 2019 Angela Andersen, director at the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum, showed off the mummified cat found in the building’s back yard. The building was built in 1862 and belonged to the Ella family for 80 years. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Just Posted

Homalco First Nation said that it will intervene in the judicial review sought by aquaculture companies with regards to federal decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island fish farms by 2022. In this picture from Sept. 24, a demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver.(Quinn Bender photo)
Aquaculture companies’ judicial review challenges reconciliation and Aboriginal Rights: First Nations

Homalco First Nation chief reacts to Mowi and Cermaq intervention in Discovery Island decision

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Black Creek residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

CSWM will be closing the landfill in Campbell River and opening the organics composting facility in 2022. In the meantime, the City of Campbell River was hoping for a break on yard waste drop-off for residents. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona waste board upholds yard waste drop-off fee

Campbell River had hoped for waiver until new organics facility opens

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. on Oct. 31, 2018. Several Vancouver Island mayors and members of British Columbia’s salmon farming industry say a federal decision to phase out fish farming has left them feeling “disposable and discarded.” In a letter to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, they say they weren’t consulted before she announced a plan to phase out open-net pen fish farming in the Discovery Islands over the next 18 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward
Strathcona Regional District pens letter to Trudeau about fish farm closure

Minister Jordan, MLA Babchuk and MP Blaney also included in letter

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Most Read