Sky high bids for birds

CELIA WIGG They are no longer the height of fashion and many animal lovers think they are in bad taste.

CELIA WIGG

They are no longer the height of fashion and many animal lovers think they are in bad taste.

But yesterday a collection of stuffed birds had bidders queuing up when they went under the hammer at auction in Diss.

The collection of 150 birds, including rare species like hoopoe and red-spotted bluethroat, were produced by acclaimed Norwich taxidermist Thomas Edward Gunn and formed part of the estate of former magistrate Anne Marriott who lived at Wilby, near Eye.

Dating from the turn of the 20th century, they had been a gift from Mr Gunn to the Marriott family and it was the first time that they had ever been offered for public sale.

Top price of £950 was paid for a bittern - now an endangered species - mounted in a naturalistic setting within a glass case. Auctioneers Gaze and Son estimated it would sell for £260-£300.

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A cased purple swamp hen bearing the T E Gunn label and handwritten note on the reverse, fetched £500 - way above the guide price of £120-£150.

An early 20th century cased specimen of an avocet, preserved by

E C Saunders of Great Yarmouth and shot at Breydon on December 5, 1926, had been expected to sell for between £60-£90, but went for £620.

The collection, comprising 70 lots, was the most extensive of its kind that Gaze's has handled.

Born in 1844, Mr Gunn worked in Norwich all his life and was known as one of the best taxidermists in the area. He died in 1922 and his work remains sought after by enthusiasts.

Miss Marriott, 76, died in April, and her home, Wilby House, contained a treasure trove of antiques and artefacts including a rare 17th century swan register sold earlier this month for more than £16,000.