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)

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)

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

Colwood resident, Geoffrey Irwin, has been missing since Sep. 27. His vehicle was found in Vancouver on Nov. 25. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Police search for former Caps player last seen in September

Geoff Irwin’s vehicle was found in Vancouver Nov. 25

Cowichan Tribes’ artist Darrell Thorne (left) and Phil Kent, chairman of the Island Corridor Foundation, hold Thorne’s first-place winning design in the ICF’s First Nations artist competition. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Tribes’ Darrell Thorne wins ICF art competition

Artists designed perspectives on passenger trains of the future

Shopping locally for the holidays has never been so important. (Submitted)
Editorial: Buying local for holidays never so important

It’s an important thing to consider when you go to do both your in person and online shopping

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples encourages groups and organizations in the city to take advantage of Duncan’s DOVID-19 grants program. (File photo)
Still lots of money left in Duncan’s COVID-19 grant program

Council has approved just three applications so far

Ultra runner Jerry Hughes circles the track at the Cowichan Sportsplex as he nears the end of his six-day Canadian record attempt and fundraiser in November. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Six days on the Cowichan Sportsplex track for ultramarathoner

Record bid misses, but fundraiser a success

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Most Read