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

This photo shows Franklin River Camp "B" circa 1940. Logging was started in the Franklin River area by Bloedel, Stewart & Welch in 1934. This is one of 42 photos of the Franklin River area, donated together in an album put together by the donor's husband, Stanley Young. Young worked as a highrigger in the Franklin River area from 1939-46. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN10830 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Logging along Franklin River

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Volunteers from the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society release a bucket filled with 5,000 coho fry into Kitsuksis Creek on the bridge at Batty Road, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVID HOOPER)
Volunteers release thousands of coho fry into Port Alberni creeks

Fry come from small hatchery on McLean Mill National Historic Site

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

NEW CUTLINE Payphone use is declining dramatically. (Black Press Files)

This payphone sits just east of TD Bank in Parksville, on Harrison Avenue. (Emily Vance photo)
Last call approaches for Vancouver Island payphones?

Some payphones don’t get used for days as mobile phones diminishing need

Garden centre manager Jack Olszewski and Chris Beaudoin say business has grown by 50 per cent at the Sooke Home Hardware Store. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)
Flower power: COVID restrictions fuel bloom boom on Vancouver Island’

More people seeking flowers to add colour, says Sooke landscaper

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Most Read