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

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

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

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

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 on Nanaimo’s Victoria Road

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

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

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

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

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

Rendering of two residential buildings proposed for the corner of Haliburton and Milton streets. (Matthew T. Hansen Architect image)
Two five-storey residential buildings approved for Haliburton Street

City council issues development permit for 79-unit complex at Haliburton and Milton

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

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 Vancouver Island residence

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

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read