News & Insights

The Taxidermy Collection of Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke

23rd February 2024.

This April, Tennants Auctioneers are delighted to have been instructed to sell the Taxidermy Collection of Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke, businessman, British Army officer, botanist, naturalist, ornithologist, horticulturist, art collector and landowner. The majority of the 61 lots are specimens taken by Stephenson Clarke on four hunting trips to Africa between 1909 and 1924 and were mounted by the renowned Rowland Ward Ltd of Piccadilly, London. Several of the lots are recorded in Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game. The collection will be sold as part of the Natural History & Taxidermy Sale on 17th April.

Stephenson Clarke (1862-1948) was born in London, son of Agnes Maria Bridger and Stephenson Clarke, and was educated at Winchester during which time he travelled to France where he learned the language from local bird catchers. After leaving school, he journeyed to New Zealand where he collected his first bird specimens.

Having joined the Royal Sussex light Infantry in 1880, he served in South Africa and was mentioned in dispatches for his actions. During this posting, he collected many bird species and described several, including Clarke's Weaver (Ploceus golandi), named after his brother Captain Goland Clarke. He later described the Chaplin's barbet (Lybius chaplini), a bird from Northern Rhodesia, and named a spotted giant flying squirrel (Petaurista elegans clarkei), when it was discovered in China/Bhutan. Clarke amassed an important collection of bird specimens throughout his career, which he donated to the British Museum in 1923.

Going on to command his regiment from 1906 to 1912, Clarke also worked for the family business, Stephenson Clarke & Company, which was the oldest family shipping line in the country and owned the largest fleet of coal trucks on the railways. He was made a CB in 1911, served as High Sherriff of Sussex in 1915, held a Doctorate in Law from Leeds University, and served as Justice of the Peace for Sussex.

Highlights of the collection all mounted by Rowland Ward Ltd include a Southern Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri walleri) (estimate: £600-800), a Red Lechwe (Kobus leche) (estimate: £500-700 plus buyer's premium), a Pelzeln's Gazelle (Gazella pelzelni) (esitmate: £300-400), a Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) (estimate: £800-1,200), and a rare Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi) (estimate: £1,500-2,500). Also of note are two superb modern recreations of rhinos, one a Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), the other a Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis), made from casts from specimens in Clarke's collection, offered with estimates of £3,000-5,000 and a Grevy's Zebra Hide Dressing Screen attributed to Rowland Ward Ltd (estimate: £400-500).

View Sale Details


The sale of Specimens and Material derived from Endangered Species 

All auction entries at Tennants are sold strictly in accordance with CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) regulations, and any necessary licences or Pre-sale approvals are obtained from Animal Health, Bristol.

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