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A.J. Harris of EnfieldBritish Taxidermists

AJ Harris of Enfield

By 12 August 2023April 19th, 2024No Comments

19th Century Fox by AJ Harris of Enfield

Taxidermist AJ Harris of Enfield

This large fox by AJ Harris of Enfield contained in a beautiful original Victorian case is still in great condition. Dating from about 1890 it bears the maker’s label inside top right.

AJ Harris of Enfield was a Naturalist and Taxidermist, who began working in the trade in 1871, describing himself as “Bird, Animal and Fish Stuffer”.

He states in his advertising of 1891 that he had been an apprentice to Spicer of Birmingham. This must have been Edward Francis Spicer, the cousin of Peter Spicer.

EF Spicer used to work with the famous Peter Spicer in the family business in Leamington, but left that business and set up on his own when he moved to Birmingham in 1872, firstly to premises at 229 Great Colmore Street, and then later to 61 and then 58 Suffolk Street.

I’d say it’s very likely that A.J.Harris of Enfield had started his apprenticeship with EF Spicer of Birmingham 1871-1872 as soon as EF Spicer first set up there. Harris is likely to have at least signed up for a five year apprenticeship between 1872-1877 and quite possibly he stayed there until he left to open his own business in Enfield – sometime before 1890 when this fox is dated.

This was one of the first Victorian cases that I purchased through a private sale, and I have always loved it. Before I bought it, I had no idea of its provenance at all.  It is only through determined research that I’ve been able to find the story of it.

Good enough for Royalty and far below London prices

Taxidermist AJ Harris of Enfield advertisement

In this advertisement of 1891 in the Middlesex Gazette Mr Harris states that he has supplied specimens for the famous expos of the day, “including Paris, Birmingham and Yorkshire” where some of his specimens were purchased by Royalty.

A live fox compared to Fox by AJ Harris of Enfield dated 1890

photo: Dorne Lovegrove

Compare to a live fox today!

The live fox in this picture comes for food (chicken legs, eggs, bacon and peanut butter sandwiches!) to my house every night. We have named her “Foxy Bingo”. In this picture she is pregnant, although we didn’t know it at the time. Now the cubs are born, she is very slim – and she weighs about 4kg.

Appreciating the natural size difference between males and females, there’s still a significant thing about comparing these two foxes. The Harris taxidermied fox is huge!

This reflects the change in their natural habitats and food environment over the last 100+ years.

AJ Harris of Enfield advertises for an apprentice

Taxidermist AJ Harris Enfield advertises for an apprentice

In this advertisement of January 1893 in the Middlesex Gazette, Taxidermist AJ Harris of Enfield is advertising for an apprentice in the small ads.

The ad is very short – and probably the advert cost was based on the number of letters printed.

1894 A fracas with an employee taxidermist!

Reported in the Middlesex Gazette, May 12, 1894.

Joseph John Ball, 33, a taxidermist, at present without any fixed place of abode was charged with wilfully breaking a pane of glass in a shop window at Baker Street, Enfield, the property of Walter Harris an Engineer. The Prosecutor and his brother, Arthur James Harris, live together in a house in Baker Street and the prisoner had lodged with them.

On Saturday morning Arthur Harris gave the prisoner notice that they could not have him in the house any longer. The prisoner returned at night, however, and he was intoxicated and said he would not leave the place until he had seen Walter Harris, who was not at home. The Prosecutor returned home in time to see the crowd which had gathered outside his shop window immediately after the prisoner had broken a large square of glass by a blow with his fist. The prisoner then said to him “what a silly fellow I am Walter. I have broken your window. Never mind; lend me threepence.

The Prosecutor gave him into custody and a doctor was fetched to the Police Station to dress the prisoner’s hand which had been cut by the broken glass. The Prisoner said that Mr Harris did not give him all the money that was due to him for wages and he was vexed by this and broke the window.

The Bench ordered him to pay a fine of 5s, and the costs, and 2s 6d for the damage done, and 7s 6d the fee of the medical man who attended him or, in default, to be imprisoned for ten days.

I imagine that since the "prisoner" had been begging for threepence, it was unlikely he could have paid the fines, and he probably spent 10 days in prison!


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