BURTON CONSTABLE WHALE

A particularly notable feature in the parkland at this time was the skeleton of a 58½ foot-long sperm whale. The bull whale had been stranded on the shore at nearby Tunstall in 1825, where it aroused a great deal of public interest. As Lords of the Seigniory of Holderness, Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable had claim to anything washed upon the Holderness shore, so the whale became the property of the Burton Constable estate. News of the stranded whale reached the ears of the distinguished Hull surgeon James Alderson (1794-1882), who set about its detailed study and dissection. He presented his Account of the Whale of the Spermaceti Tribe cast on the shore at Tunstall in Holderness to the Camridge Philosophical Society on 16 May 1825 and published his account two years later.

In time, the skeleton of the whale was transported to the parkland at Burton Constable where it was articulated on a wrought iron framework in 1836. The mounted skeleton was again examined, this time by Thomas Beale (1807-49) whose published account of 1839 came to attention of Herman Melville, who published his renowned Moby Dick in 1851:

...at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale...Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his long cavities - spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan - and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.

The remains of the skeleton were recovered from the park in 1995 and are now exhibited in the Great Barn in the Stable Block.

Did you know?
Afternoon tea was created by the Duchess of Bedford in the late 18th century. She invited friends to join her for an afternoon meal of small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, sweets and, of course, tea. The practice was so popular that it was quickly adopted by other social hostesses 
 
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