The shell collection

On your visit to Arlington Court house you'll encounter a whole sea bed of shells. Find out how the collection was amassed and what treasures you can find in the house.

Early beginnings

Miss Chichester, the last owner of Arlington Court, started to collect shells at an early age, sailing around with her mother and father on the family yacht the Erminia. When they anchored at port a young Miss Chichester would be accompanied ashore where she would look for these interesting and colourful shells.
This was just the start of what would become a lifelong interest in collecting shells and anything to do with the sea. Through into her adult life Miss Chichester had collected a large amount of shells and catalogued them with individual names and displayed in her own private museum which was formally the old dining room.

Rare survivors

Arlington’s collection comprises around three thousand shells and includes some very rare examples that can no longer be found in our oceans. The cabinets around the house display a mixture shells. Look out for the "Chambered" or "Pearly" nautilus from the West Indies and our Morning Room display laid out by Sir Edward Salisbury of the Natural History Museum in 1949, which includes some rare specimens from the Mediterranean, Indo-Pacific and Asian oceans.

Seaside memories

Some of the other unique shells like the "Green" or "Pearly" snail found in the China Seas and the Pacific have been partly peeled and made into souvenirs; the work is most likely Chinese but could be Chinoiserie, a European style imitating the Chinese. These are examples of the souvenir shell work mass-produced at seaside places in the 1860's when shell work began to be exploited for commercial purposes. These particular shells are displayed in our museum corridor.