Photo credit: Paintshop
In 2021, a new blue plaque was unveiled at Skinner Street Church to commemorate Philip Henry Gosse. To further this commemoration and as part of the Poole HAZ project, we commissioned a new public art mural by Paintshop Studio Ltd. that celebrates Gosse’s work and contribution to marine biology. The mural can be found on 58 High Street, Poole, on New Orchard.
Gosse was a leading naturalist and marine biologist, born Worchester in 1810. Gosse grew up in Skinner Street, Poole, where Susan Bell, his aunt, sparked his interest in zoology. Of Susan, he said:
“Aunt Bell and Cousin Salter both cultivated natural history, and when I found any specimen that appeared to me curious, or beautiful, or strange, I would take it to Aunt Bell, with confidence that I should learn something of its history from her.” (brethrenarchive.org)
When Gosse was fifteen, he worked as a clerk in the counting house of George Garland and Sons in Poole. It was through his career as a clerk that he left Poole in 1827 to sail to Newfoundland, a key trading partner of Poole and a main part of what makes up our local heritage.
Gosse went onto publish many works of natural and marine history, which included his drawings and paintings of the natural world:
"Much of Gosse's success was due to the fact that he was essentially a field naturalist who was able to impart to his readers something of the thrill of studying living animals at first hand rather than the dead disjointed ones of the museum shelf. In addition to this he was a skilled scientific draughtsman who was able to illustrate his books himself." (L. C. Croft)
In addition to his contribution through published works, Gosse created and stocked the first public aquarium at the London Zoo in 1853 and also coined the word ‘Aquarium’, making the glass enclosures of marine life popular through his publication of ‘The Aquarium: an unveiling of the wonders of the deep sea’ (1854). It is this curiosity of the unknown that inspired the subject of this mural.
This fantastic mural was created by Paintshop Studio, led by experienced duo – Rick Walker and Sandra Ramos. When approaching this project, they wanted to present Gosse’s beautiful marine illustrations in a way that would have a breathtaking impact, similar as to when they were first seen by Victorian audiences.
“By recreating Gosse’s artworks, a true to his as possible but at a scale they have never been seen before, we’re showing them in an environment that is as alien as they would have appeared to human audiences when first published.
Our aim with this mural is firstly to create something beautiful for residents and visitors to enjoy, but also to find a fresh new way to present and celebrate Gosse’s work and achievements.”
This mural was funded by Historic England and Poole BID, and supported by BCP Council as part of Historic England's national High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme. Find out more about the Poole High Street HAZ project. Thank you to the property owners for their support of this mural.
We hope that this mural has helped you discover something new about the rich heritage of Poole’s historic High Street.
Read more about Philip Henry Gosse by visiting our blog.