The collector

Even the cushions are hand made and show game cocks

Even the cushions are hand made and show game cocks - Credit: Archant

Terry Beebe talks to one of Britain’s leading collectors of poultry memorabilia

Old english game models

Old english game models - Credit: Archant

Collecting poultry memorabilia has become a popular hobby for many and has increased dramatically over the last few years. Collections will vary from a few ornaments scattered across the mantelpiece, to a superb stockpile of barnyard fowl stretching from wall to wall.

Colin Clark, from Norfolk, has caused quite a stir with his collection, which includes more than 7,000 books, ones which he has gathered over the last 65 years, and nearly all of them relate to poultry and other wildlife.

He also prides himself on his accumulation of animal prints that adorn his walls throughout the house, as well as his collection of numerous poultry and dog statues.

When I walked into Colin’s house, I was astounded by his knowledge and enthusiasm for poultry and wildlife, so much so that I just had to find out more.

When did you first start collecting?

I started collecting as a schoolboy, initially with cigarette cards that covered chickens, rabbits and cage birds.

Pair of cockers models

Pair of cockers models - Credit: Archant

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What first inspired you to take up this hobby?

From the start, the appeal for me was always that they were colourful. I liked to compare the work of different artists who painted the various original pictures, and I still enjoy that. I also have to add that, even after all of these years, I can still find items fascinating and come across cards that I have not seen before.

Where did you get your collection from?

Over the years I have been to many fayres, auctions, and private sales and, of course, now we have the internet; it is the easiest place to find collectables. Occasionally you will have a bit of luck and items will turn up in charity shops and house clearances. I have quite a number of items that have been passed on to me from friends who are no longer with us.

What is your favourite piece?

That has to be the Judging Stick left to me by the late Norman Parkinson, who was one of my mentors and good friends. In addition, I have an array of prints left to me by the late Horace Large, a very well respected poultry judge.

This is Colins front room this is full and every wall is covered.

This is Colins front room this is full and every wall is covered. - Credit: Archant

How do you store such a vast collection?

About a year ago I moved house and, although the new house is much smaller and not as forgiving with space, I do live on my own so can put all of my spare rooms to good use to display everything.

Would you see collecting as an investment?

Certain items do increase in value, but that is not the reason I collect. Of course the rarer items can be a good investment. Today’s market makes it easier than it ever has been as you can buy and sell all over the world with just the click of a button. This means that you can have items in your collection that originated thousands of miles away. People all over the globe now collect poultry memorabilia and it seems to be steadily increasing.

What advice would you give to fellow collectors?

Buying and bidding on unique items has always been a very competitive game. My advice to novices would be to just try and visit a collector who is willing to give you advice and as much information as possible about the goods.

How can a novice collector find more information about the hobby?

The best way is to read. Read about the artists, the different time periods, examine and check cards, books, prints and statues, just research everything and always try to trace the origin. But, as I said earlier, a big part of collecting is the enjoyment and the challenge you get when trying to find that elusive item that you really want. This is a great hobby and one that, after all these years, still gives me the enjoyment and satisfaction it did as a schoolboy.

* The Poultry Club of Great Britain has acknowledged Colin by presenting him with Life Membership in recognition of his efforts and dedication to the poultry ‘Fancy’. This is an award that is well deserved, and he was very honoured to have received it.