Lionel Walter Rothschild was a rich, eccentric and determined character who dedicated his life to the study of animals. His private collection formed the foundation of the Museum at Tring.
At the age of seven, Walter - as he preferred to be called - declared to his parents that he was going to 'make a museum', and began to establish himself as a collector.
By the age of 10, he had amassed a collection of specimens including beetles, butterflies, birds, fish and mammals. At 18 he moved to Cambridge to study natural sciences, and for his 21st birthday his father gave him money and land to build the museum Walter had first declared would be his some 14 years earlier.
In 1892, at 24 years old, Walter opened his museum to the public. It remains one of the largest private natural history collections ever assembled.
Walter employed dozens of collectors who travelled the world to bring back new specimens for display and research, and live animals for study and breeding. He was particularly fascinated by cassowaries and giant tortoises, and even trained zebras to draw his carriage.
Following Walter's death in 1937, the building and collection were gifted to the nation and became part of the Natural History Museum.
Today it retains its unique Victorian character, including its original floor-to-ceiling, glass-fronted hardwood and iron cases. The 4,000 specimens on public display are still arranged in taxonomic order, classified into related groups, just as they were in Walter’s lifetime.