Portsmouth dormice appealed to Beatrix

A little fuzzy perhaps but here we see Portsdown Hill Road where it meets London Road. The George pub would be on the right behind the soldiers. 'Picture: Barry Cox Collection

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On this day in 1884, 18-year-old Beatrix Potter, having arrived in Portsmouth for a brief visit, wrote in her diary:

‘In the High Street was a charming bird shop where they had the most incredible number of dormice in two cages.

‘I don’t believe they were dormice, too large by three or four sizes. Am considering how it would be possible to convey some home.

‘Only saw one curiosity shop with only old china, which is very interesting to my taste, but not my purse...dirty old back streets, suggestive of the press gang.

‘Extraordinary boxes for carrying admirals’ cocked hats, also several shops with curious musical instruments.

‘Quite a flourishing Unitarian Chapel abounding in tombstones opposite the house where Buckingham was murdered.

‘Quantity of convicts working, several warders on wooden platforms with guns. Scotch soldiers and men of war men...much sturdier looking and more sensibly dressed than the soldiers, except perhaps the Highlanders.’

The next day she wrote: ‘Again looked at the dormice. Would they carry in a biscuit canister?’

It is not known if she bought any to add to her menagerie of rabbits, frogs, newts and ferrets which she watched for hours and sketched, developing her artistic abilities – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.