Meet Mr Mice Guy: Rodents don fancy dress at taxidermy shop

James Milne, owner of Mr P. Milnes Antiques and Curios shop, creates an array of weird and wonderful pieces with mice.

James Milne, owner of Mr P. Milnes Antiques and Curios shop, located in Elm Hill creates an array of weird and wonderful pieces with mice. - Credit: James Milne

Animals have been given another lease of life in weird and wonderful ways courtesy of a long-standing curiosity shop tucked away in Norwich.

James Milne runs Mr P. Milne's Antiques and Curios in Elm Hill and is famed for his taxidermy of mice. 

But as well as the whiskered rodents the boss of the family-run business works on larger animals too.

A mouse with a cup of tea is but one of the weird and wonderful poses James sets his work out in.

A mouse with a cup of tea is spotted in the Elm Hill business in Norwich - Credit: James Milne

The owner said: "I am constantly surprised by the number of commissions I get from people. They get them for birthday and Christmas presents in fancy dress. 

"I've had requests for all sorts - barrister suits for barristers, artists clothes for artists, as well as famous figures such as a John Lennon, Robin Hood and Jedi mice. 

"I once spent a month making a lampshade using around 30 mice and another 10 for someone's Christmas tree, all holding little baubles." 

James is aware of how people see taxidermists but assures them he "would prefer to be in the presence of living things".

James is aware of how some people see taxidermists and assures them he "would obviously prefer to be in the presence of living things". - Credit: James Milne

The city boss, who grew up in the flat above the shop, continued: "It's all very sweet but sometimes surreal what some people want.

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"But I see it as nothing less than preserving animals.

"I love the ability to be create and give new life to something that otherwise would be dead and gone."

James took over the shop in 2008 and is carrying on the family tradition.

He said: "My father opened the store back in the early 80s.

James Milne, pictured working on his craft, says that he loves the ability to be create and give new life to something.

James Milne, pictured working on his craft, says that he loves the ability to be create and give new life to something. - Credit: James Milne

"When my father passed away I took it on.

"Originally it opened just as a taxidermist but we've also been interested in antiques as well - it goes well with the collection of artefacts and curious work here."

And while the 38-year-old is aware of some people's negative feelings towards taxidermy, he attributes his love of the craft to the living.

James said: "People assume you kill animals to make them look alive - which is very counter-productive.

As well as Robin Hood, James has also kitted his mice out as John Lennon, barristers and even Jedi.

As well as Robin Hood, James has also kitted his mice out as John Lennon, barristers and even Jedi. - Credit: James Milne

"A lot of my mice I buy frozen, usually used for reptile food, so I'm sure they wouldn't be too worried about being used for what I do as opposed to being eaten.

"I would obviously prefer to be in the presence of living things, but that's not always possible, especially for the animals."

Distrust in taxidermy

Early examples of taxidermy were seen as a hoax by scientists who encountered strange and unusual beasts for the first time. 

One of the first examples of this was the discovery of the platypus. 

In 1798 an Australian governor, Captain John Hunter, sent a platypus pelt to England as well as a sketch of the animal while it was alive. 

However Brits simply didn't believe that this animal could be real. 

Instead they insisted that it must be a beaver with a duck's beak sewed on to it. 

In fact scientist George Shaw, author of The Naturalist's Miscellany: Or, Coloured Figures Of Natural Objects; Drawn and Described Immediately From Nature, even tried to find stitches in the seam of the platypus' skin.

He came away emptyhanded and taxidermy became more embedded in the scientific community as a resource as a result.