A Reel Fisherman’s Tale: The Worcester Sturgeon

Sturgeon (Acipenser Sturio)

In 1835, at the October meeting of the Natural History Society, Dr Charles Hastings, the President, announced that a sturgeon had been caught in the River Severn near Worcester on July 25th of that year, and had been presented to the museum. This enormous fish is one of Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery’s, earliest acquisitions, coming only two years after the establishment of a museum in the city in 1833.

The sturgeon (Acipenser Sturio) belongs to a group of very primitive fish with a huge torpedo shaped body and five rows of bony plates. It has an unusual toothless, funnel-shaped mouth with an extending feeding tube that can suck up molluscs, worms and other invertebrates.

They are fish of the atlantic ocean in adult life and only swim to freshwater to breed.  The young remain in the rivers until they are around three years old and head back to the ocean, only to return to breed and renew the cycle some eight years later. It is during these spawning months that the very large fish were hunted and prized, not only for their size but also for their roe which is better known as caviar.

The Worcester Sturgeon

Edward II decreed the sturgeon a royal fish in 1324 in an act of parliament which claimed any sturgeon caught, for the crown. In theory, this law still endures to the present day. These fish would not have been as rare as they are today in British rivers. Weirs, Locks and pollution have seen their numbers decrease in this country.

Our sturgeon is currently on display in a new, purpose built case, at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery. It is not however, Worcester’s only famous sturgeon. In 1843, another was caught at Diglis, Worcester and was placed against the south wall  of the water gate and it’s shape chiselled into the stone. It was some two feet shorter than the museum’s specimen and it can still be seen on the river wall to this day.

For further information regarding the sturgeon at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery, please contact Garston Phillips at museumcollections@worcestershire.gov.uk

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