The Mottisfont Crocodile - Atlas Obscura

The Mottisfont Crocodile

Mottisfont Abbey House
Mottisfont, England

Lurking among the classical architecture, rose gardens, and art of this historic country house—a crocodile in a bathtub. 


Mottisfont, a historical country house in Hampshire, England, is known for its beautiful gardens, elegant architecture, and intriguing history. Among the many stories that surround this fascinating estate, there is one that involves an unusual pet: a crocodile. 

The tale goes that in the 1930s, Martin and Raymond, the two sons of the then-owners of Mottisfont, Gilbert and Maud Russell, purchased a crocodile from Harrods department store in London. They brought it back to Mottisfont and kept it in one of the estate’s many bathrooms.

As the crocodile grew, it became clear that the house, let alone the bathroom, was no suitable home for the reptile. The crocodile was donated to London Zoo, where it could be properly cared for and have room to grow. 

While it may seem strange to us today to keep a crocodile as a pet, it was not uncommon for wealthy families in the early 20th century to keep exotic animals.

Despite our modern resistance to restroom-raised reptiles, the bathroom remains occupied. Visitors to Mottisfont may spy a fake crocodile, sponge grasped within its jaws, soaking in the bath. This reminder of eccentricity and creativity is but a continuation of the values that have long been a part of Mottisfont’s history.

Mottisfont’s crocodile story is just one of the many fascinating tales that make this estate a must-visit destination for history and nature lovers alike.

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February 5, 2024

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