Margaret Fountaine


Margaret Fountaine, diarist, lepidopterist (a person interested in butterflies and moths) and adventurer, was born on 16 May 1862 at South Acre, the eldest daughter of John Fountaine, rector of South Acre, and his wife, Mary Isabella. After John’s death in 1877, the family moved to Eaton Grange in Norwich. On 15 April 1878 Margaret, who was educated at home, began keeping a diary, which she continued until her death.

Following a bequest in 1891 that allowed her to travel, she found her true vocation in collecting butterflies. She travelled in Europe, the Middle and Near East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Fiji, Burma, South America, India, Ceylon. Margaret refused to ride side-saddle, and accompanied only by a guide or translator ventured intrepidly into remote areas. She had an unconventional (for the time) relationship with her guide (Khalil Neimy) who accompanied her on her travels.

The Fountaine–Neimy collection of about 22,000 butterflies, the result of her extensive travels, was bequeathed to the Castle Museum in Norwich, together with a sealed box with the instructions for it not to be opened until 1978. When opened the box was found to contain twelve volumes of her diaries (1878–1939). Her carefully drawn sketchbooks of larvae and pupae, many previously un-described, are in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington. Together they provide an important insight into a Victorian female naturalist who collected in, and wrote about, sixty countries on six continents over fifty years.

Find out more: You can see Margaret’s baptism record at the Norfolk Record Office – NRO, PD 411/58.


An image of NRO, PD 411/58,  Margaret's baptism record. Parish records of Southacre, baptism register 1813-1996
NRO, PD 411/58, Margaret’s baptism record. Parish records of Southacre, baptism register 1813-1996




Created in 2014 by UEA Film, Media and Television students Holly Cook, Siavash Moghaddam Manesh and Huy Nguyen Bui Le.


4 Responses to Margaret Fountaine

  1. Jan Pittman says:

    thank you! I read her books years ago, and talking to a friend last night about intrepid women travellers, tried to remember the titles, and finally did and sent my friend the details. I must try to get her books 2nd hand and read them again! I’m a botanical artist living outside of Perth, Western Australia.

  2. Kathy Bugden says:

    It would be wonderful if the Castle Museum could one day hold an exhibition of the life of Margaret Fountaine featuring her diaries and collection.

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