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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 April, 2004, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Timmy the tortoise dies aged 160
Timothy Tortoise
Timothy was believed to be able to recognise people's voices
A tortoise who was a ship's mascot in the Crimean War has died at his Devon castle home at the age of 160.

Timothy, who was first discovered on board a Portuguese vessel in 1854, was thought to be the country's oldest resident.

He lived at Powderham Castle near Exeter and was owned by Lady Gabrielle Courtenay, 91. He arrived there fully-grown in the late 19th Century.

The castle's Rose Garden had been his home since 1935.

He was also believed to be the oldest Mediterranean Spur Thighed Tortoise in existence.

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Timothy, who weighed 11 pounds (5kg), was found 160 years ago on board a Portuguese privateer by Captain John Courtenay Everard of the Royal Navy, a relative of the 10th Earl of Devon.

He then stayed aboard a succession of naval vessels until given a life ashore in 1892 and was looked after by the members of the Courtenay family ever since.

In recent years, he wore a tag reading: "My name is Timothy. I am very old - please do not pick me up."

Lady Gabrielle Courtenay is aunt to the present 18th Earl of Devon, who lives at the castle.

During his stay, Timothy showed a keen instinct for survival, even digging his own air raid shelter under a set of terrace steps during World War II after feeling the vibrations of bombs in Exeter.

Powderham Castle
Timothy is to be buried at Powderham Castle
This year he emerged from hibernation as usual in February, but was suffering from colds and had developed breathing difficulties.

Tim Faulkner, general manager at Powderham, said Timothy had passed away at some point over the weekend.

He said: "He had been quite frail lately, so it was no great surprise, but we are all very upset. He has always been part of the furniture."

About a decade ago a bid was launched to get Timothy into the Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest animal, but it was unsuccessful because his age could not be verified while he was alive.

He was 'solar panelled', as he was very active in the summer
Lady Devon
Mr Faulkner said he hoped that the world-famous tortoise, who had never visited a vet until last year, could now get a posthumous mention.

Built over 600 years ago, Powderham Castle is the historic home of the Earl of Devon.

Lady Devon said he would be very much missed.

She said: "He could recognise people's voices and would respond to you.

"He was also 'solar panelled', as he was very active in the summer.

"You could call him, and he would come and say hello and have a strawberry."

He is to be buried at a family funeral in the grounds of the castle.

Powderham has another tortoise named Timmy Two, who is still a youngster at just 65. But there are currently no plans to move him into Timothy's old home.

The BBC's Alex Bushell
"He slipped into one last, and well-earned, hibernation."


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