Promotion of a wide interest in butterflies, wildlife in general and its conservation is one of Worldwide Butterflies' particular aims. The British Butterfly Conservation Society (now Butterfly Conservation) was originally founded and run from Worldwide Butterflies until it grew and established its own headquarters which are now at Lulworth. Robert and Rosemary Goodden took an active part in running the Society for some 25 years.

Robert Goodden (whose interest in butterflies started when he was four) was, for some years, on the Joint Committee for the Conservation of British Insects from its foundation, and a member of other conservation and entomological organisations. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society by two of the Society's persidents. Robert has broadcast regularly on the BBC's Wildlife and The Living World series. He has written a number of books on butterflies and insects, including The Field Guide to British Butterflies and his successful paperback handbook Butterflies which has been published in Japanese and four other languages.


Worldwide Butterflies was started by Robert Goodden in 1960, when he was twenty. Prior to this a start was made in his spare time, while selling saucepans at Harrods. When the work grew it was necessary to move back home to Charmouth in Dorset. The attic was used at first, then part of the upstairs and eventually a building was put up in the paddock overlooking the sea. Robert's parents gave considerable encouragement and patiently allowed visitors and butterflies to take over the garden.

Worldwide Butterflies, Charmouth,1961
Worldwide Butterflies, Charmouth,1961

In 1962 Robert Goodden made a tour of the Far East to establish contacts and gain experience of butterflies in the tropics. Soon an exhibition of butterflies was opened in Charmouth, followed by another in Lyme Regis.

A turning point came in 1966 when Charmouth was outgrown. It was decided to move to the grounds of the family home near Sherborne. In the same year a new showroom was opened at Brighton.

There were always new developments so there was considerable interest from the press. In 1968 Worldwide Butterflies was featured in more than a dozen national papers and magazines. It was in this year also that Robert Goodden was married to Rosemary, who has since shared in the running, making use of considerable secretarial experience, and joining in with the conservation projects.

At this time visitors only came in small groups by appointment as the important work was the building up of contacts overseas and the everyday work of supplying the needs of entomologists all over the world.

To celebrate Worldwide Butterflies' tenth anniversary and European Conservation Year in 1970 a memorable open day was arranged which was opened by Sir Peter Scott and attended by more than 2,500 visitors.

Much of the success of Worldwide Butterflies was attributable to the self-produced and printed catalogues. Part of the 1970 catalogue was in colour.

An even greater innovation that year was the installation of a large Heidelberg press, on which fully professional-quality colour work was produced and it revolutionised the catalogue system.

The postal strike in 1971 was nearly the finish of Worldwide Butterflies. As demand was growing for visitors to be able to come, opening hours were extended and in 1973 the showroom and permanent exhibition were opened.

  New buildings amidst parkland at Compton House
In 1966 Charmouth was outgrown and everything was moved to new buildings amidst parkland at Compton House

So many visitors crowded in, that far better provision had to be made for them. In 1976 new breeding areas were opened, more car parking space provided and the experimental new Jungle built. Such was the enthusiastic response that, when in April the sad news came that Compton House was to be auctioned out of the family that summer, it was possible to consider the major step of moving everything into the house and grounds: a step which could have been `make or break' for Worldwide Butterflies. Brighton and the Heidelberg press were sold: every penny and every ounce of effort had to go into the purchase and restoration work. Compton House opened in the spring of 1978 and as a result even more visitors came.

Compton House
Worldwide Butterflies, Compton House, 1978 - 2003

Today the Internet has changed our lives. Tourism trends have evolved into new patterns and the decision was taken to be Internet-based. Worldwide Butterflies is no longer open to visitors, but reaches out to the entire world through this active Website.