Warwick Museum’s Hidden Painting of ‘Wallace the Lion’

About 18 months ago, I was contacted by one Prunella, a lady from Canada, advising me she had seen a painting of Wallace the Lion at a museum in Warwick, England.

This was her explanation at the time:

‘My mother’s maiden name was Ethel GRACE Wombwell – my 3X great grandfather John (1774 – 1845) was a son of John Wombwell and Sarah Rogers.

In reference to the lion fights…. There is a very small museum in Warwick that has a painting of a lion (either Nero or Wallace) and a poster about the fight… If this is your correct email, I will attempt to send the pictures of these that I took last year. My brother lives near Warwick and I have asked him to send me the name of the museum.’

Prunella recently replied to an email from me with the following information:

‘The place in Warwick is St John’s House Museum, CV34 4NF’.

Since it has been two years since I was first alerted to its existence, I checked out the current details, for anyone wishing to visit the museum.

The Museum is currently closed for a re-location within Warwick, but are still open to deal with shop sales and family history research enquiries.

Exciting developments are afoot to re-locate the museum in 2022 to Pageant House, Jury Street, Warwick.

However, on further research I was informed that the painting is no longer at the museum, irrespective of which building, but in their Hawkes Point storage facility.

Luckily, further detective work revealed that the painting, attributed to Rolf, is documented on splendid ArtUK website.

https://d3d00swyhr67nd.cloudfront.net/w944h944/collection/WAR/WARMS/WAR_WARMS_39-001.jpg

Unfortunately, due to copyright it is not possible to show it here. However, our intrepid Canadian contact, did the honours and produced these two fine photographs.

It is though, an accomplished portrait of a fictional lion, face on. Looks quite sweet! Not the ideal representation a a ‘killer’ lion. Maybe that is poetic justice given the 200 year old lie that Wallace…well, read my Volume One for the real story of the lion fight!


British Empire Exhibition 1924 -1925 Postcards

Four new monochrome views from the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley. All postcards, unused. The last one, HRH Prince of Wales representation in ‘Butter’ is fascinating. I assume the enclosure was temperature controlled! The following article states ‘in 1924, the Canadians used a large refrigerated case in their Pavilion to display a life-sized sculpture in butter’. Link produced by Brent Council, provides information on the exhibition and other ‘Butter’ sculptures.

I wonder if HRH sat for the artist?

Some Additions to the Collection

A few more photogrphic post cards have been added this year so far. The first selection represent some aspect of Travelling Menageries and Circuses.

The Alphonso family were well known aerialists. A notable speciality act was having three cyclists balancing above the lion’s den on narrow cycleways. whilst below the trainer would put the lions through several tricks. The date is probably 1904 when they were at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

A rather puzzling Carte de Visite by W L Shrubsole, date unknown. Bsed at 5 Davey Place and at Victoria staion in Norwich. William Lewis Shrubsole, 82 Chapelfield Road, Norwich and was known to be photographing between 1890 – 1910. Little is known of his landscape art.

Is though, this an image of the elusive ‘Mrs Wombwell (Ann Morgan)? Norwich has connections to the Menageire, via the wife of E H Bostock, who was from Norwich.

A scarce postcard representing the Tower Circus ring at Blackpool in England. A full description of Frank Matcham’s interiors can be found on the NFA website.

A popular colour postcard of the lion cages at Blackpool Circus and Zoo. Date unknown, poor quality reproduction.

Nottingham Goose Fair 1929

Recent addition to the collection is this 1929 programme for the annual Nottingham Goose Fair, still taking place in the centre of the city. It includes the layout of the fair and it strikes me that B&W are still the biggest attaction, with their pitch taking up a considerable section of the square. This was one of the last fairs that B&W attended before their demise in the early thirties.

In at Number 11: George Wombwell Biography – The Real Wombwells (Vol III)

Posted on November 22, 2019 by admin

At last the project is complete! The third and final part has just been published. It went straight into the Top 100 Best Sellers of Circus Books at No. 11!

In addition, the covers of all three volumes have been updated to the one above. Look out for the distinctive red covers and the subtitles ( volumes I to III, Events at Warwick, The Greatest Showman and The Real Wombwells)

In paperback:

Kindle ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/George-Wombwell-1777-1850-Wombwells-ebook/dp/B081QKS46H/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3UY6MCZVGPSIN&keywords=shaun+villiers+everett&qid=1574437347&sprefix=shaun+vill%2Caps%2C135&sr=8-2

This volume also contains many previously unpublished images from the Wombwell Collection and a menagerie events calendar between 1800 and the late 19th century. It is a major addition to the genealogical map of menageries families in the UK and beyond.

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George Wombwell’s NEW Royal Appointment

After 172 years, George Wombwell’s visit to Windsor Castle is to be celebrated at a family event day at the Castle! Queen Victoria’s Circus will be a true family affair, with circus acts and stuffed elephants and even a lion tamer!

Date: Saturday, 14th September 2019

reproduced by kind permission of the copyright owner, 2019

A storyteller wil relive, on the very spot, the menagerie’s visit during 1847. Lots of events and children can also join the circus for a day! I trust you know somebody that might want to attend, especially if they have never been to Windsor Castle. It’s all included in the standard price tickets.

A programme is being produced which includes the above image. I have permission to reproduce it here. It is a very rare image of the day at Windsor Castle in 1847. I’ve only ever seen one in many years of searching for it.

I think George Wombwell would appreciate the involvement of children as it was his wish to let everyone see the beasts of the wild, no matter how poor they were at the time. There are many instances of newspaper reports of George allowing whole school classes in to see the menagerie for free.

The website is here

Goose Fair, Nottingham, England

The above postcard shows some of the non-menagerie booths at the annual show and is dated May, 10th 1907. A fighting booth can be seen, which was popular at the turn of the century.

This postcard, also from Nottingham Goos Fair, dated 1906 is hand tinted and shows the statue of Queen Victoria in the foreground. The booth in front of the statue (rear side of sign only) is Wombwell’s superior pitch, seen in the close-up below

Bostock and Wombwell Band Wagon

A Grand Bostock and Wombwell bandwagon in USA parade at Circus World Museum, Wisconsin where many Victorian Menagerie items are on display/stored. Any B&W items were probably from Frank Bostock’s collection.

Colour printed postcard, verso: This elegant vehicle dates back to 1882 England. A remarkable feature of this wagon are the six-foot diameter rear wheels. The Wombwell name dates back to 1805 when it was used on a travelling menageire. Photo:Jim Morrill

New PostCards received

The following two cards are displayed for the first time and concern Tom Thumb, a well known entertainer from late Victorian society.

The NFA has a page on the American Tom Thumb: Charles Sherwood Stratton. These cards show what one card claims as ‘The English Midget’ and the other as ‘ The Turkish Tom Thumb’

The former card shows Harold Pyott, aged 32 and just 23 inches high. The latter card shows Pasha Hayati Hassid, born 1852 at 30 inches. he was introduced into the English entertainment industry by Lloyd Forsyth, according to the card (verso). requires further research.

Both persons appear top me as rather sad.