Have you seen my dead elephant?

Wessex Archaelogy are to look for a dead elephant near Kingswood, Bristol. Here’s The Observer link to the report.


I have doubts they will find much other than bones. Bones with lots of ‘hacks’ on them. At £400 a time the late Victorian menagerist, EH Bostock (or in this case his brother in law Frank Bostock (Little Frank*)), would have extracted as much of the meat from the bones to feed to the other beasts in the menagerie.

However, if they do find anything of the elephant, then the forensics would be interesting. The pit would, of course be large and easy to spot methinks!

Psst! There’s an elephant buried on the banks of The Clyde River. Don’t tell anyone.

There’s one buried at Smithfields market too!

*Not to be confused with E H’s brother Frank (Big Frank)

hattip to Heather for these reliable facts.

Bostock Circus Film

UPDATE2: It was produced by the ‘Warwick Trading Company’ and BFI has many of their films.

UPDATE: Just noticed the 1911 date on the film.

I discovered this old film on YouTube. It seems to show the end of an elephant to include its funeral pyre. It has German titles and has been translated as ‘Lights and Shades on the Bostock Circus Farm’. As well as an elephant and a bear performing, the participants are aslo acting throughout the film. I would like to think this film is nothing to do with the Bostock and Wombwell outfit, but I know nothing else on the film. It has a permanent logo showing BFI which is the British Film Institute. I will be contacting them to get a history of the film, but if anyone can shed light then let me know. I wonder if it is a travelling outfit on the continent around the 1920s/30s? The keepers do not seem to be very kind to their animals. Was it a Nazi propaganda stunt? Anything is possible.

Bostock: Picakard’s Scrapbooks

Taken from the Stories page of these scrapbooks about Glasgow entertainments, it contains a wealth of information about E H Bostock and the Glasgow Zoo up to around 1910 -1911. It makes some interesting reading and I thank the University of Glasgow for bringing it to our attention.

The Britannia Music Hall had already been open for half a century on Glasgow’s Trongate by the time A. E. Pickard took it over. Under his management, the Britannia reopened in July 1906, now called “the Britannia Theatre of Varieties and Grand Panopticon” and incorporating a museum, freak-show and zoo. Presenting four shows daily, at 2pm, 4pm, 7pm and 9pm, the Panopticon was a prime music hall venue, at a time when that form was thriving. The scrapbooks give valuable insights into the music hall business in Scotland, as Pickard kept an eye on the competition and documented his own publicity. Acts booked for the Panopticon included singers, dancers and comics, while the Museum, in addition to its permanent displays and topical waxworks, featured novelty acts of a more bizarre nature.

Use the search facility to see the relevant pages on Bostock.


Help Required: Photographs from Selby, Yorkshire

E H Bostock probably with Dixie the elephant around 1932

Prince LawdTanno (Spell) known to have been travelling with a menagerie and circus around 1905. Probably a lion tamer modelled on Montarno the African Lion King. Known to have travelled with Chipperfield’s French Menagerie during the early twentieth century.

Waggon containig two lions and possibly a seated trainer or keeper, also at Selby circa 1930. Not a typical B&W waggon, so it is also probably a Sanger outfit.

The following photographs have been sent to us for dating and for any other information. I have added my comments underneath each photograph, but would welcome further information via the comments section at the bottom of the post or via email: shaun.everett1@gmail.com

Thank you for your interest in this project about the local history of Selby in Yorkshire. My thanks to Mr Chilvers for providing the original photographs.

Rare view of B&W booth at Selby during 1931. This must have been one of the last times it visited the town or anywhere else, given it disbanded the following year. Shows the poor condition of the booth front.

At Selby, showing a group of Dancing Bears on the left of the picture performing for the local population. Unknown group and date. Information would be welcome.


Posters: Auctioned Posters come to light

Do you know anything about these posters that were auctioned?

The first appears to show animals coming in two by two as in Noah’s Ark. Did Bostock ever put on a show about the Ark?

The second appears to be a large hall somewhere. The tickets across the front are seperate and not printed on the posters. Both show 28th October and the town of Wigan, but cannot find a reference to B&W being at Wigan.

Any comments are gratefully received.

Thanks to the reader that drew our attention to them.

New Bostock and Wombwell Photograph surfaces from the Exeter area

Updated and corrected version

This photograph from a glass plate negative (poor condition) came to light recently and is now in the GeorgeWombwell.com collection.

Do you recognise either of these ‘drivers’? Let us know if your ancestors were drivers or elephant handlers with Bostock and Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie.

The date is probably around 1900, but it may be earlier or even later.

The photograph shows a young African Asian elephant (large ears) so it cannot might be a young ‘Sir Roger’ (see research report when published) and if it is before 1900 it might be an elephant known as ‘Bill’ which was travelling around the same time and was recorded at the Goose Fair in Nottingham during 1896. A full research report will appear on the research website in due course.

Addenum: Thanks to Jim Stockley for correcting my undoubted lack of knowledge in the zoological department!

Thanks also to Geoff Younger for suggesting the man standing at the back might be Arthur Feeley. Arthur had been injured during WW1 and was given permission to travel inside the vans according to Geoff. This then might date the photograph from 1917 onwards when Arthur returned to duties at Bostock and Wombwell.

Arthur Feely, Elephant handler for Bostock&Wombwell

reproduced by kind permission of Geoffrey Younger, date unknown

I have been contacted by Geoffrey Younger with photographs by Arthur Feely, who used to be an elephant handler in the early 20th century. Geoffrey also says Arthur can be seen in the Hull Fair photograph recently published on here and the research website.

Geoffrey is Arthur’s grandson and has published some information about Arthur on the NFA website. Elephants were used extensively in travelling menageries for hauling waggons in the early days. I will be publishing a rare early photograph in the next few weeks concerning this practice.

reproduced by kind permission of Geoffrey Younger, date unknown

Close up of the booth from our Hull Fair photograph circa 1904

Geoffrey thinks Arthur is the man on the right in the close up of our Hull Fair photogragh.I think Geoffrey is correct. If anyone knows who else is in the photograph, then please contact us. It seems Arthur was a loyal worker for the menagerie.

Artefacts: Bostock and Wombwell at Hull fair

Hull, in East Yorkshire is one of those cities that has a long tradition of markets and fairs. The Hull Fair is a regular annual event from the thirteenth century onwards and is rivelled only by the Nottingham Goose Fair and Bartholomew’s Fair in central London. It was then, a popular destination for the travelling menageries. Wombwell is known to have attended and Bostock and Wombwell shows were a favorite with the nineteenth century audiences.

There were a series of excellent photographs taken of B&W at Hull Fair. This is probably the finest example of the menagerie booth photographs that exist and was possibly taken in 1919 although the fashion might indicate somewhat earlier.