OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 21, 2019
Webpage updated: August 21, 2019

        

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WOMBWELL'S MENAGERIE

A frequent visitor to Plymouth in the Victorian era was Mr George Wombwell's Royal Windsor Castle Menagerie.  Founded in 1810 as Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie, it soon split in to three separate travelling shows.  George Wombwell died on November 16th 1850 and his Royal Windsor Castle Menagerie passed to his niece, a Mrs Edmonds.

The following article from the Western Daily Mercury for Tuesday April 20th 1869, records the details of their visit to Plymouth that year.  The article has been paragraphed to make it easier to read.

EDMOND'S MENAGERIE

Edmonds's, late Wombell's (sic), Royal Windsor Castle Menagerie, has taken up convenient quarters at the Agricultural Hall, in Westwell-street, Plymouth, where it will be on full view for the next nine days.

A wild beast show has always been a favoured exhibition with Plymouthians (sic), and therefore it was not surprising that the thoroughfares were yesterday morning thronged with crowds anxious to witness the entrance into the town, and thronged too by persons who could afford to wait two or three hours for the gratification of their curiosity.

In coming from Modbury yesterday morning, the menagerie unaccountably missed the right road, and instead of coming to Plymouth by way of Yealmpton, made a detour through Plympton.  In consequence of this its arrival in the town was delayed for nearly three hours.

The procession entered the town by way of South Devon-place, where a confused mass of thousands, including nearly all the youthful scoundreldom of the town, were congregated to meet it.  The handsome band carriage, drawn by four graceful camels, driven by Delmonico, the Arabian lion tamer, headed the procession, and then followed a long string of massive caravans, drawn by from six to eight powerful horses, which were in themselves a sight to see.

Down Jubilee-street the band carriage was preceded by some two thousand small boys, and as the mass narrowed in the limited width of Exeter-street and Briton-side the crush was something to remember, and the wonder was that many were not pushed under the wheels of the carriages.  Relief was, however, found for the crowd in the more roomy thoroughfare of Treville-street, and except at the corners the mob suffered little during the perambulation of the menagerie, which took its way through Old Towm, Bedford, Frankfort streets, Stonehouse Lane, Fore Street, Stonehouse, and in through Union-street to the Agricultural Hall.

An extra force of police was on duty at the points where there were the largest crowds, and to them, in some measure, is to be attributed the absence of accidents of any kind.  Each of the waggons was also well attended by Mr Edmonds's men (sic), who took every precaution throughout the route.

Having perambulated the town, every haste was made to get the caravans in order in the hall, but so large was the establishment, and so anxious was the proprietor that the public should not be admitted until everything was in proper order, that the menagerie was not opened last evening at all.  To-day, however, it will open at noon and continue open until 9.30, when the feeding will take place.

The Agricultural Hall is well adapted for such an exhibition, and the arrangements for ventilation, etc., are such as to make the visit most pleasant.  Although the exhibition has not been regularly opened, enough has been seen of it to fully establish its claim to be considered the A1 menagerie.  It is a wild beast show of most substantial attractions, since it includes the late King Theodore's charger "Hammel", a large troupe of performing lions, the only tamed group of hyenas in the world, a huge black or clouded tiger, a fine specimen of the great bonassus, four camels, a waggon load of monkeys, the umbrella elephants, and a host of other minor attractions.

Delmonico, the lion tamer, in his performances with lions and leopards, with hyenas, and with a pair of zebras, also forms a principal feature of attraction at the show.  Judging from the large crowd that assembled around the doors last evening eager for admittance, there is little reason to doubt that it will be patronised by large assemblies.