George Wombwell 1777-1859. Founder of Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie 🦍🐆🐘🐅🦏🦒🦘🐫🐍#talesofhighgate
Wombwell lived in the north of England where he worked on the docks. One day a ship came in with an exotic offer; a pair of snakes, which he decided to buy 🐍 He charged a fee to touch the snakes and quickly made his money back. He realised there was money to be made... He bought all kinds of creatures including tigers, hyenas, a rhino, giraffes, a gorilla, kangaroos, an elephant and lions. The marble statue of his favourite lion, Nero, is a top his grave today. Nero was a gentle lion and children would ride on him! 🦁
George Wombwell was a competitive man and when he heard his rival would be attending a fair in London, he marched his animals hundreds of miles and sadly a few days later his elephant died of exhaustion. 🐘
His rival heard the news that Wombwell‘s star attraction had died and he put up a sign to brag he now had the only live elephant at the fair.... Wombwell, not one to miss an opportunity, put up a sign to say ‘The only DEAD elephant at the fair’! And this was by far the most popular!
Apart from the unfortunate elephant, Wombwell was pretty good at looking after animals. So much so that Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria) made contact with him. The Prince’s beloved dogs had become sick and nobody seemed to be able to help, so he asked him to take a look. Wombwell worked out it was the dogs’ water that was the cause of their illness so he advised a change in water source. The dogs quickly recovered and the Prince was so grateful he asked Wombwell what he would like as a reward, to this Wombwell replied “what can you give a man who has everything?” So the Prince had a think about that and presented him with timbers from the warship, The Royal George. He made a coffin from the timbers and that is what George Wombwell lies to rest in today at Highgate cemetery⚰️ Of course, being the businessman he was, he put the coffin on display before he died and charged people a fee to look at it!
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