The sun’s shining and it’s a good time to get outdoors so for our new special series we’re looking at 10 of London’s more unusual parks or gardens.
First up, we’re looking at a small slice of Japan in Holland Park – the Kyoto Garden.
The garden was created in the summer of 1991 as a co-operative project between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in Japan to coincide with the 1991 Japan Festival that marked the centenary of the Anglo-Japanese Society.
It was opened by the Prince Charles and, Naruhito, the Crown Prince of Japan, in September that year.
Designed by a renowned Japanese landscape architect Shoji Nakahara, it features a large pond complete with a tiered waterfall, a small bridge and stone lanterns. Among the plants are Japanese maple trees and Sakura trees while koi swim in the pond and peacocks roam the foliage.
The garden received a makeover in 2011.
Next to the garden is a second Japanese Garden, the Fukushima Memorial Garden, which was created in 2012 in recognition of the support the UK gave to the Prefecture of Fukushima following the 2011 tsunami.
WHERE: The Kyoto Garden, Holland Park (nearest Tube stations are Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate and nearest Overground is Kensington (Olympia)); WHEN: Daily, 7:30am until half an hour before dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks/holland-park.
The National Windrush Monument (right) was unveiled at Waterloo Station on Windrush Day (23rd June). The bronze sculpture – the work of US-based Jamaican artist Basil Watson – memorialises the British West Indian immigrants who came to the UK on board HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 and later ships and who subsequently became known as the Windrush generation. Funded by a £1 million government grant, it depicts a man, woman and child who, dressed in their “Sunday best”, are climbing a pile of suitcases which represent all the possessions they brought with them. The memorial, which is located inside the station through which thousands of the Windrush Generation passed on their way to their new lives in the UK, was unveiled by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Floella Benjamin, chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, reportedly said the monument will “act as a symbolic link to our past and a permanent reminder of our shared history and heritage for generations to come“. Meanwhile, a public bronze sculpture was unveiled outside Hackney Town Hall on the same day which also commemorates the Windrush generation. Warm Shores, the work of London artist Thomas J Price, depicts larger than life-sized a man and woman and was based on 3D scans of real-life residents.
There’s a couple of contenders for this title – the ferry service at Woolwich and that at Hampton.
Ferry services linking the north bank of the Thames at Woolwich North to the south bank at Woolwich have operated on the Thames since at least the 14th century.
While they were previously commercial operations, in 1889 a free passenger and vehicle ferry service started operation. By the early 1960s increasing demand saw the paddle steamers retired and the ferry service upgraded to a roll-on/roll-off model. The Woolwich Ferry service, which has been run by numerous authorities over the past century, is currently run by Transport for London.
Another contender for the title of London’s oldest (still operational) ferry service is the Hampton Ferry, a pedestrian service, which operates on the Thames about a mile west of Hampton Court Bridge between Hampton on the north bank and Hurst Park, Molesey, the south bank.
The ferry service, which was first used by fishermen and agricultural workers, dates back to 1514 and was incorporated by statute, making it one of the oldest British companies. The ferry, which costs £2 for a single crossing, operates seasonally from April to October.
• The work of some 45 designers from more than 20 countries can be seen in a landmark Africa Fashion exhibition opening at the V&A on Saturday. More than 250 objects are on display – half drawn from the museum’s collection and including 70 new acquisitions. Many of the garments come from the personal archives of iconic mid-20th century African designers including Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi and the exhibition also features the work of contemporary African fashion creatives such as Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, Thebe Magugu and Sindiso Khumalo. The display includes personal insights from the designers, together with sketches, editorial spreads, photographs, film and catwalk footage. Runs until 16th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/africa-fashion.
• Discover the role public transport is playing in keeping London green at London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton Town this weekend. The ‘Act-on It!’ Open Days, being held as part of London Climate Action Week, are part of London Transport Museum’s 18-month programme, Climate Crossroads, which shines a light on sustainable cities, travel, transport and greener skills for the future. Along with the artworks, maps and signage housed at depot, visitors will be able to explore the museum’s extensive collection of historic vehicles including Tube trains, buses, trolleybuses and trams including, for the first time, the iconic RM1 Routemaster, built in 1954, displayed alongside the ADL/BYD Enviro 400 Electric, the best-in class bus from route 63. There’s also family activities – including storey-telling sessions, miniature transport displays made entirely of LEGO, and rides on the London Transport Miniature Railway. Tickets must be booked in advance. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/depot/summer.
• The Upminster Tithe Barn has an open day on Saturday. The more than 500-year-old barn, these days houses the Museum of Nostalgia which holds more than 14,500 artifacts of domestic and agricultural use, ranging from Roman times to the present day. For more, see http://upminstertithebarn.co.uk.
This month marks 150 years since the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum, the first public museum located in London’s east.
The museum had at its core a pre-fabricated building which had earlier been erected as part of the first phase of the South Kensington Museum. It was brought to the Bethnal Green site and encased in a red brick exterior designed by James Wild.
Formally known as the East London Museum of Science and Art, it was opened on 24th June, 1872, by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, amid considerable pomp and great crowds.
The museum, a branch of what became the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, was built to house and display many of the collections which had been exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Among the art collections on show was that of Sir Richard Wallace (now housed in the Wallace Museum).
After World War II, the museum was remodelled as an art museum and included a children’s section. Then, in 1974, the museum became the Museum of Childhood with displays focusing on everything from toys and dolls houses to children’s dress and books.
It underwent an extensive renovation in the mid 2000s and reopened in December, 2006, as the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood.
The now Grade II*-listed museum, located on Cambridge Heath Road, is currently undergoing a £13 million redevelopment and will reopen in mid-2023 as Young V&A, a new museum dedicated to 0 to 14-year-olds, their families and carers.
Originally installed at the Stocks Market in the City of London, this equestrian statue shows a figure atop a horse which is trampling over a prostrate figure lying on the ground.
The marble statue, which stands on a tall plinth, is believed to have been created in Italy by an unknown sculptor. It originally depicted Polish King John III Sobieski riding down a Turkish soldier. But it was bought to London by goldsmith and banker Sir Robert Vyner in the early 1670s.
A strong supporter of King Charles II, he had the sculpture’s head remodelled by Jasper Latham to depict the King (although the figure beneath was left largely untouched, meaning if it is supposed to represent Cromwell, he’s wearing a turban).
Sir Robert, who had been responsible for making the king’s new coronation regalia to replace items lost or destroyed during the Commonwealth, offered to have the statue installed at the Royal Exchange after it was rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1666. When that was rejected, he had the statue installed at the Stocks Market – originally named for being the only location of fixed stocks in the City – near Cornhill in 1675 (Sir Robert served as Lord Mayor around the same time).
The statue was removed in 1739 to make way for the Mansion House. But all was not lost – given back to Vyner’s grandnephew, also Robert Vyner, it reappeared some years later at the Vyner family estate at Gautby Hall. In 1883, it was relocated to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire (which had come into the family via an inheritance) and still remains there today, about 150 metres east of the hall. It received a Grade II listing in 1967.
• The V&A is celebrating 150 years since the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum (now known as the Young V&A) with the launch of a year long celebration on Friday. The museum, which opened in 1872 as the first ever museum in east London, is currently undergoing a major redevelopment and is scheduled to reopen in summer, 2023, as a new national museum dedicated to children to the age of 14. To mark the 150th – and a year until Young V&A’s opening – the museum has launched a year-long ‘Reinvent Festival’ with the first event – an online summit called Sparking Creative Futures headlined by children’s author, Ed Vere, and live-illustrated by Beano’s youngest ever artist, Zoom Rockman – on Friday. On Sunday, Young V&A will celebrate its birthday with families at Rich Mix’s ‘Everyone a Maker’ event with free, fun activities. Further events will be held over the year including pop ups at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Great Get Together on 23rd July featuring large-scale, creative construction and making sessions for children and families using playful building materials by Hackney-based architect Emilie Quene. For more (including the full programme of events), see www.vam.ac.uk/blog/museum-life/reinvent-festival-young-va-summer-family-events.
• Europe’s biggest free musical theatre festival – West End LIVE – will transform Trafalgar Square into an open-air theatre this weekend. A joint production by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, the event will feature hundreds of performers, creatives and production staff, showcasing the best the West End has to offer. No tickets are required for the free event. For more, head to www.westendlive.co.uk.
• An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled on a house in Hackney, commemorating the hundreds of stranded and sometimes abandoned South and East Asian nannies, known as ayahs, who sheltered there in the early 20th century. The Ayah’s Home at 26 King Edward’s Road housed around 100 women a year between 1900 and 1921 after which the home moved to another address nearby. The ayahs were women who served the British in India and other colonies as children’s nannies, nursemaids and ladies’ maids and who were sometimes required to care for babies, children and their sea-sick mothers on the long sea voyage from the colonies to England but who were generally not expected to serve the families once they arrived, instead either contracted to wait until needed for the return journey or take a passage home. The Hackney shelter, which also welcomed ‘amahs’ – nursemaids of East Asian origin, appears to have been the only one of its kind in Britain for almost the whole of its existence. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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We finish our series of lesser known statues of English monarchs with a Bloomsbury building featuring four English queens.
Tucked away in niches over the main entrance of the Hotel Russell – which opened in 1898, the four queens – Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, and Victoria – were the work of Henry Charles Fehr.
The larger than lifesize terracotta statues – which face out to Russell Square – don’t include Queen Mary I and are rather unusual and represent idealised versions of the queens. Elizabeth is readily identifiable due to the ruff she wears but there is some confusion over who’s who when it comes to Mary II and Anne. Victoria, meanwhile, is depicted as a very young woman.
Among other ornamentation, the building – which was designed by C Fitzroy Doll, also features the busts of four Prime Ministers – Lord Derby, Lord Salisbury, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli – on the Guilford Street facade.
The name of this pub in London’s north comes from its location at the corner of Ballards Lane and the High Road, a location known as Tally Ho Corner.
While the pub only dates from 1927, the name of the corner goes back further. The story goes that it originated with the Tally Ho Coach Company, which ran coaches from London to Birmingham and which kept 16 horses in a stable on the site since the 1830s.
• The Royal Parks are running a series of free sessions for bird-watching novices in all eight of its London parks during June and July. The sessions, for which binoculars will be provided, last up to two hours. Pete Lawrence, The Royal Parks’ biodiversity manager, says many people growing up in a city may not have had the “opportunity, the equipment or the know-how to take up this activity” before. “These free sessions aim to make bird watching more accessible, and, if they prove popular, we hope to repeat them in future years.” Author and TV naturalist David Lindo, aka ‘The Urban Birder’, will be leading some of the free bird watching sessions along with The Royal Parks’ conservation officer, Tony Duckett – a six decade veteran birdwatcher, and local bird enthusiast Julia Holland. To book a place, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/birdingtours. The Royal Parks is also hosting a bird watching photography competition with a top prize, binoculars worth £400. Entrants need to take a photo of one of the birds included on the parks’ bird spotter sheets and send it to email@example.com or submit via The Royal Parks’ social media channels. Find out more here.
• The “music, people and places” central to the grime scene which first emerged in London in the early 2000s are the subject of a new exhibition at the Museum of London. Grime Stories: from the corner to the mainstream, which opens on Friday, is co-curated by Roony ‘Risky’ Keefe, one of grime’s early documentarians, and features a series of newly commissioned films that explore the community at the heart of grime’s success as well as a large-scale illustration from artist Willkay and personal artefacts from the MCs and producers who developed grime’s unique sound. Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/grime-stories.
• The ideas of repair, care and healing are explored in a new exhibition which opened at Somerset House this week. Eternally Yours, which is being staged across three Terrace Rooms, showcases some diverse examples of creative reuse including transformed items salved in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, shoes worn by Syrian migrants which have stories of survival sewn into the soles and a jumper from Annemor Sundbø’s ragpile collection which has been transformed by Celia Pym. At the heart of the exhibition is ‘The Beasley Brothers’ Repair Shop’, a pop-up created by designer Carl Clerkin and modelled on traditional East End repair shops of old, which is hosting live workshops and demonstrations from artists and designers. The free exhibition and accompanying events runs until 18th September. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk.
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The neo-Gothic former Public Record Office (now the Maughan Library of King’s College) in Chancery Lane is adorned with statues of several kings and queens including two kings – King Edward III and King Henry III – as well as four queens.
The queens, which can be found at the top of the tower over the main entrance, include three who are represented with more famous statues elsewhere – Queen Elizabeth I (on the facade of St Dunstan-in-the West), Queen Anne (outside of St Paul’s Cathedral) and Queen Victoria (outside Buckingham Palace among others).
But one of those statues – that of the Empress Matilda – is something of an outlier – unlike the others, the Empress Matilda, while she claimed the title of Queen of England, was never actually crowned (her attempt to be crowned at Westminster failed when opposed by the London mob which supported her opponent, King Stephen).
Instead, Matilda (sometimes known as Maud) claimed the title ‘Lady of the English’ and while she was eventually driven out of England to Normandy where she died, her eldest son did take the crown in 1154 as King Henry II.
The statue, which stands on top of the east side of the tower (and is quite difficult to spot), stands 2.4 metres high and was made of Portland stone to adorn the 1850s, now Grade II* listed building (the gatehouse leading to Chancery Lane – which features the two kings – was an extension in the 1890s). It is said to be the work of sculptor Joseph Durham.
What’s a little puzzling is why the Empress was included as one of the four, particularly given other English queens and monarchs – Queen Mary I and II – were not.
• A free display featuring the first coin bearing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has opened at the British Museum. Part of the celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Asahi Shimbun Display Mary Gillick: modelling The Queen’s portrait showcases the production and reception of the coin which was designed in 1952 and released the following year. Gillick’s portrait – which remained in circulation on coins in the UK until the 1990s and was also adapted for use on commemorative stamps – combined modern design with Italian Renaissance influences. Can be seen until 31st July. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• The UK’s first Stolperstein or “stumbling stone” has been installed in Soho as part of an initiative to remember the victims of the Nazis. The small brass plaque commemorates former resident Ada van Dantzig, a Dutch-Jewish paintings conservator for the National Gallery who came to London in the 1930s and worked and resided in Golden Square in Soho (where the plaque has been installed). She later re-joined her family in the Netherlands and was arrested in France in early 1943 along with her mother, father, sister and brother. Deported to Auschwitz, Ada, along with her parents, was murdered there on 14th February, 1943. Artist Gunter Demnig created the project almost 25 years ago to commemorate victims of Nazi Persecution during the Holocaust. More than 100,000 of stones have now been laid in 26 countries throughout Europe with the location of the stones the last address of those being remembered.
• A pioneering female landscape gardener has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. Fanny Wilkinson, who is believed to be Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener, was also a campaigner for the protection of open space in London. She lived and worked at the flat, which overlooks an open space she laid out herself, between 1885 and 1896. Wilkinson began her career as an honorary landscape gardener to the Metropolitan Public Boulevards, Gardens and Playgrounds Association – an organisation whose mission was the formation of gardens and public parks that would create playgrounds and green ‘lungs’, especially in poor districts of the capital. In June, 1885, it was agreed that she could charge five per cent on all her MPGA payments, leading her to drop the ‘honorary’ title and become Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
• A painting by Pablo Picasso – Woman with a Book (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California – and a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres – Madame Moitessier (1856) – are being shown together for the first time at The National Gallery. Picasso admired Ingres and referred to him throughout his career and this connection can be seen not only in his paintings but in drawings and studies he made during his ‘neoclassical’ phase in the 1920s. He encountered Madame Moitessie at an exhibition in Paris in 1921 and 11 years later painted Woman with a Book. The paintings, which are being show under a collaborative initiative between the two institutions, can be seen in Room 1 until 9th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
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Long thought to have been London’s oldest public statue (and certainly the oldest of a monarch), this statue of Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great stands in a quiet location in Trinity Church Square in Southwark.
The statue – which depicts the bearded king robed and wearing a crown – was believed to have medieval origins with some suggesting it was among those which north face of Westminster Hall since the 14th century and were removed by Sir John Soane in 1825.
But recent conservation work has shown that half of the statue is actually much older. In fact, it’s believed that the lower half of the figure was recycled from a statue dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva and is typical of the sort of work dating from the mid-second century.
Measurements of the leg of the lower half indicate the older statue stood some three metres in height, according to the Heritage of London Trust. It is made of Bath Stone and was likely carved by a stone worker located on the continent. It probably came from a temple.
The top half, meanwhile is made of Coade stone and, given that wasn’t invented by Eleanor Coade until around 1770, the creation of the statue as it appears today is obviously much later than was originally suspected which may give credence to theory that it was one of a pair – the other representing Edward the Black Prince – made for the garden of Carlton House in the late 18th century.
Putting the two parts of the statue together would have required some specialised skills.
The Grade II-listed statue has stood in the square since at least 1826. Much about who created it still remains a mystery. The fact it incorporates a much older statue means the question of whether it is in fact London’s oldest outdoor public statue remains a matter of some debate.
The Platinum Jubilee weekend is finally upon us. Here’s some highlights of what’s happening over the next four days…
• The Queen’s Birthday Parade – Trooping the Colour – takes place today (Thursday) at Horse Guards Parade. It’s the largest parade in three years due to the coronavirus pandemic and will involve more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians. The day will feature an appearance by the Queen on the Buckingham Palace balcony and an RAF flypast.
• More than 3,000 beacons will be lit all around the world tonight (Thursday) to mark the Jubilee. The event will culminate in a 21 metre high giant tree sculpture constructed of 350 smaller trees – the ‘Tree of Trees’ beacon – being set alight out the front of Buckingham Palace at 9pm. For more, see www.queensjubileebeacons.com.
• A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday (sadly without the Archbishop of Canterbury who has COVID-19 and mild pneumonia). The event is private. The cathedral is also hosting Jubilee: St Paul’s, the Monarch and the Changing World, an exhibition which explores the history of Jubilee celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral across three centuries and features objects from the cathedral’s collections including the Jubilee Cope which depicts the spires of 73 churches in the Diocese of London, three Royal Peculiars and St Paul’s Cathedral and was created to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of 1977. Entry to the exhibition is included in general admission. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk/platinum-jubilee.
• The BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace will take place on Saturday featuring a line-up of performers from the worlds of music and dance. Those attending include Duran Duran, Andrea Bocelli, Mimi Webb, Sam Ryder, Jax Jones, Celeste, Nile Rodgers, Sigala and Diversity as well as stars from stage, screen and the sporting world such as Sir David Attenborough, Emma Raducanu, David Beckham, Stephen Fry, Dame Julie Andrews, The Royal Ballet, and Ellie Simmonds who will also pay tribute in person and on film. Queen + Adam Lambert will open the concert, sure to evoke memories of Brian May’s historic appearance on the Palace roof at the Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002 – and Diana Ross will close it in her first UK live performance in 15 years. Advance booking and tickets are required but the event will be shown live on the BBC.
• The finale of the weekend will be the Platinum Jubilee Pageant which will take place in “four acts” through central London on Sunday. The pageant, which will begin with the ringing of the bells of Westminster Abbey, will start with a military spectacle – ‘For Queen and Country’ – celebrating all three services in the UK Armed Forces and involving some 1,750 people including from Commonwealth nations. Act two – ‘The Time of Our Lives’ – will feature a cast of some 2,500 people showing how British culture has changed over the past 70 years. In act three, ‘Let’s Celebrate’, performers will “mash street theatre, music-on-the-move, urban dance, and the very best of Carnival, May Day, Mela, Fiesta and Mardi Gras to celebrate The Queen’s extraordinary life experience”; this will also include a ‘River of Hope’ procession featuring children from across the UK carrying some 200 silk flags featuring pictures depicting their hopes and aspirations for the next 70 years, particularly with regard to climate change. The musical finale – ‘Happy and Glorious’ – will focus around the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace and will see attendees singing the National Anthem with appearances by Jeremy Irons, Bill Bailey and Gok Wan and Ed Sheeran and the public invited to become part of the performance. The pageant will start at Westminster Abbey and head down Whitehall, turn through Admiralty Arch into The Mall, travel to Buckingham Palace and then turn down Birdcage Walk. For more, see www.platinumpageant.com.
The equestrian statue of King Charles I at the top of Whitehall is one of London’s most well-known. But less well-known is the statue of the ill-fated King which can be found standing in a niche on the Temple Bar gateway, located at the entrance to Paternoster Square just outside of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Charles is not alone. Part of the gateway’s purpose was as a dynastic statement in support of the Stuarts so the grand portal also features statues of Charles’ father King James I, his mother Queen Anne of Denmark, and his son King Charles II. King James and Queen Anne can be found on the north side of the gateway (originally the east side) and the two Charles’ on the south side (originally the west side).
The design of the gateway, which originally stood at the intersection of Fleet Street and the Strand as a ceremonial entrance into the City of London, is believed to be the work of Sir Christopher Wren who was acting on the orders of King Charles II after the Great Fire of London.
The statues, which cost a third of the total £1,500 spent on the gateway, are said to have been sculpted by one John Bushnell. They are depicted in Roman attire rather than the dress they would have worn during the period.
They were removed when the gateway was dismantled in 1878 and stored in a yard of Farringdon Road and when the gateway was re-erected at Lady Meux’s Hertfordshire estate at Theobold’s Park, they were placed back in their original locations. And they also accompanied the gateway back to the city when it was positioned its current location in 2004.
Twenty million seeds have been sown into the Tower of London’s moat to create a floral display known as ‘Superbloom’ as part of the celebrations surrounding Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Paths, walkways and viewing points have been installed throughout and in a first at the Tower, a four lane slide has been installed to provide an unusual entrance to the display.
Those visiting the display – which features wildflowers such as red poppies, yellow corn marigolds and blue cornflowers as well as garden plants including sunflowers, cosmos and rudbeckias – will hear a score by Scottish composer Erland Cooper – Music for Growing Flowers – while other attractions include a willow sculpture by artist Spencer Jenkins and a swarm of intricate copper insects by sculptor Mehrdad Tafreshi.
The centrepiece of the display is the “Queen’s Garden” which has been installed by Grant Associates – the lead designers for the Superbloom project – in the Tower’s historic Bowling Green.
Inspired by the Queen’s Coronation gown, this garden features a combination of meadow flowers, topiary and summer-flowering perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses and draws on the colours, shapes and motifs used by designer Norman Hartnell in the 1953 gown.
Rising above the garden are 12 cast glass forms by glass artist Max Jacquard which represent the national emblems featured in Hartnell’s design and in their centre sits a glass crown, a reminder of the Tower’s role as home of the Crown Jewels.
Tower Wharf, meanwhile, has been transformed into a food and drinks venue, with street food and bars from KERB and fine dining available riverside in ‘The Glass Rooms’. The flowers are expected to gradually bloom in June and will continue to evolve until September. For more, including how to purchase tickets, head here.
With his name a byword for things of a large size, Jumbo was an African bush elephant who was once one of London Zoo’s most popular residents(but whose life makes for sad reading).
Born in Sudan in about 1860, Jumbo – whose name is apparently a corruption of ‘jumbe’, the Swahili word for chieftain – was captured by hunters after his mother was killed and transported north to Europe. There he was apparently first exhibited in Germany before being sold to the Jardin des Plantes, a zoo in Paris.
In 1865, he was transferred to London Zoo in England where his keeper was Matthew Scott who went on to detail his care of Jumbo in his 1885 autobiography.
Jumbo quickly became a popular exhibit and was trained to give rides to children, including those of Queen Victoria (Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were apparently also among those who rode the elephant).
But out of public view, Jumbo, particularly as he matured, was growing increasingly destructive, smashing his den and breaking his tusks (it’s said Matthew Scott would pacify him with large quantities of alcohol).
In 1882, protests broke out when, apparently concerned over Jumbo’s growing aggression, then zoo superintendent Abraham Bartlett announced plans to sell Jumbo to American circus founder PT Barnum for £2,000. Some 100,000 school students wrote to Queen Victoria begging her to stop the transaction and a lawsuit was launched to stop the sale. It was unsuccessful.
Despite the protests, the sale went ahead and in March, 1882, Jumbo and Matthew Scott, who had decided to go with the elephant, went to America. In New York, Jumbo was exhibited at Madison Square Garden in a 31 week season. In 1884, he was one of 21 elephants who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove it was safe following the death of 12 people during a collapse caused by a stampede few years earlier.
Jumbo died on 15th September, 1885, when he was hit by a train as he and other elephants were being led back to their boxcar. According to Barnum, Jumbo was attempting to lead a young elephant Tom Thumb to safety.
Following Jumbo’s death, a postmortem revealed his stomach contents included five English pennies, keys, rivets, and a police whistle.
Sadly, PT Barnum had the body parts separated for display before Jumbo’s skeleton was eventually donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The elephant’s heart was sold to Cornell University and its hide stuffed and eventually donated to Tufts University where it was destroyed in a fire in 1975 (Jumbo remains the university mascot).
There is a statue of Jumbo near where he died in St Thomas, Ontario, and a six-storey, elephant-shaped building in Margate City, New Jersey, which was built in 1881 is said to be inspired by him. He is also said to have inspired the Disney film, Dumbo.