Set into a wall of the V&A’s John Madejski Garden in South Kensington are two small plaques – one dedicated to “Jim” and another to “Tycho”. Both, as one of the plaques records, were dogs, at least one of which belonged to the museum’s first director, Sir Henry Cole.
Jim was a Yorkshire terrier who died at Sir Henry’s home on 30th January, 1879, at the age of (as the plaque records) 15 years.
Sir Henry wrote in his diary on that day that “Jimmy”, who died very quietly apparently of “asthma and cold”, had been portrayed in Punch with him (although it was actually in Vanity Fair in 1871) and “was a character in the Museum”.
While Jim’s story is fairly well known, there’s a little more mystery surrounding the identity of Tycho, which the plaques records as a “faithful dog” who who died in 1885.
But according to Nicholas Smith, an archivist based at the V&A Archive and his meticulously researched blog post on the matter, Tycho is also mentioned in Cole’s diary – not as his own dog but as that of his son Alan. Indeed, one diary entry records Tycho fighting with another dog (presumably Cole senior’s) named Pickle. Which as Smith points out, begs the question of why no plaque for Pickle?
Both Jim and Tycho are believed to be buried in the garden where the plaques can be seen (which may explain the lack of a plaque for Pickle).