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Royal Exeter Menagerie (1773 - 1829) (The Strand, London)



  • Existence: 1773 - 1829


The Royal Exeter Menagerie was a menagerie in the Exeter Exchange building on the Strand in London. The menagerie occupied the upper floors of the building from 1773 until its demolition in 1829.

The Exeter Exchange was built in 1676 as a multipurpose building holding shops, a bank, offices and being used as storage at various stages. From 1773 a menagerie displaying caged wild animals similar to the one at the Tower of London was established on the upper floors by showman Thomas Clark. The menagerie became a popular attraction and overtime was owned by another three showmen. In 1793 it was purchased by Gilbert Pidcock and in 1810 by Polito, both of whom operated travelling circuses and used the menagerie not only as a business but also as winter quarters and to train the animals that appeared in their circuses. The last menagerie owner was Edward Cross, who took over the business after Polito’s death in 1814. Cross renamed the menagerie the Royal Grand National Menagerie and continued displaying at the Strand until the building was demolished in 1829. The animals were then moved to Cross’ newly formed Surrey Zoological Gardens and the newly stablished London Zoo.

The menagerie was a popular attraction, visited by famous authors and artists who took inspiration in the animals, such as Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Edwin Landseer and Jacques-Laurent Agasse.

An infamous incident at the menagerie was the killing of elephant Chunee, which was put down by soldiers from Somerset House in 1826 after becoming aggressive.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Beautiful Black Tiger Poster, c1800 - 1899

Reference code: 178R47.10
Scope and Contents Royal Menagerie Exeter's Change. Male lions, lioness and three young cubs, Bengal Royal tiger, panther, leopards, hyenas, black tiger, oriental porcupines, lynxes, sea lion, male elephant, gnu, quaggas, southern ostriches, capaibara, nilghau, argeelah or adjuntant of Bengal, samboo, pelican of the wilderness, spatulas or spoon bills, black swans, silver vulture, horned owl, kangaroo, newtria, a variety of rare birds, the skeleton of a spermaceli whale. Black type on off white background, on...
Dates: c1800 - 1899

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Original Artwork, c1800 - 2000

Reference code: 178V11
Scope and Contents

Original works of art including artists' prints, drawings, watercolours and paintings, and designs for circus posters.

Dates: c1800 - 2000

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Royal Menagerie Print, 1813

Reference code: 178V11.3
Scope and Contents

Etching on paper by Samuel Howitt (1756/7-1822), publisher: S. Polito propietor. Black and white illustration of wild animals including elephant, rinocerous, cebra, lions, tiger, bear, kangaroos, camel and many more in a landscape. Taken from life amongst the numerous assemblage at the Royal Menagerie Exeter Change, Strand, London.

Dates: 1813

Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Circus Posters, c1800 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.1-51
Scope and Contents

Early circus and menagerie posters including Polito's menagerie, Astley's Amphitheatre and Pablo Fanque's, Sanger's, Powell's, Ducrow's, Cooke's and Hengler's circuses among others.

Dates: c1800 - 1930