Here we have an advert for the menagerie.
An early advertisement, of Dec. 12, 1792 states: A capital collection of wild beasts, so well secured, that the most timorous may approach them in safety.
A male elephant, the largest ever seen in England, and its wonderful performances are described. A real Bengal Royal Male Tiger, the Pelican of the Wilderness, a vulture from South America, a Nyl-ghau or horned horse, (could this be the famed unicorn or legends?) and other animals from the Pidcock Collection appear in advertisements of the time.
The advert on the right appeared in 1795 and is unusual because it is illustrated with detailed engravings of animals. Late 18th century posters, if they are illustrated at all, only have small woodcut images. These engravings were done by Thomas Bewick who visited the menagerie when it visited his home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It would have been expensive to produce but could have appeared anywhere - it says the animals are appearing "in the market place in this town". By using this wording it could be used in any town.
Gilbert Pidcock died February 1810 aged 67. Pidcock was succeeded by Polito early in the nineteenth century. He was followed by Cross. About 1828 the animals were removed to the Surrey Zoological Gardens. Two years afterwards Exeter Change was taken down.
The Morning Chronicle, London, May 17, 1808 says:
"The grandest spectacle in the universe is now prepared at Pidcock's Royal Menagerie, Exeter Change, Strand, where a most uncommon collection of foreign beasts and birds, many of them never before seen alive in Europe, are ready to entertain the wondering spectators. This affords an excellent opportunity for Ladies and Gentlement to treat themselves with a view of some of the most beautiful and rare animals in creation. Amongst innumerable others are five noble African lions, tigers, nylghaws, beavers, kangaroos, grand cassowary, emus, ostriches etc. Indeed such a numerous assemblage of living birds and beasts may not be found for a century. This wonderful collection is divided into three appartments, at one shilling each person, or the three rooms for two shillings and sixpence each person".
This is a line drawing of the Exeter Exchange advertising the menagerie.
In The Shows of London by Richard D Altick, Exeter Change was taken over in the 1770s by a Thomas Clark. He let part of it out for entertainments and the large room there was used at the London headquarters of the small travelling menagerie belonging to Gilbert Pidcock, who took it to the London fairs and into the provinces during the summer. At some point Clark himself became a dealer in wild birds and animals and in 1793 Pidcock bought Clark's stock to add to his own. "The exhibits at this moment, housed in rooms whose walls were painted with appropriate scenery, included a "unicorn" (rhinocerous), a zebra, a kangaroo from Botany Bay, an African ram, a "Sagittaire" (secretary) bird that kills the snakes, a "Fiery Lynx", and a "Ravenous wolf from Algiers", along with such timely but unrelated items as a "French Beheading Machine". Four years later they were joined by elephants and tigers".
The Grand Menagerie at Exeter Change, in the Strand, has the late additions of foreign animals and birds which have arrived there within these few days past. This has become one of the most entertaining promenades in town; it consists of near 200 different species of living birds and beasts. In one apartment is a stupendous elephant and 6 kangarooes, from Botany Bay, which are the latest discovery of quadrupeds. Admittance 1s each. In the great room is added a noble young male lion, 4 bengal tigers, whose limbs are larger than an ox; also 2 royal crown pigeons, which are nearly as large as a turkey, and are the only birds of the kind ever brought to England alive. Admittance 1s each. In a separate apartment is an optical exhibition far exceeding any thing of the kind ever yet invented. Admittance 1s each or the three Exhibitions are 2s 6d - Foreign birds and beasts bought, sold or exchanged by G Pidcock as above.
We come on to some of the animals on show now
This shows a lion with a dog sitting on its back. Rather blurry I'm afraid. ( I need to practice with the digital camera ! ).
There were several tokens issued with different lions on.
This one shows a seated lion.
This was the well known blue bottomed baboon. Why it was called the Wanderow I have yet to discover.
[According to the Oxford English Dictionary the Wanderoo or Wanderow is the name of the Langur monkey of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), believed to mean literally in Hindi 'Forest Dweller'. A quotation from 1774 states:- "The Wanderow is a Baboon rather less than a Mandrill ... What distinguishes it is a large long white head of hair, together with a monstrous white beard. It is chiefly seen in the woods of Ceylon and Malabar." GTS.]
Now we come on to the story of Chunee the Elephant.
Pidcock brought Chunee to England for display in his menagerie. The public paid to see him and his speciality was to hold a sixpence in his trunk before returning it to visitors. Sadly he was neglected and one of his tusks was rotten which made him very bad-tempered. In 1826 on one of his regular walks down the Strand, he broke loose from his leash and ran amok, killing one of his keepers.
He was quickly captured but it was decided that Chunee had become too dangerous to be on public show and a date was set for him to be put down. On March 1st 1826 his keeper tried to give the elephant a dose of poison but he refused to take it, becoming enraged and ramming the bars of his cage.
Attempts were then made to shoot him - the local Yeomanry arrived and fired a total of 152 musket balls into the poor elephant but Chunee would still not lie down. Finally, one of his keepers was obliged to finish him off with a harpoon.
The bungled execution was widely publicised and hundreds of people turned out to see Chunee's carcase being dissected by students from the Royal College of Surgeons. His skeleton was preserved at the college, where musket balls could be seen embedded in the bones. A few facts about Chunee. He weighed nearly 5 tons, stood 11 feet high and was valued at £1000. The skin which weighed 17 cwt was sold to a tanner for £50 when auctioned off; the bones weighted 876 lbs and the entire skeleton sold for £100. His claims to fame were that he had appeared in the spectacle of Blue Beard at Covent Garden and had become friendly with one Edmund Kean, whom he would fondle with his trunk for a few loaves of bread.
This advertisement shows the skin of Chunee being sold at auction.
Chunee appears on many Pidcock tokens.
The exhibition appears to have been taken to various parts of the country, as on April 21, 1798 the Newcastle Chronicle advertised that there was on their way for Durham Races the grandest assemblage of chosen living rarities that ever travelled the kingdom in the age or memory of man. some of the marvels to be seen for the sum of one shilling are given.
The Exeter Change menagerie was the only permanent show of its kind in London. Pidcock died in 1810. His death notice appeared in the Gentleman's magazine, vol 80(1) February 1810 and give his age as 67.
Another veteran menagerist, S Polito bought Pidcock's animals at auction. In turn Polito sold out about 1817 to Edward Cross who, like his predecessors, was a showman as well as dealing in wild animals. Exeter Change was demolished in 1829 and the menagerie moved to the Surrey Zoological Gardens. The site of Exeter Change is now occupied by Burleigh House and the Strand Palace Hotel.
Well I hope you have enjoyed reading about Pidcock's menagerie as much as I have enjoyed researching it. I still haven't really found out what the tokens were used for. Could they have been advertising tokens or souvenirs. Who knows? Any ideas to me please.
As you can see there are a great variety of tokens. I have managed to obtain a fair number but many of them are in America and collected by Americans. They do appear occasionally on e-bay but range in price from £35 - £65 and often more.
Pam Williams, Feb. 2007