The Arctic Sea Monster at Birmingham Fair, 1838

This is an extract from an article in the Birmingham Journal dated June 2nd, 1838. Copies of the Birmingham Journal are available on microfilm in the Local Studies department at the Library of Birmingham and through the British Newspaper Archives.  There is a fascinating site on Wombwell here: which also contains a link to a blog about menageries.


Birmingham Fair
Wombwell’s Royal National Menagerie




“Mr George Wombwell, the sole proprietor, most respectfully intimates to the gentry and public generally of  Birmingham and its environs that his Menagerie will attend the ensuing Fair; and he begs to assure them that there never has been seen travelling or in any zoological establishment in Europe so rare and valuable a collection of animated nature as his ample Menagerie now affords and he trusts to receive, on this occasion, a share of their support. Since his last visit, several rare and valuable additions have been made.

    The collection contains three Elephants, male, female and young, being the largest and smallest ever seen in this country; groups of Lions and Lionesses and their cubs. Those far-famed and singular animals, the Black Tigers of South America, and the Black Leopards of India

    The Hindoostan Leopardess and her two cubs, three months old, Panthers, Chittah, or Hunting Tiger, Senegal and Asiatic Leopards. A pair of the largest Royal Bengal Tigers ever seen. North American Black and Brown Bears. The great Ursine Sloth. The enormous Polar or Arctic Sea Monster, the white bear just arrived and added to the Menagerie; it is the only full grown bear ever brought to England from the Arctic regions; he was brought over by Captain Todd. Hyenas, striped and spotted, Wolves, Sledge-dogs, Jackalls, Raccoons, Coatimonda, Ichneumons, the Fossels or Fossents, or Musk Cats, Porcupines, the grey and black Capistrated Squirrels; the male and female Gnu, or Horned Horses; a pair of Zebras; a herd of the Kangaroos; together with the finest collection of Monkeys, Birds and Serpents ever collected. 

   In order to render his Menagerie superior to any other ever seen, Mr Wombwell has succeeded in procuring another of those singular animals, the RHINOCEROS, or the UNICORN OF SCRIPTURE, the largest ever imported into this part of the globe, and cannot fail to afford gratification to naturalists, or amateurs in the works of nature.

   N.B. In consequence of the rapid growth of the enormous Elephant, G.W. has been obliged to erect the largest machine in the form of a wagon ever was built. So ponderous as to require six roller wheels to support and twelve horses to draw it”



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