IN the month of March 1826 the following incident occurred while
William Craig, a fellow officer, was passing along the Strand
through Exeter Change, the lower part of which was very spacious
and was tenanted by a Mr Clark, an extensive dealer in hardware,
ladies' workboxes, and other fancy articles. This place had the appearance of a large Bazaar, and was a place of great traffic, in fact the main
thoroughfare on the north side of the Strand for foot passengers. Over
this was a large Menagerie kept by a Mr Cross, and at the entrance, to
cause attraction, stood a gigantic powerful-looking man called a
Beefeater dressed in the costume of Henry the Eighth's Yeomen of the
Guard, who handed descriptive bills to the people as they passed and
who shouted out as loudly as he could, "Look here! look here! the
most extraordinary animals in the world to be seen alive for the small
charge of one shillm , the wonderful great Elephant Chunee, and
Nero the largest Lion ever seen in the whole world, the Boa-constrictor and the laughing Hyena, Ourang Otang, Birds of Paradise,
Ostriches and every living animal from the Jungles in the far East.
While he was thus vociferating there was suddenly a great tumult heard upstairs, and numbers of people, the visitors, rushing downstairs in great terror and apparently for their lives. It appears that the Elephant had got enraged, and with his enormous Tusks was breaking the bars of his Den, causing the greatest alarm to all concerned as well as to the whole neighbourhood, and it was feared in his great strength he would become uncontrollable and would be the means of the Lion, Tigers, Hyena, Boa-Constrictor and the whole menagerie to be let loose.
The proprietor and his attendants, seeing the danger that appeared imminent, despatched a messenger to run for his life to Somerset House and ask the Sergeant of the guard for two soldiers to come without delay and shoot the Elephant, or the loss of life would be dreadful: the combined roaring of the Lion, Elephant, Tigers and other enraged animals was dreadful. The soldiers were quickly on the spot and discharged several bullets before they took effect. I was present with Craig, and we had great difficulty in preventing the mob from entering this part of the premises.
At last the animal was prostrated, his head resting on his tusks, and to finish the business Mr Harvey fixed a sabre on an iron crow bar and pierced it into the animal's heart. All danger from the escape of the other animals being got over, the mob separated, the thoroughfare was cleared for traffic and matters passed off quietly.
Henry Goddard, Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner, 1956
This enormous animal, which for many years past has been the pride and boast of the well known menagerie at Exeter Change, was yesterday afternoon destroyed by order of the proprietor in consequence of its having exhibited strong symptoms of madness. The work of death was accomplished by repeated discharges of musketry, the noise of which, together with the agonised groans of the poor beast, being distinctly heard in the Strand, caused immense crowds to assemble, that it was found necessary to close the avenues to the shops at the lower part of the building.
The Times, 2nd March 1826
see also Surrey Zoological Gardens - click here