The old menageries of the city
Today, the only place you’d be likely to see a lion in Leeds would be on the steps of the Town Hall.
But in the 19th Century an incredible collection of big cats, bears and elephants were regularly on show in the city, attracting excited crowds eager to see exotic marvels gathered from around the world.
Now a fascinating talk at Kirkstall Abbey tomorrow is set to look back at some of the zoos and menageries Leeds played host to in years gone by and examine the legacy they have left behind.
Led by Leeds Museums and Galleries’ assistant community curator Patrick Bourne the talk is entitled Exhibiting the Exotic in 19th Century Leeds.
Among the sites it will look at will be Headingley’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1840 and was home to a bear pit which can still be seen today.
Patrick will also look at famous exhibitor George Wombwell’s travelling menageries, which featured elephants, giraffes, rhinos and lions and which regularly visited Leeds and the surrounding areas.
Also part of the talk will be the former Leeds Philosophical Hall on Park Row, which was home to an incredible range of skeletons, taxidermy and specimens from the natural world, many of which are still on display today at Leeds City Museum.