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John Victor Aspinall (1926–2000) by Snowdon, 1973 Snowdon / Vogue / Camera Press, London

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Aspinall, John Victor (1926–2000), gambler and zoo owner, was born on 11 June 1926 at Delhi, India, the second son of Mary Grace (1904–1987), daughter of Clement Samuel Horn, engineer, and wife of Colonel Robert Stivala Aspinall (1895–1954), of the Indian Medical Service (IMS), serving in ...

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Atkins, Thomas (1763/4–1848), menagerie keeper and zoo proprietor, is of unknown parentage. According to an anonymous source Atkins and his business partner, Timothy Gillman, were originally showmen with the travelling menagerist Thomas Miles. However, they had separated from him by September 1810, when ...

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Badham, Molly Winifred (1914–2007), zoo proprietor and conservationist, was born on 12 May 1914 at 3 Waterside, Evesham, Worcestershire, the daughter of Arthur James Badham (1889–1965), then a boot shop assistant and later a homeopath, and his wife, Edith Annie, née Sharp (1889–1980)...

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Ballard, George (fl. 1807–1830), menagerie keeper and showman, is of unknown parentage and upbringing. He is almost certainly the 'Mr Baller' who exhibited 'wild beasts' at St James's fair, Bristol, in September 1807, paying £5 5s. for his standing (...

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Bartlett, Abraham Dee (1812–1897), taxidermist and zoo superintendent, was born in London on 27 October 1812, second son of John Bartlett, hairdresser and brush maker, and Jane Dunster. As a boy he was allowed to play in the beast room of the Royal Menagerie, Exeter 'Change, London...

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Batty, Thomas (c. 1832–1903), animal trainer and circus proprietor, was a nephew of William Batty, the lessee of Astley's Amphitheatre, London. Celebrated as a lion tamer, he is also said to have been the first to train an elephant to stand on its head. He had many life-threatening struggles with the lions he ‘tamed’: he had so many scars on one side of his body that, it was said, a half-crown could not be placed between them. He would enter the ring, clad in Lincoln green and long leather boots, with a short whip in his hand. The lions would spring at the bars of their cage with fierce snarls, and he would strike at their paws with his whip, provoking their fury. Someone in the audience would always entreat him not to enter the cage, but he would slip in and have a lively ten minutes or so. From about 1859 he performed on the continent. On one occasion, in ...

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James Seaton Methuen Chipperfield (1912–1990) by Peter Dunne, 1971 © News International Newspapers Ltd

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Chipperfield, James Seaton Methuen (1912–1990), circus proprietor and inventor of the safari park, was born on 17 July 1912 in a mahogany wagon on land belonging to Paul, third Baron Methuen, near Corsham, Wiltshire, the second son in the family of three sons and two daughters of ...

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Cooper, John (1833/4–1920), animal trainer, was born in Bread Street, Birmingham, the son of a well-known carrier. Orphaned at the age of ten, he ran away with Hilton's menagerie. After a spell with Manders's menagerie, he became apprenticed to the animal trainer Thomas Batty...

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Cooper, Thomas Thornville (1839–1878), traveller and promoter of trade, the eighth son of John Ibbetson Cooper, coal fitter and shipowner, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Douglas, was born on 13 September 1839, at Bishopwearmouth, co. Durham. He was educated at the Grange School, Bishopwearmouth...

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Cross, Edward (bap. 1774, d. 1854), zoo proprietor, was born in London and baptized on 3 February 1774 at St Andrew's, Holborn, the son of Walter Cross and Jane (née Callow). Nothing is known of his life until he became proprietor of the ...

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Edward Cross (bap. 1774, d. 1854) by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, 1838 Christie's Images Ltd. (2004)

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Martini Maccomo (1835/18361836–1871) by Henry Greenwood private collection

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Maccomo, Martini (1835/1836–1871), lion tamer, was said to have been born in Angola, though it has also been suggested that he was a sailor born in Liverpool, or that he was Arthur Williams, a West Indian. He was recruited into British fairground life by ...

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Pidcock, Gilbert (d. 1810), menagerist and showman, may have been born at Buxton, Derbyshire, though no more is known of his early life. By 1779 he was travelling between towns in the English midlands, where he exhibited an exotic bird, 'the grand cassowar'. His next venture, several years later, was a travelling menagerie. In 1786 he was at ...

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Polito, Stephen [formerly Stephano] (1763/4–1814), menagerie keeper and showman, was born Stephano Polito at Moltrasio on Lake Como in Italy, the son of Francesca Polito; details of his father are unknown. He changed his forename to Stephen on becoming a naturalized Englishman. In his early career ...

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Shirley, Sewallis Evelyn (1844–1904), politician and founder of the Kennel Club, was born at Ettington Park, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, on 15 July 1844, the only son (there were three daughters) of Evelyn Philip Shirley (1812–1882), landowner, politician, and antiquary, and his wife, ...

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George Wombwell (1777–1850) by unknown engraver, pubd 1850 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Wombwell, George (1777–1850), founder of a menagerie, was born on 24 December 1777 at Dudnor End, Essex, and from an early age took a keen interest in animals. His life was changed when he saw a pair of boa constrictors that had just been landed on the ...