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Thread: Liverpool's zoos - escapes and attacks

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    Default Liverpool's zoos - escapes and attacks

    The media frenzy surrounding the Essex Lion last week, coupled with an interesting little piece written by Philip G. Mayer, got me thinking about some notes I made a good while back about some strange beasts that once resided, and in some cases did some damage, here in Liverpool.

    Liverpool had no less than six zoos between 1800s and the 1930s. The original Liverpool Zoological Gardens opened its gates to the public on the 27th of May 1833 on West Derby Road. A Mr. Thomas Atkins, formerly the proprietor of a travelling menagerie, was in charge of the zoo and its occupants. These apparently included specimens of the now extinct quagga – a partially striped zebra subspecies – and the monstrous tiger and lion hybrids now known as ligers, which average ten feet (3.05 m) in length and fifty stone (318 kg) in weight. Thankfully, none of these monsters ever escaped.
    However, the now long gone Parrot Pub which once stood on Hygeia Street, off West Derby Road did have a strange connection with an animal attack at the zoo. From Freddy O'Connor: A pub on Every Corner Vol. 3 (1998):
    "'Its origins go back to the 1830s when a large house existed at the junction of Hygeia Street and Rake Lane (later West Derby Road). A zoological gardens had opened opposite in 1832, with the entrance facing Hygeia Street. A Mr. William Mayman who resided in the house in question acquired a job as a keeper in the zoo. He became something of a local hero when he was injured rescuing a young boy who was being mauled by an escaped bear. As a reward for his brave deed, a subscription was raised which resulted in him opening part of his house as a pub.

    He commissioned a sign which read 'Mayman in the jaws of the bear' which apparently attracted quite a clientèle and by 1843, the premises was licensed as the man and bear. By the 1850s when the licensee was a Mr Mitchell, the name had been changed to the Parrot, then at No.181. The premises were then added to or rebuilt in the 1860s as from then on it was listed as 127 West Derby Road.
    The West Derby Zoo closed in 1863.

    Hilton's Menagerie (a "menagerie" in mid-19th-century Britain could be a lion or other carnivore house as well as a wild-animal collection in general) opened on Lime Street in 1851. According to a Daily Post article dated 14th October 1938: "shortly after the opening of the menagerie two Polar bears escaped and were finally caught in St. James's Cemetery". St James' was Liverpool's main cemetery at the time with literally thousands of graves and stone monuments crammed in side by side in the sunken ex-quarry. Horse drawn hearses transported the dead to their final resting place via steep walkways or subterranean tunnels depending on the the exact location of the interment. It is hard to imagine a more Victorian Gothic setting than St. James' in which to come across not one but two specimens of Earth's largest land carnivore. It is unclear exactly when Hilton's Menagerie closed (although you might suspect it was shortly after the polar bear incident).

    William Cross' Menagerie and Museum opened at 18 Earle Street in 1880. According to "William Cross was a big player. He was a famous animal importer. A major importer of animals for the zoological gardens and other collections of the United Kingdom he had agents in all parts of the world". Date of closure unknown.

    The new Liverpool Zoological Gardens opened in 1883 in Rice Lane, Walton on the site of today’s Cavendish Retail Park. The inner city zoo was not very successful however and closed only a decade later. The Liverpool Rubber Company, later Dunlop, built their factory on the site of the old zoo but parts of the original structure remain; a former gatehouse is now a small roadside cafĂ© upon whose frontage ornate carvings of monkey’s and birds can still be seen (see Mayer's piece mentioned above).

    Returning to the aforementioned Daily Post piece from 1938 we find the following information concerning Otterspool Hall zoo (1913 - 1931) and Liverpool Zoological Park on Elmswood Road, Mossley Hill (1932 - 1938) and their relationship to each other:

    "In more recent years there were the Zoological Gardens of Mr. Cross at Otterspool, followed in 1932 by the founding of the present Zoo by Mr. H. E. Rogers at Rosemount, Mossley Hill. The transference of the Zoo to Mossley Hill met with strong opposition by the local residents, and, in fact, the project was vetoed under a Corporation town-planning scheme. Mr. Rogers, however, appealed to the Ministry of Health, and his appeal was allowed subject to certain restrictions for the safeguarding of the residential amenities of the district.

    One or two unsuccessful attempts have been made to develop on more ambitious lines the idea of a Liverpool zoological gardens. The Liverpool Zoological Society was launched in 1926 with the object of forming a civic zoological and botanical garden, and later fell into abeyance after the refusal of the Corporation to agree to its schemes. Later, within recent years a limited company incorporating the name of the society was formed with a plan to establish an open air Whipsnade type of zoo on Merseyside. It was hoped to take over the Mossley Hill Zoo as a going concern, but negotiations fell through and the company, although not would up, has remained virtually defunct.

    A number of dramatic, and even tragic incidents have marked the Zoo's career at Mossley Hill. In June last an attendant was fatally mauled by a leopard, and in March last Mickey, the famous chimpanzee attraction at the zoo, was shot after a chase in which several people were injured. The escapes of a monkey and a snake caused more amusement than damage. Many rare and valuable animals have been on view from time to time.

    Mickey the famous chimpanzee? Escaped? Shot? I'm afraid so. From the Liverpool Daily Post 25th March 1938:

    "Mickey's Last Escape
    Armed Men Hunt For Chimpanzee
    Killed After Roof-top Chase

    Mickey, beloved chimpanzee friend of hundreds of Liverpool children, escaped from his quarters at Liverpool Zoological Park, yesterday morning for the fourth and last time. Hunted down by a posse of armed and unarmed men after he had injured six people, he was wounded several times. Thirteen shots had been fired, before, wounded and at bay, he was eventually killed in a corner of a backyard where he had fallen from the roof of a house. Three adults, and three scholars at the Sudley Road School, Aigburth, were among those injured as a result of Mickey's escape. They were Mr. J. Wardle, manager of the zoo, lacerated forearm and thigh; Mrs. Wardle, his wife, claw wound on neck and sprained ankle; Mr. A. R. Gall, aged 24 of Cooper Avenue North, lacerated neck and thigh; Noel Davenport, aged 10, of 4 Michael Road, Aigburth, bitten on arm and leg. One other boy and a little girl at the Sudley Road School, who received superficial scratches in the rush for safety, did not necessitate hospital treatment. The little boy Davenport is in Smithdown Road Hospital, where his condition is stated to be not serious. Mr. Wardle and Mr. Gall are in bed at their homes, but Mrs. Wardle was able to go about as usual.

    Broken Bar Of Cage

    Mickey escaped by breaking an iron bar of his cage which was an inch thick. Mr H. Rogers proprietor of the park, said "Mickey signalised his escape by smashing in a door into the house. He went into a room where my daughter-in-law, Mrs. Wardle was. She is one of the few who can generally make him do what he wants. He meant business this time, and pushed her over." Mrs. Wardle had followed Mickey out of the house in an endeavour to prevent him from straying from the grounds, and she was pushed on to the lawn, sustaining a sprained ankle and a cut on the neck. Mr. Wardle, armed with a Service rifle, followed the chimpanzee. A number of keepers, also armed with guns, revolvers and ammunition, followed him. A shot was taken at Mickey before he had got out of the park, but, though wounded, he made his way to Sudley Road Council School, where boys were in the playground doing exercises under the supervision of Mr. A. R. Gall.

    School Teacher's Story

    "Hearing a yell, I turned round to see Mickey making for one of the boys," Mr. Gall told the Daily Post. "I ran towards them, with the idea of shielding the boy. At the same time I shouted to all the boys to go inside. In the meantime the ape had seized one boy by the ankle. I had more sense than to try to wrestle with him. I had had a little 'do' with him during one of his previous escapes, and I knew his strength. Last time he did not go for me, and I did not think he would this time, but he attacked me as soon as he saw me coming. I know very little of what followed. I must have been just picked up and thrown about, to judge from the scratches on my shoes and my torn clothes. I lost consciousness, and when I came to a little later I was lying on the asphalt and heard someone shouting to me to run indoors. The chimpanzee was still only a few yards away from me, but I managed to get indoors safely." Mickey had by this time made his way to Lugard Road, adjoining the school, and climbed on to a roof.

    Neighbourhood Alarmed

    As soon as Mickey appeared on the roof tops, for the moment out of harm's way, knots of people rushed to the school to make anxious enquiries. Meanwhile, Mickey, showing amazing dexterity in spite of his wound, ambled along the roof tops to a convenient chimney at 29 Lugard Road. There he paused to look at the pursuers, led by Mr. Wardle limping badly and with a bleeding hand, who were stalking him along the back entry. It was thought he might decide suddenly to descend, but Mickey appeared content to remain where he was. It was decided that the best course was to disable the "runaway" before attempting a recapture on the roof, and one of the zoo attendants, armed with a six-chambered revolver, fired a shot. Mickey was "winged." He uttered a brief yelp of pain and took cover behind the chimney. Policemen poured into the alley, some of them armed, and after a hurried conference it was agreed to kill the chimpanzee in order to prevent further injury.

    The Final Scenes

    The revolver rang out again, twice. But Mickey was still active. He lunged at all and sundry who attempted to enter through the half-open back door, and twice made as if to leap the wall. Finally, after the use of a shotgun had been declined, Major C. J. Bailey, of the 38th (Anti-Aircraft) Battalion, who had arrived from Aigburth with a Service rifle, was asked to administer the coup de grace. He took aim from a neighbouring garden, and after two shots were fired the end came. In a few minutes the body was removed and workmen were busy removing all traces of the exciting happening in the backyard. After Mickey had been shot Mr. Rogers said: "I am only thankful that he was killed before he killed someone else. He was not naturally ferocious, but was easily excited by crowds." Mr. Rogers, asked about Mickey's value, told the Daily Post that Mickey was priceless. "You cannot replace an animal like he was," he said. When asked what was to be done with Mickey's body, Mr. Rogers said he had decided to have him mounted and stuffed. "Mickey still belongs to the public, and I am sure thousands of them will still want to see him," he said.

    A sad end indeed.

    Freddy O'Connor: A pub on Every Corner Vol. 3 (Bluecoat Press, 1998) (transcription of Liverpool Daily Post article dated 14th October 1938) (transcription of Liverpool Daily Post article dated 25th March 1938)

    With huge thanks to for posting the newspaper transcriptions here on Yo Liverpool back in the mists of time, and to for the Freddy O'Connor info.
    Last edited by johnreppion; 09-03-2012 at 12:34 PM. Reason: Removed some non-relevent quoted text which had been accidentally pasted in, corrected some spelling errors
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