The history of King’s Lynn in 100 objects, pt 37

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This drawing of a male lion called Wallace was made by local artist Henry Baines at the Tuesday Market Place in King’s Lynn on the 22nd of July 1859. What was Wallace the Lion doing in the Market Place? He formed part of a travelling menagerie or animal show that toured the country, this one in particular was Edmonds’ menagerie. Travelling menageries were often a popular feature of the Mart at Lynn. In 1865 The Lynn Advertiser reported that Edward Gamble of West Acre was severely hurt at the Mart when bitten by a lion from Day’s Menagerie. In 1822 the Norfolk Chronicle reported that Wombwell’s Royal menagerie was at the Mart “The greatest number of living curiosities that ever was collected together since the days of Noah”

“Wallace” was a popular name for lions which had been bred in Great Britain – named after the Scottish hero William Wallace. The first lion bred in Britain which survived into adulthood was Wallace of George Wombwell’s Menagerie (Wombwell was Edmonds’ father-in-law); the lion was born in Edinburgh in 1812. Wallace was particularly vicious, and when put in the ring with dogs (lion-baiting) soon killed them. That particular Wallace died in 1838 (26 being a good age for a lion), his remains were stuffed and can be found in Saffron Walden Museum.

The drawing of Wallace by Henry Baines forms part of the Art of the Mart exhibition on now at Lynn Museum. To find out more about Victorian travelling menageries, Join Michael Medlar and discover the secrets of Lynn Mart’s travelling menageries on 13th April at 2.30pm. Linked to the Art of the Mart exhibition, advanced booking is essential. Please call 01553 775001. £2 or Free for Friends of Lynn Museum or Museums Pass Holders.