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105 posts categorized "Leisure"

15 January 2019

Cats and games of forfeit

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Did you play any board or parlour games with friends or family over the festive period?  In our Cats on the Page exhibition we feature a small pamphlet entitled The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands.

Pretty  playful  tortoise-shell catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Facing this title-page there is an image of a group of children sitting round the (slightly over-performing) fire with their cat - apparently about to begin playing the game.  The publisher, John Marshall, seized this opportunity to promote two more of his games, namely The Hopping, prating, chatt’ring magpie and The Frisking, barking, lady’s lap-dog which he also published in 1816-17.

 
Pretty playful catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Other titles produced around the same time include The Noble, prancing, cantering horse, also printed by Marshall, and The Pretty, young, playful, innocent lamb, printed for J. and E. Wallis.  (There were also similar games based on the rhyme The House that Jack built and derivatives such as The Barn that Tom built and The Mill that Charles built!).

Several are subtitled ‘a new [entertaining] game of questions and commands’ and essentially they are cumulative memory games with forfeits.  Generally someone is appointed Treasurer and passes a small item such as a thimble to the first player with the command “Take this”.  The first player asks “What’s this?” and the Treasurer replies with the first section of the rhyme (e.g. “The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat…” ).  The first, and subsequent players, then repeat these actions until the thimble returns to the Treasurer.  It is then passed round again with the addition of the second section of the rhyme and so on until the entire, lengthy, rhyme has to be memorised and repeated by each player.  Should a player make a mistake or forget the rhyme a forfeit has to be paid to the Treasurer.  At the end of the game, another player is appointed to devise appropriate tasks for the retrieval of the forfeits – tasks might include solving a riddle, spelling a long, nonsensical word or being tickled.      

There seems to have been a brief flurry of these titles from about 1815 to around 1830.  Though Marshall was not the only publisher of such works he does seem to have made these games a speciality.  Presumably they were profitable since his widow subsequently assigned some of the titles to David Carvalho who continued to print them until around 1830. 

However their origin appears to have been earlier.  As you can see, there was a formula to the titles, which seems to have drawn on The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.  This is believed to have been first recorded in print around 1760 in The Top book of all, for little masters and misses as ‘The play of the wide-mouth waddling frog, to amuse the mind, and exercise the memory’.  It is found again, with instructions, in Mirth without mischief around 1800 and we have a copy of the game based on the rhyme published by A.K. Newman & Co. around 1825.  A version of the verses was also illustrated by Walter Crane in the late 19th century.

Gaping wide-mouthed waddling frogThe Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (London, ca. 1825) © British Library Board

Many of the catalogue records relating to the booklets published in the early 19th century by Marshall suggest that the illustrations were by Isaac Robert Cruikshank.  We shall be looking into stories about his early life in our next post.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands. Embellished with fourteen coloured engravings. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, 1817. C.194.a.968.
The Top book of all, for little masters and misses. London: sold only at R. Baldwin's, and S. Crowder's, and at Benj. Collins's, Salisbury, [1760?]. Ch.760/5.(1.). Pages 15-31.
Mirth without mischief. London: printed by J. Davenport, for C. Sheppard, [1800?]. Ch.780/110. Pages [17]-33.
The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog: a new and entertaining game of questions and commands. With proper directions for playing the game and crying the forfeits. Embellished with fifteen coloured engravings. London: A.K. Newman & Co., [ca. 1825] C.194.a.842.
The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Edited by Iona and Peter Opie. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.  YK.1997.a.6456.
Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens, Be merry and wise: origins of children's book publishing in England, 1650-1850. London: British Library, 2006. LC.31.b.2656.

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

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03 January 2019

The Great War Fund Fete

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On 13 January 1941 a War Fund Fete was held at Government House, Madras.  As well as raising money for the Madras War Fund, the fete was also intended as a propaganda event.

Fete programme coverIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 f 1 Front cover of the War Fund Fete programme 

It was a grand affair with the programme featuring 91 entries for stalls, games, entertainments and food and drink establishments, along with more practical facilities including cloakrooms and parcel stores, lost property and medical stations.  Currency for the fete was in coupons and the public had to purchase books of coupons in order to make purchases or enjoy the entertainments on offer.

One local newspaper on the day of the fete described Government House as having been 'transformed into a pleasureland' for that night's merrymaking.  According to the Madras Mail of 14 January 1941, the fete was opened when 'Tough cowboys burst open the gates at Government House yesterday and their tempestuous entrance made it possible for the public to enter at last'.

Many of the stalls were similar to those featured at fetes nowadays with lucky dips, raffles, coconut shy’s, and bagatelle.  Others however had more unusual titles, including ‘Bunty pulls the strings’ and ‘Breaking up the happy home’ (similar to today’s crockery smash stalls).  There were also elephant rides, several magic gardens and even a Chinese Laundry!  One of the most popular stalls at the Fete was that of Woolworth’s.  One local newspaper the following day observed:
'Equally crowded was the excellent “Woolworth” stall, where the most effective household oddments, artfully and thriftily contrived, were sold for a song'.

Entertainment at the fete included two bandstands and a theatre which featured dance groups and musicians as well as plays.  The performances on show included the Tamil comedy The Sub-Assistant Magistrate of Sultanpet and the Tamil play The Pongal Feast.

Food and drink were also in abundance with American style diners and saloons, coffee and refreshment stalls and a Toc H Bar.  For those looking for a full evening’s entertainment there was a Tocaitchaski bar with its own orchestra, a banqueting hall with dancing from 9pm to 2am (evening dress was optional) and a cabaret dinner, promenade and bar with the cabaret performance at 9pm.

The Mail 14 Jan 1941India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2, f 23 Front page of The Mail 14 January 1941 showing the crowds surging into the fete

According to the newspaper reports people attended the fete in their thousands: 'In they surged, school boys and girls, scores of excited men and women, mothers with babies and with chattering kiddies clinging to available fingers, happy young things on the arms of their beaux, while burnished cars and buses squeezed through as well'.

In a letter written on 16 January 1941 Sir Arthur Hope, the Governor of Madras, congratulated Captain Thomas William Barnard, Honorary Secretary to the Fete’s organising committee, on the wonderful success of the fete and also commented that 'Apart from the financial result, it was a great piece of propoganda [sic] which will have its effect'.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 - The Great Fete at Government House Grounds Madras 13 January 1941
- Includes press cuttings from The Mail (formerly known as The Madras Mail) 14 January 1941

 

19 December 2018

Christmas bound

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'Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.' Sound advice from American magazine editor Lenore Hershey (1919-1997).

Naughty Boys and Girls11526.f.1. 19c green paper over boards on Naughty Boys and Girls [1852].

Those of us born ‘non digital’ would have regularly received a festive book or two; an annual, collections of fairy tales, ghost stories or Christmas verse.  Whatever the subject, the bindings were invariably attractive. Mass production techniques developed in the 19th century meant that books once hand-bound in leather were now available in inexpensive cloth or paper covers.  The emerging middle classes in Victorian England had money to spare for the purchase of extras, notably books, and if they were instructional as well as aesthetically appealing, all the better.  Artists were employed to decorate the bindings and they often ‘advertised’ by incorporating their initials into their designs.  Notable were John Leighton, also Albert Henry Warren, William Harry Rogers and William Ralston.  Examples of their work are below.

Naturally, Christmas would not be Christmas without Charles Dickens, particularly as many of his stories were set in the festive season.  Their popularity was a money-spinner for author and publishers alike.

Dickens - Christmas Stories12623.g.25. Christmas Stories from the Household Words. Conducted by Charles Dickens. [The extra Christmas numbers for 1850-1858.]

Victorian publishers exploited this lucrative new market to tailor books to the tastes of children, although the two depicted in the song book below seem somewhat depressed at the prospect!

 Stories for the Little Ones11602.cc.30. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by William Ralston.  Note the initials WR towards the centre of the tail edge.

Some children’s picture books retained a didactic flavour.  The upper cover of Simple Hans and other funny pictures and stories proclaimed 'Oh children, children come and see / This funny picture-book for you and me/ Bought by our Mama dear! / So that we may grow good and wise / And ‘neath a merry laugh’s disguise/ Learn naughty ways to fear'.

Other themes were more fun, ranging from the snowy weather to seasonal tales and traditional toys.

Jack Frost & Betty Snow
12807.b.53. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by John Leighton.

King Nut Cracker12806.e.12. Paper binding over boards on King Nutcracker, 1854.

Tales of the Toys12807.ee.35.  Gold blocked cloth binding designed by Albert Henry Warren on Tales of the Toys, 1869 and bound by Bone and son of London.

Books could also promote sociability and enhance family life.  After the grand Christmas dinner, chapters containing stories, jokes, nonsense verse and other favourites could be read aloud and enjoyed by everyone.
 

Hunting of the SnarkW14/4782.  Gold blocked cloth binding on Lewis Caroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, 1876.


Bushel of MerrythoughtsRB.31.a.43. Paper binding over boards on A bushel of merry-thoughts, 1868 designed by William Harry Rogers (his intertwined initials are beneath the red pennant to the left).

Serious-minded relatives or godparents who held themselves responsible for the spiritual or moral well-being of their young kinsfolk, sometimes felt it appropriate to give them devotional or educational works.  One can only hope that they were not quizzed on the contents!

Five spinesSpines from gold blocked cloth bindings (taken from the Library’s online image databse of bookbindings).

Annuals were popular, particularly as gifts to older children who could be trusted to read quietly to themselves (perhaps whilst the adults had an after dinner nap).

Peter Parley's AnnualPP.6750. Gold blocked publisher’s cloth binding on an 1860 annual (note the designer’s signature MAC below the date). This was a gift from father to son as indicated by the manuscript notes inside: "Dec. 21st 1859. To My Dear Son Denis. A Reward for attention to his studies. D H Donnell".

 

London Out of Town12352.a.3. Detail from the paper cover of London out of town.  The price was one shilling.

In 1844, John Leighton wrote and illustrated the amusing London out of town. Or the adventures of the Browns at the sea side.  It was one of the earliest comic books and appealed to old and young alike.

Merry Christmas and merry reading!

Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes11649.f.22. Blocked in colours on cloth. Mary D Brine, [Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes ... Illustrated.] [1890] 

P. J. M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings. Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Edmund M. B. King, Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings, 1830-1880: A Descriptive Bibliography. The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003.
The Victorian Web

With thanks to Gillian Ridgley.

 

01 November 2018

Souling on All Hallows’ Day

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On the evening of Saturday 1 November 1873, a group of young men were drinking in the Blue Cap public house at Sandiway Head, Cheshire.  They could not have foreseen the dramatic turn of events that was about to unfold.

It was All Hallows’ Day.  In Cheshire there was a custom known as souling when groups would go about singing outside houses, receiving gifts of money or food.  Our young men left the Blue Cap about 11pm and began souling. 

Corbet  Henry ReginaldHenry Reginald Corbet by Sir Leslie Ward published in Vanity Fair 20 October 1883 © National Portrait Gallery NPG D44143

At about 11.30pm they arrived at at Dale Ford, the house used as a hunting lodge by Henry Reginald Corbet, a Shropshire magistrate and master of the Cheshire Hounds.  They sang The gentlemen of England and rang the bell.  As nobody answered, they started another song, Now pray we for our country.  The bell was rung again.  There was movement inside, then Corbet and a number of others rushed out. Corbet was holding a shotgun.  Someone shouted ‘Go at them!’ and two of the soulers were knocked over, one suffering a broken tooth.  Thomas Hodgkinson protested that they were doing no harm, only souling.

The soulers made off down the long drive of the house as quickly as they could.  Corbet followed, telling them to stop.  He fired his gun, hitting John Tomlinson in the legs.  Some of the soulers stopped and returned with Corbet and Tomlinson to the house.  Their names were taken before they were allowed to leave. 

When Tomlinson arrived home, nineteen shots were found in his left calf and two in the right.  When Corbet heard about this, he visited Tomlinson, gave instructions for his own doctor to attend, and gave him £25.  However that was not the end of the matter.  Corbet was brought before magistrates, charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, grievous bodily harm, and common assault.

The trial attracted a good deal of interest and proceedings lasted seven and a half hours.  Several of the young soulers gave evidence.  In his defence, Corbet said that he had recently dismissed some stable hands who had threatened him.  When he heard noises he thought they had returned.  He had never heard of the custom of souling.  Although he admitted firing the gun, he said he did not take aim and only meant to frighten the visitors.

The jury decided their verdict in the space of twenty minutes – Corbet was found guilty of common assault.  This was greeted with a ripple of applause.  Mr Addison for the prosecution stated that he did not wish to press hard on a gentleman in Mr Corbet’s position.  The act for which he was convicted was a hasty one provoked by what he perceived to be howling outside his door.  The unpleasantness of having to stand in the dock was already a considerable punishment.

The magistrates decided that Corbet should pay a fine of £100, and enter into a recognisance of good behaviour for twelve months.  The case attracted considerable press coverage.  Some newspapers expressed the belief that Corbet had got off lightly: the Nottingham Journal contrasted the case with a man sent to prison for six weeks for pointing his gun at a pheasant.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive, for example Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 15 November 1873, Cheshire Observer 29 November 1873, Nottingham Journal 2 December 1873.

 

06 September 2018

Murray the Escapologist

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It is not unusual when looking through archives to find something unexpected.  This entertaining leaflet for Murray the Australian Escapologist was among the private papers of Sir John Gilbert Laithwaite, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943.  It was in a file of brochures and pamphlets he had collected on his various tours of India.

F138-57 Murray the EscapologistIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F138/57


Born in 1901 in Melbourne with the exhausting full name of Leo Norman Maurien Murray Stuart Carrington Walters, he not surprisingly shortened it for his stage act to Murray the Escapologist.  His interest in magic and escapes had been kindled as a boy by seeing other magicians, including the famous Houdini.  Having saved for a pair of handcuffs, he practised escapes by handcuffing himself to his bed every night so that he could not go to sleep until he had freed himself. 

Murray the Escapologist 3Leeds Mercury, 24 December 1926 British Newspaper Archive

Murray worked hard and travelled the world building up his act.  He often worked as a crew member on ships during the day, and performed his act in the evening wherever the ship docked.  In this way he travelled to America, Singapore, India, and South America, before reaching Europe, arriving in England in the mid-1920s.

Murray the Escapologist 2Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 13 January 1937 British Newspaper Archive

Some of his stunts sound particularly hair-raising, such as hanging upside down in a strait-jacket from the roof of the Palace Theatre Blackpool, being thrown out of an airplane over the Bristol Channel while locked inside a mailbag, being locked in a safe and thrown into the sea, or being manacled and thrown into the lions’ den at Olympia.  In 1926, he told a correspondent of the Dundee Courier that the feat he was most proud of was being secured to the track of the Peking-Shanghai Railway ten minutes before the Shanghai Express was due to leave the station.  He escaped when the train was only 100 yards away.  Such acts did not always win approval from the authorities. In Japan the police refused to allow him to give a public performance because he would set a bad example. 

In 1939, Murray was touring Germany, and performed at the Wintergarten Theatre in Berlin where he entertained Adolf Hitler.  On the outbreak of war, he had to quickly flee the country leaving his props and costumes behind in order to avoid being interned.  As the leaflet shows, this experience became a part of his subsequent act.  To build up his show again, he travelled to India where he performed successfully in Bombay.  In India, he performed with Madam Gillian, the Woman with the X-Ray Eyes, who had the “uncanny ability of rendering startling and truthful character analysis through her magnetic eyes”.

Murray the EscapologistBirmingham Mail, 13 January 1939 British Newspaper Archive

Murray continued to amaze audiences until his retirement in 1954, when opened a magic shop in Blackpool called Murray’s Magic Mart, which he ran until a couple of years before his death in 1989.

 John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
Miscellaneous booklets and pamphlets on monuments in India, collected by Sir J G Laithwaite, during his tours of India, 1937-1943 [Reference Mss Eur F138/57]

David O’Connor, “The Magic of Murray” on the ‘Magic for Kids’ website, 24 November 2015

Barry McCann blog post Magic Murray, Blackpool Museum Project 

Article in the Dundee Courier, Wednesday 29 December 1926; Robert E Vivian, article in the Evening Despatch, Wednesday 18 January 1939  

02 July 2018

Open spaces for children – the Foundling Site Appeal

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In 1926 the Foundling Hospital estate in Bloomsbury London was sold by the Governors to a business syndicate. The children were moved to the country and the old Hospital was demolished. Nine acres of ground were put on the market as building land.

Foundling Hospital ThornburyThe Foundling Hospital from Old & New London by George Walter Thornbury and Edward Walford (1897) BL flickr

Dismayed at the prospect of this open space being covered by buildings, local residents formed the Foundling Estate Protection Association.  They asked the London County Council to purchase the land and preserve it as a Public Open Space, but the asking price of £700,000 was too high.  In 1929 the School Care Committees in the borough of Holborn petitioned the LCC to acquire the space as a playground and welfare centre for children growing up in neighbouring congested housing.  Again the cost proved too much.

The Association appealed to Viscount Rothermere who offered £525,000 for the Foundling Site.  His offer was rejected and the vendors prepared for a development with blocks of flats.

In January 1929 an influential group was formed – the Joint Committee of Voluntary Associations for the Welfare of Children and Young People (Foundling Site).  It had representatives from the Scouts, Guides, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, nursery schools and children’s play centres.   The Association and Committee agreed to work together.

Lord Rothermere purchased an option on the site for £525,000 in April 1929.  In August that year the Joint Committee opened the Site to nearly 3,000 local children.  Many had never run about on grass before. Toys and games were provided.  The LCC gave a grant of £500 and Queen Mary made the first of three visits.

Local schools used the Site for games throughout the year and for open-air classes in the summer.  The swimming bath was reconditioned and a nursery opened in the old sanitorium building.  The nursery children spent most of their time outdoors in fine weather and their health was seen to improve.

Foundling Site AppealNotes on the Foundling Site Appeal 1929-1936

However in December 1930 Lord Rothermere informed the Joint Committee that he could not exercise his option to buy the estate.  So in February 1931, at a time of economic depression, a public appeal was launched to save the Site. Rothermere promised a gift of £50,000 if the appeal was successful.  By the end of April 1931, an average of £2,000 per week had been contributed from all over the world.  Local schoolchildren made penny collections.

A set of postcards entitled 'Save the Foundling Site' was issued by Raphael Tuck & Sons showing happy children playing in the open spaces.

Football on the Foundling Site reverse

They included images of boys playing football…

Football on the Foundling Site

 Football on the Foundling Site - image courtesy of Tuck DB Postcards

...and the Infants’ Lawn.

The Infants' Lawn Foundling SiteThe Infants’ Lawn - image courtesy of Tuck DB Postcards

By June 1932 sufficient money had been raised to secure about 5½ acres of the Site.  In April 1933 Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley purchased the Foundling estate, including the still unsaved part of the open Site.  Sir Harry promised a donation of £36,250 towards the cost of the remaining part of the Site, leaving £150,000 to be raised through a ‘Final Appeal’ launched in February 1934.  The LCC made a grant and the Governors of the Foundling Hospital repurchased the northern portion for child welfare work.  In December 1935 the long struggle to save the whole of the old Foundling Hospital Site for the children of London was brought to a successful conclusion. The park re-opened in 1936 under the new name of Coram Fields.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Notes on the Foundling Site Appeal 1929-1936 issued by the Council of Management of Coram’s Fields

The Art of Children's Games 

 

15 June 2018

A football match in 18th century Ireland

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In 1720 Irish writer and lawyer Matthew Concanen published the mock-heroic 'A Match at Football: A Poem in three Cantos'. It describes a match between Lusk and Soards in the County of Dublin.  Football in the 18th century was a violent game without set rules, with ball-handling and creative methods of tackling being perfectly acceptable.

  A Match at Football'A Match at Football' reprinted in Matthew Concanen, Poems upon Several Occasions (Dublin, 1722)  Noc

You can read the full poem online. But here are some extracts to give you a flavour.

Ye Champions of fair Lusk, and Ye of Soards,
View well this Ball, the Present of your Lords.
To outward View, Three Folds of Bullocks-hide,
With Leathern Thongs fast bound on ev’ry Side:
A Mass of finest Hay conceal’d from Sight,
Conspire at once, to make it firm and light.
At this you’ll all contend, this bravely strive,
Alternate thro’ the adverse Goal to drive:
Two Gates of Sally bound the spacious Green,
Here one, and one on yonder Side is seen:
Guard That Ye Men of Soards, ye others this;
Fame waits the Careful, Scandal the Remiss,’
He said, and high in Air he flung the Ball;
The Champions crowd, and anxious wait its Fall.

First Felim caught, he pois’d and felt it soft,
Then whirld it with a sudden Stroke aloft.
With Motion smooth and swift, he saw it glide,
'Till Dick, who stop’d it on the other Side,
A dextrous Kick, with artful Fury drew;
The light Machine, with Force unerring, flew
To th’adverse Goal where, in the Sight of all,
The watchful Daniel caught the flying Ball. 
He proudly joyful in his Arms embrac’d
The welcome Prize, then ran with eager Haste.
With lusty Strides he measur’d half the Plain,
When all his Foes surround and stop the Swain;
They tug, they pull; to his Assistance run,
The strong-limb’d Darby and the nimble John.
Paddy with more than common ardour fir’d,
Out-singl’d Daniel, while the rest retir’d:
At Grappling now their mutual Skill they try;
Now Arm in Arm they lock, and Thigh in Thigh.
Now turn, now twine, now with a furious Bound,
Each lifts his fierce Opposer from the Ground…

And now both Bands in close Embraces met,
Now Foot to Foot, and Breast to Breast was set;
Now all impatient grapple round the Ball,
And heaps on heaps in wild Confusion fall…

Thy Trip, O Terence, fell'd the lusty Neal,
Kit dropt by Felim, Hugh by Paddy fell;
Toss’d down by Darby, Dick forbore to Play,
John tugg’d at Cabe; while thus confus’d they lay,
Sly Le’nard struck th’unheeded Ball, and stole,
With easy Paces, tow’rds th’unguarded Goal.
This Daniel saw, who rising from the Ground,
(Where, like Antaeus, he new Strength had found),
Flew to his Post, and halloo’d to his Crew.
They start, and swift the flying Foe pursue:
Le’nard observing, stood upon his Guard,
And now to kick the rolling Ball prepar’d,
When careful Terence, fleeter than the Winds,
Ran to the Swain, and caught his Arm behind;
A Dextrous Crook about his Leg he wound,
And laid the Champion grov’ling on the Ground…

How many features of the beautiful game from 300 years ago will you spot during the World Cup?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Matthew Concanen, Poems upon Several Occasions (Dublin, 1722)
Andrew Carpenter (ed.), Verse in English from Eighteenth-century Ireland (Cork, 1998)

 

01 April 2018

An April Fool hoax at London Zoo

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Easter Sunday fell on 1 April in 1866. A large crowd gathered outside London Zoo.  They produced admission tickets which they had bought for one penny, a bargain since the usual price was 6d. The visitors became ‘exceedingly boisterous’ when they were refused entry and told that they were victims of an April Fool hoax.

The tickets were printed on green coloured card and read:
‘Subscriber’s Ticket – Admit bearer to the Zoological Gardens on Easter Sunday. The procession of the animals will take place at three o’clock, and this ticket will not be available after that hour.  J. C. Wildboar, Secretary’.

London Zoo G70037-27Children being given a ride on an elephant at London zoo from London Town  by Felix Leigh, illustrated by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton (1883) Images Online

Three hundred people arrived with a ticket, lured by the low price and the promise of seeing a parade of lions, tigers, bears and leopards.  The bewildered Zoo officials informed them that the gardens were not open to the general public on a Sunday – only fellows or members of the Society were admitted with their friends.  The ticket holders were not happy with this and the Zoo feared a riot was about to spark off.  An extra force of policemen was summoned to the gate and the crowd dispersed without further trouble.

London Zoo immediately started an investigation to discover who was responsible for the hoax.  They found that Sarah Marks, a bookseller in Houndsditch, had sold thirteen tickets.  The Zoological Society brought an action against Mrs Marks who was summoned to appear at the Mansion House ‘for that she, on the 29th of March did unlawfully and knowingly obtain, by certain false pretences, the sum of 1s 1d, with intent to cheat and defraud’.  The case was greeted with much amusement in court. 

Sarah Marks had written a letter to the Society expressing her great regret for the foolish prank which had been instigated by her sons and promising that nothing of that kind would take place again at her establishment.  The Society accepted her apology and withdrew the summons. Mrs Marks was given a severe reprimand by Alderman Finnis and discharged.

Happy Easter and beware April Fool tricks!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Isle of Wight Observer 7 April 1866; Belfast Morning News 9 April 1866, Sussex Advertiser 10 April 1866.