Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Exeter Exchange: The London Menagerie

Did you know a seventeenth century edict prohibited exotic animals being exhibited in London's streets?

This ban wasn't out of concern for public safety, but because the privilege of showing rare animals (and the associated revenues) belonged to the keeper of his Majesty's lions, at the Tower of London. However, in a city hungry for novel entertainment, the showmen merely moved their lions and tigers to fairs and back alleys. But in 1793 one such itinerant showman, Gilbert Pidcock, dodged the issue and established a privately-owned menagerie which he opened to London's public.
Inside the Exeter Exchange (also known as the Exeter 'Change)
Gilbert Pidcock bought a four-storey building, the Exeter Exchange, in the Strand. It seems likely Pidcock wanted a place to overwinter his animals when not touring the country, and later realised there was a demand to exhibit in London all year round. His collection of exotic animals included a rhinoceros, kangaroo, zebra, lynx and some rare birds. Later he added tigers and an elephant. The latter is all the more surprising because the animals were kept indoors - on the first floor and above - the ground floor being occupied by shops.
The Stand, London - in the 19th century
Pidcock's Menagerie grew in popularity at a time when the Tower Menagerie was shabby and in decline. Although situated in central London, it seems the city authorities were remarkably tolerant of Pidcock's establishment, even if newspapers frequently published letters complaining about jungle noises disturbing the peace, and noxious smells issuing from the building.

When Pidcock died in 1810 the menagerie eventually came under the ownership of Edward Cross (Pidcock's deputy and a skilled animal keeper) Cross had an eye for publicity and in adverts likened himself to:

"…that primeval collector of natural curiosities, Old Noah."

Edward Cross
Indeed, Cross' collection included Chunee (an elephant), Nero (a large lion), four other lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, antelopes, camels, llamas, bison and sea lions! That's not to mention a large collection of birds from ostriches, to five species of eagles, and vultures.

The menagerie was open 9 am to 9pm and it cost a shilling to see the three main exhibits, or two shillings to view everything. The most popular time to visit was at 8pm when the animals were fed and Chunee, the elephant rang a loud bell to signal the start of feeding time.
"The Lords of Parliament and the lions of Exeter Change all dined at about eight."
William Clarke, journalist.
The Exeter Exchange - note the banner displaying exotic animals.
And finally: one famous visitor to the menagerie was Lord Byron. He remarked that the face of the hippopotamus reminded him of Lord Liverpool (the Prime Minister) - [This seems rather dubious since no record exists of a hippo being exhibited] Other illustrious visitors included Princess Victoria (the future Queen), Robert Browning and Charles Dickens.
The caption reads :
Exeter Change, Strand, site of Edward Cross's
menagerie, shortly before its demolition in 1829
If you have enjoyed this post you may also be interested in:
The Wonderful Dog: Munito
The Learned Pig

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The 'Wonderful Dog' - Munito

Munito- featured in an advert for chocolate!
For a family night out in the 19th century, a trip to see Munito, the Wonderful Dog, was de rigour. Indeed, Munito was such a celebrity that he listed the Prince Regent and Duke of York amongst his fans. This intelligent dog could perform tricks, do sums and spell using lettered cards, and he started his career in Paris, playing dominoes - which fascinated the Parisians who bet bonbons and cakes on the outcome of his games.
His master was Signor Castelli, of whom little is known other he came from Italy and was thought to be in his 50's. Castelli spoke no English, only Italian and bad French, which he claimed the dog understood. The pair were often seen walking in London, with Castelli chatting away to the dog as if holding a conversation. 
But the dog, Munito, was not only intelligent but also brave. Apparently, he helped his master, Signor Castelli, rescue a woman from drowning and as a result was awarded an honoury medal by the Royal Humane Society.

The original Munito looked similar to this
Water Spaniel or Poodle?
Munito's breed is open to debate. Pictures of him from contempory posters show a medium sized, woolly dog with a sort of lion-clip. Apparently the dog's father was a hound and his mother, who Muntio was said to resemble, a water spaniel; the coat white all over except for a tan patch over his left eye. However, poodle breeders disagree and claim Munito for their own.
Indeed, confusion may have arisen as it seems likely over the years, as many as 3 dogs going by the same name, performed in England and France. It seems likely the original Munito worked between 1816 and 1824, and Munito the poodle appeared in 1827 until the mid 1830's.

A plate showing Munito playing dominoes.
How was Munito trained?
The answer to how Munito was trained, was answered by, of all people, the novelist Charles Dickens. In 1867 Dickens wrote about having seen Munito's act, some 45 years earlier.
"… a learned dog was exhibited in Piccadilly -  Munito … He performed many curious feats, answering questions, telling the hour of the day … picking out any cards called for from a pack on the ground.”
Dickens set his observational skills to work and noticed how Munito walked around the cards sniffing them. The writer came up with an explanation as to how Munito did the trick.
“We watched more narrowly … noticed that between each feat the master gave the dog some small bits … of food, and that there was a faint smell of aniseed from that corner of the room.” 

If you were wealthy enough, you could pay to have Munito
perform in your own home.
Indeed, Dickens noted a smell of aniseed coming from Castelli's waistcoat and concluded that he marked the relevant card with a small amount of aniseed on his thumb. However, another novelist, Jules Verne, who had also seen Munito (and alluded to him in 'A Captain at Fifteen') came up with a different explanation. He thought that Munito's master snapped a toothpick in his pocket when the dog sniffed the right card.
And finally, if you have enjoyed this post you can read about The Learned Pig here.

The Learned Pig - an illustration by Thomas Rowlandson

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Welcome! 'Beyond a Doubt' - author Felicia Rogers

Today, I'm delighted to welcome author, Felicia Rogers, to the blog. Felicia is a fellow Solstice author ('Beyond a Doubt' is with Astraea Press) and writer of historical fiction. Felicia is a lady with a generous heart and talented pen, and so it is with great pleasure that she announces #4 in her 'Renaissance Hearts' Series - such a beautiful cover!
Grace x

Beyond A Doubt, The Renaissance Hearts Series, Book Four
The end is finally here…

Click for link

The final chapter has been written for The Renaissance Hearts Series. What began with Sarra and Cedric in There Your Heart Will Be Also concludes with Bryce and Lucy in Beyond A Doubt. Set in the turbulent times of Mary I of England, or Bloody Mary, and Henry II of France, the fight for religious freedom abounds. Intrigue, loss of property, and loss of life rule the day. Follow the epic ending of a family’s struggle.

Buy it Now on Amazon:
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Bryce Cameron is finally going home. Years spent away have him longing for the craggy landscapes from his childhood.

Lucy Lombard is on a mission. The mantel she carries was never meant for her possession yet it has been passed to her anyway. Alone and in danger, Lucy stumbles onto her greatest find.

Rescuing Bryce is either a blessing or a curse but regardless time is running out. With Bryce's help can Lucy fulfill her mission or will she be too late?


See what others have said about the Renaissance Hearts Series.

I really enjoyed this book. I do not typically favor historical romance, but the romance was not too mushy, and the historical was not too heavy! This was an enjoyable, delightful read!!!.” Taken from Rachel’s Amazon review on There Your Heart Will Be Also, Book One.

If you are in for a good mystery with plenty of adventure, suspense & romance, you have come to the right place for this recommended novel because "By God's Grace" will give it all to you.” Taken from Arlean’s Amazon review of By God’s Grace, Book Two.

Okay have to say this is my fav book so far in The Renaissance Heart Series! Felicia Rogers just gets better!” Taken from Danielle William’s Amazon review of Labor of Love, Book Three.

Buy Beyond A Doubt on Amazon:
Buy Beyond A Doubt on B&N:

Don’t forget the other books in the series. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Astraea Press.

~There Your Heart Will Be Also, Book One
~By God’s Grace, Book Two
~Labor of Love, Book Three

Felicia Rogers

Author - Felicia Rogers
Felicia Rogers is an author of six novels and three novellas. When she's not writing, Felicia volunteers with the Girl Scouts of America, teaches at a local homeschooling group, hikes, and spends time with her family.

To find out more information about Felicia Rogers visit the sites below. She loves hearing from readers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Foundling Hospital: A Child's View

A mother leaving her baby at the Foundling Hospital, Paris.
Original canvas can be seen at the Foundling Museum, London.
My previous two posts looked at the Foundling Hospital, London, and how it looks today, and also an exhibition of tokens on display at what is now the Foundling Museum. But if, as a Georgian child, you were taken in by the hospital, what sort of upbringing could you expect?

Once admitted each child was given a new name. At first the hospital's governors lent their own names, but this turned out to be confusing for some children who held false hopes of illustrious parentage. 
Gin Lane by the 18th century artist, William Hogarth -
a perilous time to be a child.
The babies were breast fed and their first two to four years of life were likely spent in the countryside, farmed out to a wet nurse. At around about three years, they returned to London where they were inoculated against smallpox - a major innovation of the day. It seems an emphasis was placed on healthy living because they were encouraged to play outside.
"Exercised in the open air …as may contribute to their health and induce a habit of active hardiness."
The Foundling Hospital offered a better future than that of
an abandoned child living on the streets
However, even play was done with an eye to future work. For instance boys played with bats and balls.... and javelins because they might help them find a job!
"Inure them for a proper slight in the throwing a harpoon in the Greenland [whale] fishery."

Boys stayed in education for longer than girls, who at the age of six took on housekeeping duties around the hospital in order to make them:
"Useful servants to such proper persons as may apply for them."

Boys faired a little better  in terms of having a longer childhood, but at the age of twelve were often sent out into the world:
"At twelve years the boys be sent to sea or husbandry [agricultural labour] …to have in readiness boys instructed in gardening for such persons as may incline to take them into their service."
Foundling children during a church service.
The original painting is on display at the Foundling Museum, London
Whilst at the hospital the children wore a uniform designed by the Georgian artist, William Hogarth, who was a patron of the society. The girls wore brown serge dresses with a stiffened bodice but no stays, and the boys wore jackets and breeches, cheered by touches of red.

The food was: "plain and simple…their bread coarse and their drink water." Bread was made on the premises, perhaps making it more healthy than the adulterated and contaminated fair available in the city. However, the understanding of the nutritional needs of children was almost none existent and despite the governors best intentions, many of their wards suffered from scurvy or rickets.
Thomas Coram established the Foundling Hospital in the 18th century,
and his work for the welfare of children continues in his name today.
Despite everything, a child raised by the Foundling hospital had a better start in life than many poor children: well trained, presentable and immune to smallpox - they stood a good chance of finding employment. The only downside was the hospital's finite resources. It's a telling and sad fact that in July 1749, out of 83 applications for mercy, only 20 babies were taken in.

If you have found this post interesting you may want to read:
London Then and Now: The Foundling Hospital
The Foundling Hospital: Fate, Hope and Charity

The statue of Thomas Coram, erected in his honour
outside the Foundling Museum

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Foundling Hospital's Exhibition: Fate, Hope and Charity

Hogarth's portrait of Captain Thomas Coram
The Foundling Hospital came about through the determination of Captain Thomas Coram.
Born in Lyme Regis, England, Coram was well acquainted with the sea and much of his early life was involved with ships or shipping. But what Coram cared about was poverty, especially of those least able to help themselves - the abandoned or orphaned children he saw dying on city streets. For nearly two decades he waged a campaign to rouse the consciences of the wealthy and establish a place where such unfortunates could be raised in safety.

Aerial view of the Foundling Hospital circa 1753
In 1739,  he succeeded andKing George II granted a Royal Charter giving Coram the authority to establish:
"A hospital for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children,"
Eventually known as the Foundling Hospital, in 1740's the hospital (the word used in a wider sense meaning 'hospitality') found a home in Bloomsbury, London.

The Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London.
The museum is home to artefacts and art work associated with the hospital.
Coram's intention was that parents and offspring could be reunited when the former's circumstances improved. With this aim he instituted detailed record keeping - quite a contrast to the parish parochial records.
"All persons who bring children are requested to affix on each child some particular writing or other distinguishing mark or token so that the child may be know hereafter if necessary."

A variety of tokens on exhibit at the Foundling Museum.
'Fate, Hope and Charity - the exhibition'
Click for link.
Photo the property of the Foundling Museum.
Indeed, some of these tokens are currently on display at the Foundling Museum in an exhibition: Fate, Hope and Charity. They form a moving testament to the despair that drove women to give up their babies. From scraps of fabric to gambling tokens, from delicate rings to notes written on death row, each object speaks of untold heart ache and desperation. In return for the token and her baby, the mother was issued with a detailed receipt which she was urged to keep safe:
"It is desired that it [the receipt] be carefully kept, that it may be produced if the child should at any time be claimed."

A rather well-dressed Georgian laundry maid.
Babies were given up for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most plaintive read:
"Seduc'd and reduc'd"
- perhaps written by a maid who would lose her position, and means of making a living, if her illegitimate babe was discovered. But married woman were also driven to abandonment, from the soldier's wife with nine children to support, whose husband died and left her penniless, to the woman writing in her prison cell after she was sentenced to hang.

Children hoping to be admitted Foundling Hospital.
On admittance the children were given a different name - the new one carefully recorded against the old, in case a parent later returned. The very first admitted were named after Thomas Coram and his wife, Eunice. Initially, the governors leant their names to children but this proved a mistake when those same children came of age and had mistaken hopes of high parentage. Safer, more none committal names became the vogue, such as Robin Hood, or Elizabeth Foundling. 

The imposing statue of Thomas Coram,
sited outside the Foundling Museum.
Perhaps even more upsetting are the tales of those parents who returned, years later, to reclaim their children - only to be told the babe had died shortly after admittance. One can not imagine the hope that sustained those women over the years, only to be dashed at what should have been the happiest moment. If you are within traveling distance of London, I can heartily recommend a visit to: Fate, Hope and Charity. - but hurry, the exhibition ends on May 19th! 
Forthcoming release, Verity's Lie,
in part features foundling children.

If this post has whetted your appetite, see also: