Bathing elephants upset churchgoers

MHLC -02-01-14 Nostalgia Elephants ''Elephants in Royal Leamington Spa .
MHLC -02-01-14 Nostalgia Elephants ''Elephants in Royal Leamington Spa .

Leamington History Group member Alan Goldstraw has been researching the history of elephants in Leamington.

Alan gave a talk on the subject recently to the Senior Citizens Activity Group, of which he is a member, at the Spa Centre.

He said: “Elephants were brought to Leamington by Sam Lockhart, a world famous elephant trainer who was born in 1850. The son of a circus clown, Sam first trained as an acrobat before going to Ceylon where he was captivated by seeing elephants perform. He brought three elephants back to Leamington and trained them as a circus act with which he travelled the world.

“The elephants used to bathe near the Mill suspension bridge and if you walk down Priory Terrace you can see the slipway, the Elephant Walk, where they used to go down to the river.

“The original slipway was closer to the parish church, where the post office was built, but was moved after supposed complaints that the elephants made too much noise and disturbed church-goers on Sundays.

“The circus was very popular from early days and several companies stayed for long periods, some wintering in the Spa. In 1835 Wombwells Circus found a site on undeveloped land at the bottom of Milverton Hill and in 1836 the Victoria Circus enjoyed a successful season pitched at the Jephson Gardens end of Euston Place.

“Circuses were so popular that a permanent building, circular and with a distinctive domed roof, was put up at the end of the Victoria Colonnade, on the site of the present Loft Theatre. If you go to the theatre you will see a circle on the floor where the centre of the Big Top was situated in 1849.”