David Barnaby's research suggests that the first elephant at Belle Vue came originally from Ceylon and was purchased by the Jennisons in 1860. Robert Nicholls is of the opinion that this elephant only lived for a short period. David Barnaby believes that it may have lived as long as 7 years. It was housed in a menagerie on the ground floor of the building where the Jennisons had their Natural History Museum.

                  House  Ray Chadwick

This first elephant certainly died before 1869 because it was then that the Indian Elephant Sally came to a zoo that had no elephant. Sally was just a youngster when she arrived and became a real pet of the staff. She apparently spent a great deal of time in the kitchen with the staff and slept in a stable. In 1872 James Jennison bought the Indian Elephant, Maharajah, at an auction in Edinburgh.

Maharajah captured the imagination of the English public when he walked from Edinburgh to Belle Vue. Having destroyed the railway wagon that was to be used to transport him, it was decided to walk him to Manchester. It may have been necessary but it may have been a well designed publicity stunt that turned an elephant into a legend. James Jennison paid 680 for Maharajah.

The building which housed Sally was in no way big enough to house Maharajah so the glass roofed Elephant House, shown above was built to house both of them. In the beginning the elephants were separated from the visitors by a metal railing and a series of heavy oak beams, see below. This was the case for a significant number of years.

                    House  Balon Family               Elephant
                    House  Balon Family
The images above are shown with the permission of the Balon Family of Australia.


In 1906 an outdoor tank was built next to the Elephant House.


In 1935 the bars and railings came down to be replaced by a moat and rows of sharp spikes to deter the elephants from approaching the edge of their stalls. It would appear that at a later date a concrete lip was added to the stalls at the edge of the moat.

                  House @ Tom Fish

                  House  David Boardman  

                   Ray Chadwick     Elephants  Ray Chadwick

These four images are shown with the permission of Ray Chadwick

                   Ray Chadwick       Elephants  Ray

Elephants at Belle Vue worked for their keep, and in addition to giving children rides, they were used in the way we might use heavy equipment today to move loads around the park. They even performed as "actors" in the dramatic firework presentations.

Elephant Ride 
                  Ray Chadwick
The image above is shown with the permission of Ray Chadwick.

A succession of people cared for Belle Vue's elephants over the years but two keepers stand out from the others. Lorenzo Lawrence, (below - right) who walked to Belle Vue with his charge Maharajah and stayed on to look after him. Maharajah died in 1882. His skeleton was exhibited for many years in Belle Vue's Natural History Museum and now resides in the Manchester Museum.

Lorenzo's career at Belle Vue came to an end in 1912. In 1921 Phil Fernandez (below - left) came to Belle Vue as elephant keeper. Like Lorenzo he was Malayan and he also arrived with an elephant. He accompanied Lil an Asiatic elephant. He was an exotic character who dressed in eastern costume. Lil died in 1947 but Phil stayed on at Belle Vue until he died in 1956.

                  Keepers  Robert Nicholls
The image above is shown with the permission of Robert Nicholls

Elephant Ride with Godfrey Neubold

The image above is shown with the permission of David Marsh, former keeper.


The images below were generously donated by Tommy Kelly, son of Matt Kelly the Head Keeper.

The images below were generously donated by Al Martin.  The first shows his father and cousin John McMumm watching the elephant ride pass by.

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