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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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