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Travelling menageries were popular in the 19th Century but Dr Helen Cowie, a historian at the University of York, says they “were not too preoccupied” with security and there were “an alarming number” of escapes and accidents.

In 1899 a young black-maned Nubian lion escaped from Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie in Aston. A report which has just been unearthed in the Pall Mall Gazette on September 28, 1889, said: “Men, women and children scampered off in all directions as the lion dashed across the ground, hotly pursued by the men from Wombwell’s. A group of children were in its path, but it cleared them at a bound.”

The lion made for a stream, before taking refuge in a sewer. Chief lion tamer Marcus Orenz heard the lion’s roar, crawled through a manhole and began to pursue the animal. A trap was set with a cage over the drain opening and Orenzo, ‘armed with a heavy revolver and accompanied by a boarhound’ approached the lion, firing two shots.


  Illustration of men putting a cage over a manhole in an attempt to trap the lion  

The Mail (2015) ended there with its capture but a 2017 post on a BBC News website has a more dashing account. Frank C Bostock, the owner of a menagerie, and his team were preparing for a show when one of his lions jumped over its keeper, pushed through a rip in the circus tent, and prowled off towards Birmingham city centre “as free and untrammelled as when in his native wilds”.

According to Bostock’s account in his book The Training of Wild Animals, the lion came across one of the openings to the sewerage system and “down he sprang, looking up at the crowd of people and roaring at the top of his voice. As he made his way through the sewers, he stopped at every man-hole he came to, and there sent up a succession of roars, driving some people nearly wild with terror.”

As the public became very alarmed, rather than trying to quell the volatile crowd, Bostock put a second lion in a cloth-covered cage and sneaked it out on the back of a lorry. He then returned, blowing his horn to attract attention, with the lion clearly visible. People fell for the ruse and he was cheered as a hero. “A shout went up from the crowd ‘They’ve got him! They’ve got him! They’ve got the lion!'” His actions in apparently getting the lion from the sewer were reported around the world. A New Zealand newspaper ran an article called “A lion at large in Birmingham: How the King of the Forest was recaptured”.

Frank C Bostock published a volume of his memoirs and training tips

The publicity worked in Bostock’s favour. Hordes of people attended the show that evening, ignorant of the fact a man-eating lion was prowling beneath the streets. Bostock said he “was in a perfect bath of cold perspiration, for matters were extremely serious, and I knew not what to do next. Fortunately, the lion had stopped his roaring, and contented himself with perambulating up and down the sewer”.

On the afternoon of the following day, the chief of police of Birmingham visited the menagerie and congratulated Bostock on his “marvellous pluck and daring” and Bostock ‘came clean’. “I shall never forget that man’s face when he realized that the lion was still in the sewer, it was a wonderful study for any mind-reader,” he reflected. “At first he was inclined to blame me but when I showed him I had probably stopped a panic, and that my own liabilities in the matter were pretty grave possibilities to face, he sympathized with me, and added that any help he could give me, I might have.

“I at once asked for 500 men of the police force and asked that he would instruct the superintendent of sewers to send me the bravest men he could spare, with their top-boots, ladders, ropes, and revolvers with them, so that should the lion appear, any man could do his best to shoot him at sight. We arranged that we should set out at five minutes to midnight, so that we might avoid any crowd following us, and so spreading the report”.

An illustration from The Graphic newspaper: men pulling a lion from a sewer using a rope

It was more than 24 hours later that Bostock, now in the sewer, “saw two gleaming eyes of greenish-red just beyond, and knew we were face to face with the lion at last”. He and his gang of men chased the lion through the sewers by scaring it with shouts and fireworks. When face-to-face with the lion Bostock took off his boots and put them on his hands “Fearing that he would split my head open with a blow from one of his huge paws, I told one of my men to place over my head a large iron kettle which we had used to carry cartridges and other things to the sewer”. The kettle fell off and startled the lion which “turned tail like a veritable coward” and ran into a rope lasso laid out ready to snare him.

Bostock’s story in his memoirs concludes: “I got the lion out of the sewer, as the people of Birmingham supposed I did, only their praise and applause were a little previous.”

Frank C Bostock died from ‘flu aged 46 in 1912 and there is a stone lion on grave in which he and his wife Susannah were buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.






Paul Mason, political economist and film-maker, examines the spectacular polling revival ‘staged’ by Jeremy Corbyn in the space of six weeks. He lists and comments on the ‘plausible range of outcomes’ in next week’s general election’:

  • modest Tory gains,
  • a hung parliament,
  • a minority Labour government.

He adds that even if, as seems likely, Mr Corbyn cannot win outright, he would re-enter parliament leading a massively emboldened opposition.

Mason continues by saying that the challenge for Mr Corbyn, in the last week of the campaign, is to break the 40% barrier.

He recommends the Labour leader to signal he would form a government with cross-party support in parliament, at the very least from the Greens and the progressive nationalist parties.






As Jonathan Walker has reported, “Conservative leader Theresa May attempted to turn the focus of the general election back on to Brexit by saying: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s minders can put him in a smart blue suit for an interview with Jeremy Paxman, but with his position on Brexit, he will find himself alone and naked in the negotiating chamber with the European Union”.

Here he is with colleagues in Brussels

Walker explains May’s discourteous tirade by saying that “It followed a difficult two weeks for Mrs. May, after she was accused of making a U-turn over plans to make some elderly people pay more for social care”.

And above are gathered all the EU’s socialist heads of state who will welcome Corbyn’s respectful, democratic approach to negotiations.






Theresa May has announced that the Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport. During a visit to a factory in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against. As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote”.

Is anyone surprised? What are the lives of a few foxes and the welfare of our least fortunate citizens to a person prepared to press the nuclear button?

Nicola Stavrinou writes about this repeal in Redbrick* (accessed via the Brummie aggregator):

She asks why: as 84% of British people are opposed to fox-hunting, would the Conservative Party back such an unpopular repeal?

Her answer: “Theresa May is using this repeal to gain back the hardliner Tories who wish to see the ban lifted once and for all. She is going for an electoral majority which could potentially remove Labour and SNP from the equation. The anti-hunting Labour and SNP MPs who voted to ban fox-hunting could potentially be replaced with Conservative MPs who are pro-hunting. May knows that she has the power to pass unfavourable laws because of the Conservative’s recent surge in popularity, most recently seen in the Mayoral elections from the beginning of the month”.

Wryly she concludes: “I have no doubt that if there is a potentially high Conservative majority win in the snap election, this ban will be lifted. Not that it has actually stopped anyone from hunting since then anyway”.

*Redbrick is the student publication of the University of Birmingham, established in 1936 under the original title Guild News

It has evolved to include eleven sections covering wide areas of student life, and expanded into the world of digital journalism. All content is produced by student journalists, including reporters, commentators, photographers and editors. As a student society, any student of the University of Birmingham can join and contribute to the publication.

The hard copy is published fortnightly and its website is updated continuously with regular content, videos, audio clips and photography. Events are covered through live blogging, providing a platform for readers to get directly involved with the debates. The website currently receives approximately 40,000 unique views per month.

Other recent articles:

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Labour Party Broadcast: A New Peake?





Take the train to Warwick Parkway from Birmingham Moor St and visit Saltisford Canal Basin with tranquil moorings set in gardens and orchards. The Saltisford Canal Centre is home to a number of permanent residential narrowboats and offers winter and visitor moorings within 10 minutes walk to the heart of Warwick.

There is a visitor centre/shop and the elegant Cedar Room (for hire), a sensory garden and a contemplation area where visitors can sit, relax and enjoy the views and wildlife.

A day-hire boat, Saltie,gives good views of the passing countryside and a generous deck area which allows steering to be a social activity with plenty of space for the crew to stand and chat. The boat has a small kitchen area, with fridge, sink and two-burner gas hob; crockery and cutlery is provided. Pack a picnic to enjoy with family and friends aboard. The main saloon has roll-up canvas sides and padded benches and a large front windscreen for forward views. Saltie II’s toilet is wheelchair accessible. To enable wheelchair access to the main saloon an hydraulic lift is located in the galley area and gives access to rear deck. Two benches fold to create space for up to 5 wheelchairs. Read more here:

A warm welcome is given by staff and residents at the Saltisford Canal Centre, to all – whether just mooring overnight, visiting on foot or staying longer.

People travelling by train will value information about this interesting short cut:

Warwick CV34 5RJ, UK

Warwick Parkway Station

1. Walk west towards Old Budbrooke Rd

2. Turn right onto Old Budbrooke Rd

3. Turn right to stay on Old Budbrooke Rd

4. Slight left towards Budbrooke Rd

5. Turn left onto Budbrooke Rd

A clearer map without the marked shortcut may be seen here:








Tom Young says he is unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s housing plans but the 2016 report (left) is eminently sensible and down-to-earth. It may be read here.

Mr. Young does not add that the people actually in power are failing to inspire developers to build affordable and social housing, and under their watch rents are rising.

No doubt Corbyn is approving the approach of Birmingham City Council (especially the new bonds development) and will extend the model if elected. See posts on this site for further information about investment in house-building and maintenance in the city:

Young also remarks that ‘the Conservative government is one that consistently delivers on security’ –  yes, for the already wealthy.

The most vulnerable: those on low income, in ill-health or disabled, are fearful, wondering when the next cut in income and services will come.




Invitation to an open meeting on March 27th 5.30pm in Colmore Row: Birmingham Pound – the way forward! (see information about the Attwood award here.)

Some will then have booked to move on to Britain after Brexit as David Dimbleby presents a special edition of Question Time from Birmingham.

On the panel are secretary of state for exiting the EU David Davis, shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU Sir Keir Starmer, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, deputy chair of UKIP Suzanne Evans and Times columnist Melanie Phillips.




The government is to provide £14m to ten cities, including London, Birmingham and Coventry, to help with the installation of electric charge points.

A £300m plant by The London Taxi Company opened today in Coventry to produce electric black cabs for the UK and international markets. The taxpayer has given £16.1m towards the development of the site in Ansty, Coventry.

Peter Campbell (FT) reports that the government has spent £80m towards research and development at the site, help fund the installation of electric charging stations, and incentivise taxi drivers to buy the new, cleaner vehicles.

The 38,000 taxis currently in operation in the UK require replacing after around 15 years of service and some 23,000 black cabs, which run on diesel, are in use in London. The government is offering taxi drivers a grant of £7,500 towards every new electric car – at a total cost of £50m

From January 2018 the FT article alleges, all black cabs sold in the UK must be able to drive using electric technology, in an effort to improve the air quality of major cities, particularly the capital. A search does not reveal evidence for this, though Transport for London has passed such an order relating to the capital. 




Political Concern reports that Mace, a large consultancy and construction company. which worked on the London 2012 Olympics and won an award for its work on New Street Station, has written to HS2 Ltd.

It announced that it intends to challenge the decision to award CH2M, the US engineer, a contract to design the second phase of the London to Manchester line. “As a British-owned company, we were naturally disappointed with HS2’s decision and are looking closely at our options,” Mace said.

The blog ends:

Tony Berkeley, the Labour peer and a former engineer who worked on the Channel tunnel, said the situation “smells”. “There must be other companies in the UK who are capable of doing it. Is HS2 actually competent to do the procurement or are they just relying on CH2M to do the whole thing and procure themselves?”

Read the blog here:






Visit and find out why it’s so named . . .


In December, Business Desk reported the opening of friendly independent Gorilla Coffee in Drayton Road, a fully-licensed cycle cafe based in Kings Heath. Cyclists, who feel some venues look askance at them if dishevelled and sticky, will feel welcome there.

Everyone with an interest in pedal-powered transport is catered for – watching cycling events on the big screen or having their bike repaired or serviced in the fully-equipped bike workshop.


Gorilla Coffee’s co-owners James Connolly and Stacey Jarvis have been working on the project for two years. They support local suppliers and serve coffee created by Worcestershire-based Coffee Masters, while the craft beers on offer celebrate the best the area has to offer.

One of the most popular beers – No Brakes IPA – comes from Blackheath’s Fixed Wheel Brewery. Above the café, operated by experienced cycle mechanic Damian Towers, is Gorilla Coffee’s workshop, fully equipped to undertake everything from minor adjustments through to full servicing. There are two service packages available: the Domestique service, which is an interim service to keep your bike running true, and the King of the Mountain service that sees the bike fully stripped down and rebuilt.

The café is aiming to expand its cycling services in 2017 with a collection and delivery service within five miles of the shop.