A Leamington Curiosity...

Dear All

   I recently received the following e-mail from my Aunty Aleen, does anyone know of any more details?

Don't know if your interest in elephants extends to history but we were visiting cousins in Leamington Spa today. Their new address is Wilhelmina House. We enquired after it's origin and learned that the house next door had been owned by a Sam Lockhurst who apparently kept 3 elephants (the "3 Graces") on the premises, last century. One was called Wilhelmina!

It seems that you can still walk your elephants in the Parade in the town and we saw a special conduit for elephants to use to go to the river and bathe!

We learned this and, as the saying goes, thought of you...

...before I set about twinning the Golden Triangle with Leamington Spa and dispatching my eles to take part in their parade I thought I ought to set about finding more, a web search only turned up the following piece (plus lots of other Leamington information) from the Leamington Old Town Business Association...


You might have wondered why the tourist plaques in Old Town show the elephant logo which we have also used in this website. The elephant is the official logo for Leamington Old Town.

Elephants were brought to Leamington by Sam Lockhurst, a world famous elephant trainer who was born in Leamington 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.

Sam often brought his elephants back to Leamington and they performed at the Victoria Grand Circus building which stood on the River Leam where the Loft Theatre now is. It could hold 2000 people, was lit by 50 chandeliers and had a dome nearly 100ft high.

The elephants used to bathe near the Mill suspension bridge and if you walk down Priory Terrace, you can still 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 part of the Post Office now is, but was moved after complaints that the elephants made too much noise and disturbed church-goers on Sundays!

Sam died in Leamington aged 82.

Taken from "Elephants in Royal Leamington Spa" by Janet Storrie, available from the Tourist Office in the Royal Pump Rooms.

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  • Thu, 01 Mar 2007 06:57:11 GMT Two-Trees wrote:
    Here's a bit more background.

    ** Town's elephant statue is stolen **
    Thieves steal part of a statue of three elephants which recalls a quirk in Leamington Spa's history. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/4797447.stm
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  • Sat, 10 Mar 2007 07:34:19 GMT Aleen Medcalf wrote:
    More on  the Leamington elephants, I scanned these in from local newspapers, try these links!

    The Courier 1
    The Courier 2
    The Courier 3

    Kingpole 1
    Kingpole 2
    Kingpole 3

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  • Tue, 10 Aug 2010 08:18:49 GMT Ann Roberts wrote:
    Dear John

    Not to be outdone by my sister I spotted this in the Western Morning News the other day:

    Remembering the day when four elephants frolicked in the River Exe

    Friday, July 23, 2010, 10:00

    It was a day in early spring when the circus came to town in Tiverton and I wonder how many times over the centuries African elephants have bathed and splashed around in the glorious River Exe.

    Never before or since, is the probable answer.

    It was a wonderful sight to see, four teenage elephants all-frolicking around with their keepers. But all was not as simple as it looks.

    The water was freezing cold and the elephants… not being stupid, did not want anything to do with the River Exe or any other river in the South West.

    Watching the keepers persuading the elephants that the water was warm was very amusing, the first elephant literally put his toe in, turned, and was off back to his compound, he was quickly turned around and made to watch one of the men enter the water first and start throwing water around with an enthusiastically forced fixed grin on his face as he fought off the pains of near-hypothermia.

    It worked, and after a while the elephants waded in and quickly got used to the water temperature and they had a great time.

    Wherever in the world those four elephants are today, they will traditionally never forget the day they paddled in the ice-cold water of the River Exe in Devon.

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