A Leamington Curiosity...
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.