WAR CIRCUS: BOSTOCKS (English/Italian)

Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie on the Great North Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. c. 1914. Arthur Feely is one off their workers who would be expected to walk alongside the elephants. © Fairground Archive Collection, University of Sheffield, National Fairground and Circus Archive.


There are a number of  inter-related Bostock families involved in Circus. E.H. Bostock was the head of a large family business with his four sons, while Frank Bostock was in charge of another. E.H.’s interests included a Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie, which travelled mainly in Britain, but he also exhibited in Europe and America. He was the proprietor of “The Royal Italian Circus” (formerly Volpi’s), several Hippodromes (Ipswich, Paisley & Hamilton), two picture palaces (Balantyre & Paisley) and owned a Zoo Building, the Victoria Hall, Hamilton, Glasgow. He was also a civic leader.

The E. H. Bostock and Royal Italian Circus narrative here is extracted from his Autobiography: Menageries, Circuses and Theatres, Benjamin Bloom Inc. 1927 (1972). These are set in an approximate chronology alongside newspaper articles relating to the Bostocks and some of their employees. The articles have been transposed retaining the language of the time. Other information has been drawn from people realted to the artistes.

Ref: inc. various newspapers found in the British Libraries’ online archive, British Newspaper Archives; Tyne and Wear Archives, Fenwick Collection; The World’s Fair, the Showland newspaper held on microfiles at the National Fairground and Circus Archive, University of Sheffield. 


c. AUG 1914



   I have been touring Scotland and I had just moved my own (Bostock and Wombwell’s) Menagerie from the New City Road in Glasgow, and was in the process of organising some very good lets, The Flower Show and Glasgow Trade Show, when war broke out, and at once these bookings were cancelled by the Glasgow Corporation. Meanwhile my newly acquired Royal Italian Circus, which I was presenting on stages while I was preparing for the South African season, was at Barmouth in Wales, and there too business was almost immediately bad.

   On the evening of 4th August, I offered my Zoo building in Glasgow, gratuitously, to the military for the purposes of mobilisation! They declined the offer stating that they had all their arrangements completed. Yet on the 19th of August several military gentlemen returned, inspected and commandeered my New City Road buildings as a billeting centre. I was informed that no more than 1100 men would sleep there a night. The first 500 arrived that night having been flooded out of tents at Girvan and slept in the Zoo building – they had nothing to sleep on, but bare boards, I persuaded them that there should be something more comfortable and was instructed to make palliasses and procure straw to stuff them. I arranged it with Messrs. Dallas & Co., Cowcaddens, who made the first 300 in 9 hours and the full 1000 within 3 days. It was agreed that I would charge 3d/man/night and it was I who had to count them each night.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B, EH

c. SEPT 1914



   A highly successful tour of France and Belgium was suddenly stopped by the declaration of war by Germany in August, 1914. The whole concern – after being held up on the roadside for 14 days – was warehoused at Senlis, the French and Belgian employees answering the call to the Colours, the British members of the company returning to England.

Senlis, a few weeks afterwards, was over run by the German hordes hurrying towards Paris, a moment which was affectually stemmed by the victory of the Allies at the Marne. It was then found possible, through the courtesy and kindness of the French Military and Civil Authorities, to remove the circus, plant and horses to Paris, but this could only be done by road, all railways being devoted to the movement of troops and war material.

5/9/1914 The World’s Fair






  Three healthy, medium-sized elephants have been requisitioned from Bostock’s Zoo at the London White City by the military authorities. It is presumed that they will be used for heavy draught purposes. At the end of the war the elephants will be returned to the menagerie. The Government fund the wages of the keepers of the animals, but otherwise there is no further payment; the Bostock people being satisfied to be freed for a time from the expensive upkeep of a trio of voracious appetites. “Besides,” as young Mr. Bostock puts it, “we are doing something to help.”

22/8/1914 The World’s Fair



    Mr. Douglas. F. Bostock gave half the receipts of the Royal Italian Circus at Llanrwst on Wednesday last week. The committee in charge included the Town Clerk, Mr. T. L. Jones and a number of prominent business men.

29/8/1914 The World’s Fair



Bostock and Wombwell’s Zoo, with all it’s fascination of yore and old, has arrived, and last evening was thronged. It had been a fine sight earlier in the day to see the arrival of the caravans, drawn by teams of 30 horses. The old favourites, such as the elephants and dromedaries, looked as well as ever, and much interest is displayed in the great pet of a little baby elephant only 3ft high, affectionately known as “Tiny”. A great novelty also is the hippopotamus, the only one ever seen in the menagerie. There is the usual cages of splendid animals, all in the best condition, and daring performances are gone through, albeit they are humane. A capital zoological collection is to be found, the latest additions including a pair of Tasmanian devils, a hairless or India rubber skinned mare, baby leopards, lions, Assyrian ibex, and a host of rare animals. Messrs. Bostock and Wombwell’s have amongst the new arrivals two educated chimpanzees, who of can eat, drink, dress and undress almost like human beings. The various cages contain interesting specimens of forest and jungle. There are lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, wolves and jaguars.

 10/10/1914 Hull Daily Mail


c. DEC 1914


 Douglas Bostock reports: On Thursday November 5th, our advance agent and a number of artistes left Tilbury on the S.S. Dover Castle, they had a splendid passage. The rest of us, the artistes and the staff, the whole of the live-stock, and all the paraphernalia for the show left Liverpool on the S.S. Runic on Friday, November 13th. This was a day later than had been arranged, the delay due to the presence of a German submarine at the mouth of the Mersey. The weather then was at its worst and for the first week we had a furious passage. It is a mercy that the wagons and live-stock were not washed over board. I am relieved to say that we have arrived safely in Capetown after 22 days, everybody and everything is in good shape and the show will open on 14th December.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B, EH

 c. DEC 1914



   After several months acting as a lodging-house keeper, I am pleased to report that the mobilisation is now complete and my Zoo buildings in Glasgow have been cleared of sleeping soldiers and have instead been commandeered by the military as a storage place for aeroplanes which   are packed into large cases.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH


c. FEB 1915


Douglas Bostock reports: Although the country is quite upset by the war, I am pleased to report that the Royal Italian Circus was an instantaneous success when it opened in Capetown, we had four excellent weeks, which is quite a long stop in a town of 85,000. Then the circus journeyed eight miles down the road to Wynberg for a week. The next was 54 miles distant and this has to be undertaken by rail, for which my father has arranged the wagons to suit. We set about loading at night but the elephant father had acquired just before our departure bolted into the darkness. I sent men on horseback to over take and capture her, but this was futile, for she ran all the way back to Capetown, and halted on the spot we had occupied for the four weeks. I had to dispatch a 5 ton steam tractor, which is used for hauling purposes and for driving the dynamo, she was still on the same spot, and was quickly hitched to the tractor and they trundled back to be loaded, this time without difficulty. Since then she has shown to be most useful.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH


c. MARCH 1915



   Arthur Feely, elephant trainer and showman, from Bostock and Wombwell’s Gigantic Combination Menagerie has volunteered with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

Family: Geoff Younger




   Mr. E. H. Bostock’s Royal Italian Circus is meeting with great success in South Africa, and after a fortnight’s stay at Pretoria the famous circus is now located at Johannesburg for a month.

27/3/1915 The World’s Fair


c. APRIL 1915



   Two of my 4 sons are in the Army: My second son, Alexander Gordon Bostock, who has been in charge of the Ipswich Hippodrome has joined up. And was followed shortly after by my eldest son Gus, Edward Henry Augustus Bostock, who is my assistant and right-hand in Glasgow. I have been increasingly left in charge of the families businesses. I constantly find myself beside myself with worry of one sort or another, I feel at times like giving away under the strain. My Wife Elizabeth, is also in a constant state of anxiety about her boys, for each is having a trial.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH





The Rand “Daily Mail” of Mar. 15th says:— “The fame of Bostock’s Royal Italian Circus had evidently preceded its arrival, for every seat in the vast auditorium at the Wanderer’s Grounds was filled last evening, and the heartiest applause was given to each act in turn…

17/4/1915 The World’s Fair


c. JUNE 1915


Douglas Bostock reports: Although business had been good through most of our touring season, here, when we opened for our second season in Capetown, we experienced a different reception to that of last year even though the circus talent has been changed it is impossible to enthuse the people. The country is gripped by war fever, and people are in no mood for amusements. It is no help to us either that the Italians have now joined the war, on the other side, and so since April our good title ‘Royal Italian Circus” is not assisting us! 

In the Orange Free State only the actually loyal subjects frequent the circus, but most of these were away on military service in German East Africa and West Africa. Those that remained are not kindly disposed towards Britain and her Allies. We will be touring a slightly different route this year, and will go to Mafeking, Salisbury, Bulawayo and Livingstone, which should offset the losses elsewhere. In the meantime I am making strenuous efforts to get the circus to Australia, but the authorities there, although they will permit the landing of horses, ponies, dogs, etc., from England would absolutely refuse to sanction their entry from South Africa. I’m not sure what to do next, we cannot remain in South Africa.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH



The marriage took place on Thursday last at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, of Mr. John R. W. Bostock, youngest son of Mr. E. H. Bostock, to Miss Jennie Bonnar of Ottowa, Canada and formerly of Paisley. Mr. Gus Bostock acted as best man. The bridegroom has for some time been manager of his father’s touring menagerie.

26/6/1915 The World’s Fair


c.  JU 1915





   Mr. E. H. Bostock’s Royal Italian Circus is meeting with nothing but praise in the South African tour and the “Natal Times” of June 19th, say:

   There is one straightforward thing to be written about the Royal Italian Circus, which opened a season on the Market Square last night, when a large crowd of gay spectators gathered in the huge tent, and that is that it is impossible to speak with exaggeration of a single turn.

   The challenge will be thrown out by anyone who visited the show last night Mr. E. H. Bostock has demonstrated beyond dispute that despite the next and powerful counter-attractions of modern invention- the bioscope- there is still vast room in the popular favour for an up-to-date circus.

   If there is anyone in Maritzburg who cannot be satisfied that he gets more than his money’s worth at the Royal Italian Circus, he is impossible to please. It is the most original combination of circus talent that has been seen here for the last thirty or forty years.

31/7/1915 The World’s Fair


c. NOV 1915 


Arthur Feely, has left Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie, his work is mainly with elephants, to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. Arthur comes from a long line of acrobats, the Feely/Feeley family, who were with Sanger’s dating all they way back to the Astley Circus. His wife Kate Daniels was also with Bostock & Wombwell’s Giganitc Combination Menagerie in 1914.

Family: Geoff Younger


c. DEC 1915



    Douglas Bostock reports: Father had instructed me to break up the circus as we were not able to get permission to go to Australia. As freight was too expensive, to ship the circus back to England, he instructed me to sell the stock and paraphernalia, but there is no use of them. Then I was to send the artistes home, but they all hold contracts for the season and did not want to go, we were at deadlock, all the while loosing money. I then proposed to father that we go to India and I asked him to finance the circus. I found a boat that could get us from Durban to Bombay for £1800, Father sanctioned the idea and we spent two weeks in Durban , then 9 days before embarkation, but the ship was commandeered by the Admiralty. Father told me to seek another steamer from Durban to any port. Eventually I found a Japanese vessel to convey us from East London to Calcutta. In the meantime the advance agent in India was experiencing great difficulty in securing a site to erect tents as these sites need to be applied for months in advance and only 2 circuses can go to a site near big cities in a year. So it was best to perform in theatres instead and be ready for Christmas. The difficulty now was that the agent in India did not know about all the developments in Durban. He managed against all obstacles and we opened in Calcutta the day after we arrived and the show is drawing enormous crowds. I’m sorry to say that this has not been good for the two circuses who are already here, we do not want to see businesses of our own people close up, but we simply have had no choice but to go to the place the steamer brought us.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH

 c. 1916


   A casualty of the leap year? I regret to say that The Paisley Hippodrome caught fire about an hour after closing time and I do not have it adequately insured.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH






   Mr Bostock, seen by a newspaper representative, expressed his deep regret at the losses sustained by the artistes and orchestra, but declared his intention to pay them, as well as his staff, their full remuneration for the current week. Naturally, Mr. Bostock is much concerned about the destruction of the Hippodrome, and he expressed his high appreciation of the support which the public had invariably accorded it. “I have, as you know, a large number of ventures throughout the United Kingdom, having been engaged in this business for thirty-five years, and this is the first occasion on which I have had a fire in any of my places. I would give a great deal to know how it originated.”

   Among the artistes who have lost their property is Madame Margot, who states that her loss amounts to £300, and most of her property, which took seven years to collect, is irreplaceable. Hers is not insured.

… Charles Grantley, eccentric comedian, has lost freshly written music and words of scenes, besides personal effects, whilst Bert Lloyd and his “What a Pal” Company have also lost their entire wardrobe in addition to which Mr. Lloyd has lost electrical effects and valuable properties valued at £50. Others are more or less affected by having dresses or music destroyed, and the Japanese acrobat has only lately started for himself. Several of the artistes go to Mr. Bostock’s place at Hamilton next week.

   The drums and effects belonging to Mr. Gunnel were valued at £20, and Mr. Dugald Strachan has lost his double bass fiddle valued at £40. The conductor, Mr J. Cartmell, had left his violin for the first time, and it and a library of music; he has lost £60.

11/3/1916 The World’s Fair




   The visit to the Recreation Ground of the world renowned show will no doubt be a welcome one. The name of “Bostock” has always stood for the best in every class of entertainment. For over 100 years Bostock’s enterprises have been known in Britain. Not satisfied with their triumphs at home they have visited almost every part of the globe with one or other of their many concerns. No doubt our readers remember the Railway Circus toured by Mr. Frank Bostock some years ago. After the English tour this great show was transferred to France, where, we are informed its met with phenomenal success.

   His highly successful tour of France and Belgium was suddenly stopped by the declaration of war by Germany in August, 1914.

   Recently, Mr. Bostock has been enabled to bring the greater part of his concern to England. The English railways, with the curtailed services and the demands on rolling stock caused through military emergencies, were also unable to undertake the transport by rail of the circus, so at huge expense the whole show was converted from a railroad circus to a road show, and by extensively purchasing horses and new cars, Mr. Bostock was able to start a tour in England, which will, we hope, justify his enterprise. With two performances daily, one at 3 and the other at 8 o’clock everyone has an opportunity of witnessing this great exhibition. It is visiting various towns in this county, and will be at the Recreation Ground, Penzance, on Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd August. Mr. Bostock has always made a speciality of his matinees, which usually attract the families, especially those coming from a distance. We wish Mr. Bostock the success he deserves on renewing his acquaintance with Penzance.

27/7/1916 Cornishman



   A Southampton correspondent informs us that much amusement was caused at Southampton last week when the elephants from Bostock’s Menagerie enjoyed a bath in the sea.

 19/8/1916 The World’s Fair




   “The Germans will never get the trade again,” asserted Mr. E. H. Bostock, in referring to the supply of wild animals for menageries and Zoological Gardens to an “Evening News” representative.

   Mr. Bostock has managed to maintain his business, and four consignments of animals have been shipped to him from Durban, but at prices just double what they used to be.

   The latest consignment reached London last week, a heterogeneous collection of twenty-five baboons, four secretary birds, two Stanley cranes, six porcupines, seven hyrax, three caracal, four hundred small birds, and various species of monkeys.

   A dozen baboons have been sold to America, and the rest of the live cargo will find its way to Edinburgh, Manchester and Blackpool, and into Mr. Bostock’s own travelling show.

   “Elephants are very scarce,” said the famous showman. “There is only one young elephant in Britain for sale, and he is, unfortunately, a cripple.

   “I know of one puma that might be bought, but the dealer has put such a fancy price on him that there is not likely to be anything doing.

   “I have made arrangements with a firm in Rhodesia to supply me with elephants and other animals when the war is over. There are many menageries in different parts of the country where the stock is getting low.

   “The German zoological gardens were supplied from German East Africa. I don’t know where else they will get animals in future.

26/8/1916 The World’s Fair


c. OCT 1916


On the 11th October I was discharged from the Royal Army Medical Corps following my leg injury in France. I will return to Bostock’s & Wombells as soon as I can.

Family: Geoff Younger




   Good morning, Mr. Bostock. What can I do for you? Hair cut, singe, shampoo, and shave. Thank you, sir. Anyone can tell you’ve been in America. How’s that? By the way you give your order for a thorough overhauling by the tonsorial artist. There is no class of people that likes to be “touched up” more than the Yanks, or those who have been amongst them. And how are things, Mr. Bostock? Not too rosy, I suppose. You, like many of us, will not be called upon to pay any income tax or excess profits. What’s that, sir? All parts of the game. Yes, sir, it is; but, alas, it’s a very poor part that showmen are getting. It must trouble you, sir, when you think of the dinarii you would have been getting at Nottingham, Hull, Burton, Banbury, and other places, but it’s no use worrying, sir. And how is Anita? Very well. I am pleased to hear it. Have I seen her, sir. I should say so. And of all the novelties I have ever seen she is really “it.” But then the public always look to a Bostock to provide something really good. And the way Anita is shown is an education to all showmen. Trying to flatter you? Certainly not, sir.

21/10/1916 The World’s Fair







 … If he finds this delightful butcher slaughtering animals to feed a menagerie he will be introducing him to the Controller of Food Supplies. After all, if you can use up offal in standard bread, why not use up offal in sausage and entree instead of giving it to lions and tigers?

   Mr Bostock demands of these paragons but three other virtues— that they shall be strictly sober, competent, and ineligible for the Army. We sincerely hope he will get them.


   In reference to the above article, Mr. E, H. Bostock, writing from Zoo buildings, New City Road, Glasgow, gives some further interesting particulars of the famous menagerie. In a letter to the editor of the “Star” he says:—

   Sorry I was not in when your representative telephoned this morning re the advert appearing for staff for Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie.

   Yes, we are experiencing the greatest difficulty in getting men for same, and five of out principles are exempt only till December 1st, when I am again appealing for them, three of them being in their 41st year. This includes the foreman who has been 27 years with the show and who is also a trainer of the animals; the butcher, whose duty it is to purchase and slaughter old horses or procure other food for the animals— a very difficult job every day of the year and a fresh town almost daily; … The staff number forty and already a great portion of these men have gone from it to the Army, and its daily expenses are from £40 to £50. It is collecting about £55 a week in amusement taxes. For the past thirty-six winters it has been exhibited at the World’s Fair, Agricultural Hall, Islington, but for this winter (I presume on the grounds of economy) Mr. T. E. Read has made other arrangements, and, as the military have commandeered my own building here in Glasgow, where I ran a zoo for 14 years, I cannot get the use of my own place in spite of my entreaties…

26/11/1916 The World’s Fair


c. NOV 1916



   My menagerie is experiencing unenviable times on the road. Retaining staff and finding forage is another heart-break, it is now supplied under the rationing system. But the greatest of all difficulties for circuses in England I find is the lighting restrictions, which impose a severe handicap on a show under a canvas roof.

   To add to these difficulties I have learned, in the third week of October, that after 35 years of presenting a Bostock menagerie at the Royal Agricultural Hall, that the lessee of the hall has made other arrangements, on the grounds of economy, with an amateur menagerist, who had secured four or five of my discarded wagons, and the Bostock and Wombwell Menagerie was not wanted. This is one of the biggest disappointments of my life, not because of the loss of revenue, it never yielded much, but more because it robs the menagerie of a covering over the worst periods of the winter and will deprive the staff of much needed rest, to which we have all been looking forward to. I have written everywhere in the kingdom where there was a building capable of taking a menagerie for the winter, but it is a fruitless request. Every building seems to be occupied by the military is being used for munitions. They blankly refuse to vacate, or even consider vacating mine in Glasgow. So I now have no option but to allow the menagerie to remain in the open.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH




… The land itself is a plot that remains over from certain street improvements and demolitions of slum dwellings, carried out some years ago. It has constantly been let for the purpose of fairs, and before the lighting restrictions came into force frequently brought in a profit of £300 or £400 a year. What happened in the present case was this: On October 28th Mr. Yeadon received a letter from Mr Wesley Petty, who wrote on behalf of Mr. E. H. Bostock, asking for an interview for the purpose of discussing the occupation of the site by the menagerie…

   Holding the view that they would be able to satisfy military and police requirements with regard to lighting restrictions, the promotors of the show approached the Ministry of Munitions to ascertain whether a visit to Leeds was likely to affect the output of munitions. The negative reply they received appears to have been somewhat freely translated into an official sanction to hold the show. At any rate, armed with this document, they commenced negotiations for the renting of a suitable pitch in Leeds, and a contract was eventually signed whereby they agreed to occupy the vacant plot of land behind the wholesale meat market in New York Street, for one month, at a rental of £50. Messrs. Bostock and their agents were solely responsible for the negotiations with the Ministry of Munition and the Military Authorities, and the Corporation and its servants had no share in the matter until the contract came to be signed.

30/12/1916 The World’s Fair


c. JAN 1917


The menagerie is having a most terrible time, worse than staying out in the open all winter is that at many towns we have visited we are not able to take up a stance on account it being impossible to continue due to the lighting restrictions. We have to keep moving and my youngest son Jack is working like a galley slave to keep it so doing.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH






   Before the Plymouth Tribunal on Wednesday, an application was made by Messrs. Bostock and Wombwell, of menagerie fame, for the exemption of three men. Mr. Isaac Foot represented the firm, and said the circumstances were exceptional in view of the history of the menagerie and the remarkable contributions the firm had already made to the forces of the Crown. He hoped that with regard to Mr. Bostock’s son, Jack, the tribunal would see their way to say this was an exception coming under the description in the circular “could not be spared without serious detriment to work of national importance or on other strong grounds of exemption.” The three men applied for were now at Bradford, but Mr. Bostock, the proprietor, had travelled from Glasgow to put his case before them. Since this case was before them on the last occasion Mr. Bostock’s other son had joined the colours, and also two other men who were applied for. The son, now appealed for was the mainstay of the business, the conduct of which was just now made more difficult by the fact that the military had commandeered the building at Glasgow which was the winter home of the menagerie. Before conscription Mr. Bostock gave every encouragement to his men to enlist. When the war broke out the had 38 men, and with the substitutes they had contributed 41 to the army. The capital invested in this business was £15,000, and the turnover £100,000, and it was recognised under the educational code that attendance at the menagerie was equivalent to school attendance.

              The tribunal disallowed the claim of Mr. Bostock’s son, 27 years of age, and gave conditional exemption to the other two men, who were 40 years of age. It was agreed that the son should not be called up before March 1st.

3/2/1917 The World’s Fair






   The Royal Italian Circus, after a triumphant run in other countries, has now arrived in India and opened at Calcutta recently. The Press and public are unanimous in their praise of the excellent performance provided, and the following is a press cutting from one of the leading papers.

   It is no exaggeration to state that the Royal Italian Circus which opened at the Grand Opera House on Monday night is of a class and quality never before seen in Calcutta. Apart from the clever artistes who are all “stars” in their particular lines, the circus possesses about two hundred small animals which are remarkably well trained and intelligent and who perform all the usual circus feats including trapeze work and even pantomimes. Indeed some of the tricks performed by the animals appear incredible of belief unless one actually sees them one’s self.

   Among other things one of the performers walked up a rope stretching from the centre of the ring to the top of the gallery, and slid down it first on his back and then on one foot, balancing himself with a pole. There is no net to protect in case he slips so that a fall means serious accident or possibly worse. A contortionist Julian aptly termed an “anatomical wonder,” Spuds, a funny little man, and Fasolin, a flying trapeze monkey, complete the program.

   It only remains to add that the clowns are unusually good, that the human performers are all Europeans, that the house was packed, and the audience who were enthusiastic throughout thoroughly enjoyed the delightful and original entertainment put before them.

   After having been in existence since 1843 the circus and menagerie of Messrs Lord John Sanger and Sons has been closed for the duration of the war in order to release labour for work of National importance.

Fenwick Cutting 15/2/1917 Newcastle Journal




  Harry Holmes, of Newark, the bandmaster in Bostock and Wombwell’s show, had a narrow escape from death on arriving at the Leeds New Station on Saturday night, on his way to visit friends at Armlet. He fell between the train and the platform whilst the former was in motion, and his right arm was badly mangled. He had the presence of mind to lie still when he fell, and undoubtedly that saved his life. He was afterwards taken to the Leeds Infirmary where it was found necessary to amputate the arm at the shoulder.

17/2/1917 The World’s Fair


c. FEB 1917


My youngest son Jack, John Reginald Wombwell Bostock, has now joined the Army, leaving the menagerie. Now my only other son, Douglas, is in the business. He is in India managing the Royal Italian Circus. I am left now with all my businesses, which have been built up, so to speak, around and for my family. I really am disposed to break up the menagerie, but there is no one to buy them, nor give them away to and I do not want to shoot them, so I have struggled to find a solution on in this adversity and was relieved that I managed at Easter to convince my cousin, Mr. Frank Bostock, who is over military age, to take charge of the menagerie.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH




Visit to Newcastle.

    Bostock and Wombell’s menagerie will be located in the Haymarket, Newcastle, for ten days, commencing on the 6th April. … The numerous carriages will contain, amongst other unique specimens of forest and jungle habitants, a fine collection of lions of all ages from a few weeks upwards, (including “Wallace,” “Brutus,” “Nero;” and “Prince,” which Captain Wombwell performs with daily at 3.30, 7, and 8,30, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, wolves, jaguars, a wagon load of monkeys, and aviaries of foreign birds, etc.

The latest additions include the giant hippopotamus, the only one travelling; it is undoubtedly a show in itself…

To-morrow (Thursday), the opening will be graced by the patronage and presence of the Right Hon, The Lord Mayor, the Sherriff and City Council at 3pm. The whole of the day’s receipts will be given to the Lord Mayor’s War Relief Fund.

Fenwick Clipping 4/4/1917 Newcastle Evening Chronicle




   The ever-popular menagerie of Messers Bostock and Wombwell was yesterday established on the Central Park, Aberdeen, for a six days sojourn. The stay is longer than usual, but this has been deemed desireable in order that certain painting and other work to the caravans and other parts of the establishment may be carried out by local tradesmen – chiefly by Messrs R. And J. Shinne, Union Row. It is also considered desirable that the animals and birds should have a rest, if not a holiday, for a brief period in order that they may be kept in the best condition after what has been proved a very trying winter. It is three years since the menagerie was in Aberdeen, and it should be all the more welcome now that it has come for a few days.

   The past three years have brought many changes to the menagerie, And it may be mentioned that no fewer than 57 of the men formally connected with it have been drafted into the British Army. It may also be mentioned that Mr Bostock has three sons with his majesty’s forces. One of them, Mr Frank Bostock, was acting manager when the menagerie was in Aberdeen on the last two occasions.

   All things considered – and the difficulties have been enormous in keeping the establishment up to its noted high standard – the exhibits are in excellent condition, from the great hippopotamus, for which a new large caravan and tank have been provided since the last visit to Aberdeen, to the lively monkeys, including a young one recently born in the menagerie, and it’s jealous and ever watchful mother. In a special cage the only performing polar bears now touring can be seen, and with them a regular family of grizzly bears, spotted hyena, and Russian wolf. Other animals of special interest are the hyenas, Zebu or Brahman bull, prairie wolves, wombats, South African capybara – the largest of the rodent family – a lynx, etc.

   As showing the kindliness with which the animals are treated, it may be mentioned that several of the less dangerous ones might have been seen yesterday enjoying themselves on the green sward of the Central Park basking in the sunshine. Among the birds is a pelican, now over 70 years of age, which has been a feature of the exhibit since it’s early days, and amazing performances given by chimpanzee, elephants and camels will delight the children keen on “joy rides”.

   At the side show there are three interesting natural history specimens – a miniature Shetland pony, 11 years of age, said to be the smallest in the world, which can stand underneath a great Dane dog, and by way of contrast, a miniature Manchester terrier, five or six years of age. Among the curiosities, also, is a hybrid between a sheep and a goat. The performance given last evening proved very popular. The hippopotamus is induced to leave his tank and ascend to an elevated platform in his cage, where his great bulk can be seen, and where he opens his great mouth in begging fashion as persistently as the elephant. The lions go through a remarkable performance in which some idea can be obtained of the grace of movement and great strength. So, too, the wolves, hyenas, tigers, and other animals are made to “show their paces” in a remarkable manner.

3 July 1917 – newspaper cutting from Geoff Younger


c. JULY 1917


I have returned with a discharge from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, in France, due to an injury on my right leg. I now have rejoined Bostock’s in Aberdeen. As dispensation because of my injury I am allowed to travel in one of the carriages instead of having to walk.

Geoff Younger



Bostock and Wombwells, Tyne & Wear Archives – Fenwick Collection, Newcastle

Is that Fred Wombwell on left assisting the Vet?

Fourteen men were required to assist the veterinary surgeon who has operated on a zebra at Aberdeen. As a result of long captivity in a menagerie, the animal developed an over-growth of the hoofs, which was successfully removed.

Fenwick Cutting 10/7/1917 The Daily Mirror


c. JULY 1917


   Douglas Bostock reports: After the Royal Italian Circus’s tour of India, where all our personnel, suffered in the heat, in Bombay and Madras, we moved on to the cooler climes of Penang, in the Straits Settlements, we then journeyed through Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Batavia, Siam, parts of China (including French China), and the Philippines Islands. Then we spent nine months in Japan, and during our stay in Tokyo our circus was patronised by the Emperor of Japan and his seven sons. During the Tour of the Far East I have made Singapore my head quarters.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH




   We are informed that Mr. E. H. Bostock, proprietor of Wombwell’s Menagerie, has bought the whole of Sedgewick’s Menagerie including the front wagons and livestock.

25/8/1917 The World’s Fair


c. AUG 1917


   Since Easter, while Frank has been in charge of the menagerie, business has improved greatly, as has the weather. The menagerie has made tracks for Scotland, where the lighting restrictions are not so rigorous.

   Finally after more than 2 years, I prevailed after many applications and reminders, that I need winter quarters for my menagerie, I have my Zoo Buildings back from the military. All their aeroplanes have gone with no real rent paid. In all this time there have only been a handful of staff handling them. The stock of aeroplanes varied; sometimes there were only a few, while at other times almost the entire floor space was covered and then packed two high. I have often speculated on the result of a stray bomb dropping through the roof of the Zoo building or a fire engineered by some malicious or foreign agent! The loss would have been stupendous. On the point of rent, there had been no arrangement made since the end of the hosteling of troops, I had to go Edinburgh to state my case and had to accept just what the authorities liked to give me by way of rental, which in reality was a mere acknowledgement.

I was able to get possession on the 28th of October, and have moved in the menagerie and registered a vow to keep it here until the war has ended.

I have also been appointed a Justice of the Peace, so once more I have become practically a public servant, this is not unfamiliar since I already have served as a Councillor for the Cowcaddens of 16th Ward, Glasgow Town Council, from 1909.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH



 Among the gentlemen recently appointed Justices of the Peace for the county of the City of Glasgow, on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, is Mr. Edward Henry Bostock, 5, Burnbank Terrace, Glasgow. Mr. Bostock, besides being owner of the Bostock and Wombwell Menagerie is owner of numerous places of amusement in Scotland, also in Norwich and Ipswich. It is interesting to record that Mr. Bostock has three sons in the army, and another son in Java just now in charge of a big circus. Mr. Bostock, with his own ventures, is now collecting over £600 per week in amusement tax. We feel sure he will have the congratulations of a large number of friends in Showland on the honour bestowed upon him.

17/11/1917 The World’s Fair



    Bostock and Wombwell’s menagerie is now on exhibition at the Zoo Buildings, New City Road, Glasgow, and on the opening day Mr. E. H. Bostock made the day’s drawings a contribution to the Lord Provost’s Prisoners of War Fund. The menagerie, which is a household word in every town in the United Kingdom, is a splendid collection of all manner of animals. There are lions, Bengal tigers, leopards, bears, wolves, and other groups of performing animals which are put through their performances by their respective trainers. There is also the educated chimpanzee, which is described as almost human, and the elephants and camels are an attraction. Recently added to the collection is a group of three leopards born in the menagerie. In addition to the menagerie itself, Mr. Bostock has introduced other attractions, including a scenic railway and side shows. Anita, the smallest lady in the world, is to be seen in this section. The whole combination makes a pleasing place of entertainment.

              Mr Bostock announces that (with the exception of Saturdays and holidays) wounded soldiers and sailors will be admitted free of charge.

17/11/1917 The World’s Fair



c. MARCH 1918


We have had four months of splendid business over winter, having added several amusements along side that of the menagerie, but then dullness set in. I considered the state of the maple floor I had put in in 1909, at great expense, and decided that despite the damage caused by the military it could once again be used as a roller skating rink. To this optimistic view I was assisted by the fact that two other rinks had opened up in England. The supply of skates has been a bit of a problem, importation from the United States is impossible, and there are of course no new supplies in this country. Fortunately, I happened to have 400 pairs in Norwich, a few at Ipswich and Paisley and have been able to augment this supply by advertising my need in the newspapers. With a further 450 pairs I was able to reopen one half of the building as a roller skating rink, the menagerie in the other. I’m not sure which side is the zoo.

 The opening night was in February, I shall never forget it. The success of the venture was an eye opener. We had reckoned on steady stream of patrons, what we got was a veritable avalanche. All went well at the skating, although among the 500 odd skaters there was a rough and unruly element and many munitions workers, they are making big wages and have “money to burn”.  

No one is allowed to wear a hat whilst skating, while the majority wore caps, and these they kept in their pockets, the others, of course, placed their hats, cloaks, sticks and umbrellas in the cloakroom, which was a temporary structure. When at 10 p.m. the bell sounded for the cessation of skating, and after the band had played the National Anthem, a crowd lined up at the men’s cloakroom. The two women dealt out the articles as quickly as possible, while the skaters grew impatient and this provided an opening for the hooligan element to pursue their nefarious designs. They grouped together and then charged the side of the cloakroom which was raised to the floor. In their quest for plunder the hooligans preferred tailcoats and trampled top hats. We were left to “face the music”. I found we had forty victims to deal with. The next day I distributed £15 among the most aggrieved. I have subsequently bought insurance against hooligans, built a stronger cloakroom and have arranged for a number of police constables to be on duty in the vicinity at closing time.

The clientele of the rink are of a different class to the elite in 1909, when we first opened, they are more boisterous and fast skating. Strange as it may seem their unruliness and horse-play has resulted in fewer accidents and use of smelling salts, than the more well behaved clientéle. These war-time patrons I find are well hardened and able to take care of themselves.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH




   To mark the 21st anniversary of the Zoo, Mr. Bostock arranged that one day’s drawings at his several establishments should, without any deduction, be handed over to the Scottish Red Cross. At the Zoo, Mr. Bostock duplicated the sum taken, namely, £13 2s. 6d. The total drawings from the five halls amounted to £393 19s. 6d.

Following are the details:—


Blantyre House … … … 73     9   6

Skating Rink     … … … 40   14   0

The Zoo   … … … … … 13     2   6

Duplicated by Mr.

   Bostock … … … … … 13     2   6

Paisley Rink Picture

   House … … … …              33   11   0

Hamilton Hippodrome.. 220 19   6

                                          £393   19   6


   Crowded audiences were the order at the Blantyre Picture House to give Bostock’s Red Cross Campaign a good start, and as usual the result was very gratifying. The total realised was £73 9s.6d.,…

1/6/1918 The World’s Fair




   Mr. E. H. Bostock announces the sale of the hippopotamus, which is one of the features in the Glasgow Zoo. Purchased in Hamburg just before the war, “Hippo,” has twice outgrown wagons specially built for him, and he keeps on growing. Owing to war exigencies it it impossible to procure another wagon. Therefore the huge animal will go to augment the famous collection at Belle Vue Gardens, Manchester. This hippopotamus is the first ever exhibited in Scotland, and is one of the finest specimens ever seen in Britain. All zoological collectors are suffering from the prohibition of imports. Recognising that there will be demands for stock after the war, Mr. Bostock has started a training zoo in Singapore, under the management of one of his sons (his three other sons are in the Army). In addition, Mr. Bostock is in touch with all the principle depots in Africa, so that this business will never again pass into the hands of the Germans.

24/8/1918 The World’s Fair


c. JAN 1919


   It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform Showland that on the 12th of January, my son Lieut. A. Gordon Bostock died at the Military Hospital, Dovercourt. He has succumbed to pneumonia, following influenza. To accentuate this tragedy he had been married for just four months and was only three days away from his discharge after four and a half years of service; this has really added to the suffering of the family.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH

c. MARCH 1919


Lieut. John Reginald, Wombwell Bostock, has been released from the Army. I have made him a present of the Bostock and Wombwell Menagerie, lock stock and barrel, as it is time to take it back out on the road. And I agree with Elizabeth, it is also time to have our remaining sons home.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH


 c. MARCH 1919


   Douglas Bostock reports: I am trying to get back to England with the Royal Italian Circus, we have had a most wonderful tour, hard work too, since 1914, one that my father says is unequalled. None of the boats are allowed to carry the circus.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: B EH





Edward H. Bostock & Family:


C’é un grande numero di appertenenti alla famiglia Bostock interconnessi al circo.

  1. H. Bostock era a capo di un grande business familiare insieme ai suoi quattro figli, mentre Frank Bostock era a capo di un altro. Tra gli interessi di E.H. troviamo anche un serraglio: Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie, che ha viaggiato principalmente in Inghilterra, ma si é anche esibito in Europa e America. E. H. era anche proprietario del “Royal Italian Circus” (formalmente conosciuto come Volpi), 3 ippodromi (Ipswich, Paisley e Hamilton) 2 sale cinematografiche (Balantyre e Paisley) 1 zoo, il Victoria Hall, Hamilton, Glasgow. Era anche un consigliere comunale.


L’ Autobiografia che segue, è stata approssimativamente ricostruita da articoli di giornale relativi ai Bostock e qualcuno dei loro artisti. Gli articoli sono stati tradotti dall’ inglese dell’epoca, all’ inglese moderno e, successivamente, in italiano. Alcune informazioni sono state recapitate da persone relazionate agli artisti.


Referenze: inclusi vari articoli di giornale trovati negli archivi online delle British Libraries’, British Newspaper Archive; Tyne & Wear Archives, Fenwick Collection; The World’s Fair, il giornale del mondo dello spettacolo conservato su microfiles al National Fairground and Circus Archive, università di Sheffield.


Agosto 1914 circa.


Notizie da

  1. H. Bostock.

Ero in tournée per la Scozia, appena partito con il mio serraglio da New City Road in Glasgow, organizzando qualche fermata al Flower Show e al Glasgow Trade Show quando la guerra è scoppiata e la Glasgow Corporation ha dovuto cancellare le mie prenotazioni per quegli eventi. Nel frattempo il mio recente acquisto, il Royal Italian Circus, quello che stavo presentando sul palco mentre mi preparavo per la stagione in Sud Africa, era a Barmouth in Galles ma anche li gli affari sono andati subito male.

La sera del 4 Agosto ho offerto il mio Zoo di Glasgow, gratuitamente, all’ esercito per aiutare la mobilitazione. Hanno declinato la mia offerta affermando che i loro preparativi erano completi. Il 19 Agosto qualche Gentiluomo in uniforme è ritornato, ha ispezionato e requisito i miei edifici sulla New City Road come centri di acquartieramento. Sono stato informato successivamente che non più di 1100 uomini avrebbero dormito lì quella notte. I primi 500 arrivati mi hanno inondato di tende e hanno dormito nello Zoo (non avevano niente su cui dormire, se non nude tavole di legno. Ho cercato di persuaderli, dicendogli che avrebbero potuto trovare qualcosa di più comodo, cosí sono stato incaricato di fare pagliericci e di procurare la paglia con cui riempirli. Organizzatomi con Messrs. Dallas & Co., Cowcaddens, abbiamo fatto i primi 300 in 9 ore e il totale di 1000 in 3 giorni. Si è convenuto che avrebbero dovuto pagare 3 penny per uomo a notte ed ero io a doverli contare ogni notte.

Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H.


Agosto 1914 circa


Ero in tournée in Scozia e avevamo appena iniziato a muovere la carovana (Bostock & Wombwell’s) da New City Road in Glasgow ed ero in procinto di organizzare qualche fantastico appuntamento al Flower Show e al Glasgow Trade Show quando la guerra è scoppiata. Ovviamente queste date sono state cancellate dalla Glasgow Corporation. Nel frattempo il mio nuovo acquisto, Il Royal Italian Circus  che era a Barmouth in Galles, si stava preparando per la tournée in Sud Africa ma anche qui gli affari sono andati subito male.

La sera del 4 agosto ho offerto una delle mie strutture, lo Zoo di Glasgow, all’ esercito per aiutare la mobilitazione delle truppe. Hanno declinato la mia offerta dicendo che tutti i preparativi erano completi. Il 19 agosto un discreto numero di gentiluomini in divisa è tornato, ha ispezionato e requisito il mio edificio, abilitandolo a centro di acquartieramento. Fui informato che non più di 1100 uomini avrebbero dormito all’ interno dello Zoo quella notte. I primi 500 arrivati mi inondarono di tende. Non avevano nulla su cui dormire se non scomode tavole di legno. Cercai di convincerli che ci doveva essere qualcosa di più confortevole. Fui incaricato di preparare pagliericci e di procurare la paglia con cui imbottirli. Cosí, io, Dallas & Co. E Cowcaddens facemmo i primi 300 in 9 ore e un totale di 1000 in 3 giorni. Furono tutti d’ accordo nel pagare 3 penny uomo/notte ed io ero incaricato di contare i militari ogni sera.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H.


Dicembre 1914


Dopo qualche mese come locatore, ho il piacere di affermare che la mobilitazione è ora completa e che il mio Zoo è stato ripulito degli occupanti in divisa ed è ora, invece, un centro di stoccaggio per aeroplani, tutti ben confezionati in enormi cassoni.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H.


Aprile 1915


2 dei miei 4 figli sono entrati nell’ esercito: il mio secondogenito, Alexander Gordon Bostock, che era a capo dell’ ippodromo Ipswich si è arruolato ed è stato subito seguito dal fratello più grande Gus, Edward Henry August Bostock, che è mio assistente e braccio destro in Glasgow. Ora devo occuparmi di una gran parte dei commerci familiari. La preoccupazione a volte é cosí eccessiva da farmi andare fuori di me e spesso mi sento cedere alla pressione. Lo stesso vale per mia moglie Elizabeth, in costante stato di ansia per i nostri figli.

Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H.



Febbraio 1916


Una vittima dell’ anno Bisestile? Mi spiace dover dire che il Paisley Ippodromo ha preso fuoco appena un ora dopo la chiusura ed io non l’ ho assicurato adeguatamente.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H.


Novembre 1916


La mia carovana sta passando un non invidiabile periodo in strada. Trattenere il personale e ricercare cibo è un altro grande problema, dobbiamo razionare quello che abbiamo. Ma il più grande dei problemi per un circo in Inghilterra è dovuto alle restrizioni sull’ illuminazione, il che impone un grave handicap per uno show sotto ad un tendone.

Ho appreso anche che, dopo 35 anni di presentazione del serraglio Bostock al Royal Agricultural Hall, quest’ anno, per motivi economici, il locatore ha stipulato altri accordi con un impresario amatoriale che aveva ottenuto quattro o cinque dei miei carri scartati e la Bostock & Wombwell’s, quest’ anno, non era voluta. Una delle piú grandi delusioni della mia vita, non tanto per la perdita di entrate, non ha mai influito molto, ma più perché priva il serraglio di una protezione e il personale di riposo, cose di cui tutti noi necessitiamo per affrontare l’inverno. Ho contattato ovunque ci fosse un edificio capace di contenere il convoglio per l’inverno, ma è stato tutto vano. Ogni struttura sembra essere stata occupata dai militari come magazzino per le munizioni. In più essi si rifiutano di lasciare, o anche solo di prendere in considerazione l’idea, di lasciare il mio Zoo a Glasgow. Cosí, ora, non ho altra scelta se non lasciare il serraglio all’ aperto.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H


Gennaio 1917


La Carovana sta vivendo un altro terribile momento. Peggio che stare all’ aperto tutto l’inverno. In molte delle città che abbiamo visitato ci è stato impossibile trovare una locazione e continuare a cercare sembra inutile a causa delle restrizioni sull’ illuminazione. Dobbiamo continuare a muoverci e mio figlio Jack, il più giovane, sta lavorando come uno schiavo su una galea per aiutarmi a mantenere tutto in piedi.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H



Marzo 1917


Anche mio figlio più giovane Jack, John Reginald Wombwell Bostock, si è arruolato nell’ esercito, lasciando l’impresa. Ora c’ è solo Douglass, il mio quarto figlio, ad aiutarmi negli affari. È in India, sta dirigendo il Royal Italian Circus. Sono solo a capo di tutte le mie imprese, erette, cosí per dire, attorno e per la mia famiglia. Sono disposto a vendere tutto, ma non c’è nessuno che voglia comprarle o che voglia prendersene la responsabilità ed io non voglio distruggerle. Ho faticato nel cercare una soluzione ma finalmente a Pasqua ho convinto mio cugino, Mr. Frank Bostock, che è oltre il limite di età per arruolarsi, a farsi carico delle imprese.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H


Ottobre 1917


Da quando Frank è a capo del serraglio, gli affari sono migliorati gradualmente, così come il meteo. La carovana ha fatto rotta verso la Scozia, dove le restrizioni sull’ illuminazione non sono così rigorose.

Finalmente dopo più di 2 anni, infiniti promemoria e numerose lettere in cui dicevo di aver bisogno di una base invernale per il serraglio, ho riavuto dai militari il mio Zoo. Tutti i loro aerei sono spariti, senza mai aver pagato un vero affitto. In tutto questo tempo solo una manciata del loro personale era a capo della gestione. L’assortimento di aeroplani variava; qualche volta ce ne erano solo alcuni, altre volte quasi tutta l’area era occupata e quindi venivano impilati in colonne a due. Ho immaginato molte volte sulle conseguenze di un’ipotetica bomba vagante che cade sul tetto dello Zoo o di un incendio appiccato da qualche agente straniero! La perdita sarebbe stata stupenda. Per quanto riguarda l’affitto, non avevamo preso alcun accordo da dopo l’alloggiamento delle truppe. Sono dovuto quindi andare ad Edimburgo per sottoporre il mio caso alle autorità, le quali mi hanno risarcito con un misero riconoscimento.

Sono rientrato ufficialmente in possesso dell’edificio il 28 ottobre, ho spostato tutta la carovana al suo interno, facendo voto di non muoverla da lì fino alla fine della guerra.

Sono stato nominato anche Giudice di Pace, cosí mi ritrovo ancora una volta ad essere un dipendente pubblico, esperienza già vissuta come Consigliere Comunale a Glasgow, per la Cowcaddens della Sedicesima Guardia dal 1909.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H





Marzo 1918


Questi ultimi quattro mesi sono stati splendidi per gli affari, avendo aggiunto diverse attrazioni oltre al singolo serraglio. Considerato lo stato del pavimento in acero, messo nel 1909, con grandi spese e nonostante i danni causati dai militari, ho deciso che potrebbe ancora una volta essere usato come pista di pattinaggio a rotelle. Questa ottimistica visione era assistita dal fatto che altre 2 piste avevano aperto in Inghilterra. Procurarsi i fornitori di pattini è problematico; l’importazione dagli Stati Uniti è impossibile e ovviamente non ci sono nuove forniture in questo paese. Fortunatamente, mi è capitato di averne 400 paia all’ ippodromo di Norwich, un po’ a Ipswich e Paisley e sono stato in grado di aumentare la fornitura grazie alle pubblicità sui giornali. Con un ulteriore aggiunta di 450 paia, sono stato in grado di riaprire una metà dell’edificio come pista di pattinaggio e l’altra metà è occupata dal serraglio. Non sono sicuro in quale sia lo Zoo.

La serata di apertura è stata a febbraio, non la dimenticherò mai. Il successo dell’impresa mi ha fatto aprire gli occhi. Avevamo fatto i conti sul flusso costante di clienti, il risultato è stato una vera e propria valanga di soldi. Tutto è andato bene sulla pista, anche se tra i 500 pattinatori c’ erano dei rudi ed indisciplinati elementi, fabbricanti di munizioni che al momento fanno grandi stipendi e hanno “soldi da buttare”.

A nessuno è permesso indossare cilindri mentre pattina, ma la maggior parte delle persone vestiva coppole e queste venivano tenute nelle tasche, gli altri, ovviamente, hanno riposto i loro cilindri, mantelli, bastoni e ombrelli in una struttura temporanea adibita a guardaroba. Alle 22.00 la campana ha suonato per segnalare la chiusura della pista e, dopo che la band ha suonato l’inno nazionale, una folla si era radunata al guardaroba maschile. Le guardarobiere ridistribuivano gli accessori il più velocemente possibile ai loro proprietari, ma non abbastanza da non far spazientire i pattinatori e questo ha fornito agli hooligans l’occasione di perseguire i loro scopi nefasti. Si sono raggruppati e hanno sollevato un lato del guardaroba dal pavimento. Nella ricerca di bottino i teppisti si sono divertiti a rubare frac e calpestare cilindri. In totale abbiamo dovuto risarcire 40 vittime. Il giorno dopo ho distribuito £15 tra le parti più lese. Ho poi stipulato un’assicurazione contro teppisti, costruito un guardaroba più pesante e fatto organizzare una ronda con un discreto numero di agenti di polizia all’orario di chiusura.

La clientela della pista è diversa rispetto all’ élite del 1909, anno della nostra prima apertura, questi sono più chiassosi e veloci. Per quanto strano possa sembrare, la loro sregolatezza e il giocare alla cavallina ha portato a un minor numero di incidenti e ad un minor uso di sali rispetto alla clientela più educata. Trovo questi mecenati della guerra più robusti e in grado di prendersi cura di sé stessi.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H


Gennaio 1919


12 gennaio 1919. Mio figlio, Tenente A. Gordon Bostock è morto all’ ospedale militare Dovercourt. È morto di polmonite provocata da un’influenza. Come se non bastasse la tragedia, era sposato solo da 4 mesi e mancavano 3 giorni al suo congedo dopo 4 anni e mezzo di servizio.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H


Marzo 1919


Tenente John Reginald, Wombwell Bostock, è stato congedato dal servizio.  Gli ho regalato il serraglio Bostock & Wombwell’s, già pronto per riprende la strada. E sono d’ accordo con Elizabeth: è il momento di riavere i nostri figli a casa.


Narrazione estratta dalla Bibliog. Rif: Bostock, E.H