London’s Medieval Zoo

London’s Medieval Zoo

Excavations beneath the famous Tower of London have revealed new details of “a medieval menagerie which held an extraordinary array of animals,” reports The Sunday Times of London. Researchers say that there is evidence that 100 different species, including rhino, antelope, tigers, ostriches, snakes, and alligators, were once kept beneath what is now the West Tower. Experts have been aware of the zoo’s existence for some time, but new research in royal, university, and church archives, along with information gleaned from the dig, has clarified a number of points. The menagerie was founded about 1210 by King John and closed in 1835 when London Zoo was opened in Regent’s Park. Some animals were then transferred to the new zoo, while others were shipped to America. The longevity of the menagerie was mainly due to the interest of successive monarchs and the relatively stable state of the country. Geoffrey Parnell, chief archivist at the Tower, says: “It was clearly London’s longest-running show, which entertained both royalty and commoners for centuries.”

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