Sunday, 10 September 2017

Killed by a lion

Yesterday I went off to the open morning at the Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (ROLLR) in Wigston as part of the Heritage Open Weekend, when buildings that are not often open to the public, or who normally make an admission charge, open their doors for free. ROLLR is actually open for many hours a week, and I don't believe there is an admission charge, but the main reason they were open was to hold a celebratory party to celebrate their 70th birthday!

The event was very popular, and loads of people turned up for the presentation on the new Base Hospital database. This building was formerly the Leicestershire and Rutland County Lunatic Asylum (constructed of Mountsorrel white bricks), and is now the Fielding Johnson Building, an admin building at the University of Leicester. However, during WW1 the building was used as a military hospital.  

As well as the presentation of the database there were cakes and snacks modelled on the 1940s, and guided tours of the strong room and the conservation areas. Around the search rooms were dotted some cabinets with original documents in them, included the oldest document helped by ROLLR which was from the 1100s.

One of the documents on display was one I've seen and read before, and was on display because it shows the way people used to draw people's attention to something of interest that had been written - a hand drawn manicule in the border. The document also reports a strange and very sad occurrence in the town:
"Roger Sheppard, sonne in lawe to Nicholas Wollandes was sleayne by a Lyones - whiche was brought, into the towne, to be seyne of such as would gyve money to see her. He was soore wounded in sondrey places and was buried the xxi daye of august 1579." 
Of course, there are a number of clarifications and questions that arise upon reading about this dreadful event. A sonne in lawe at the time would actually have been a stepson, and at the time of the accident, poor little Roger was only 5. According to further reports he received five injuries, the mortal being the one in his left side, opposite his heart, which wound was 1 inch long, 1 inch wide and 6 inches deep. The accident happened on 20th August 1579, and Roger, who died at 11am that day, was buried the next day.

The lioness was being looked after by John Castle in a room belonging to Nicholas Wollandes, a Bailiff of the town, and it was chained to a beam. Clearly this tether was insufficient, and the lioness used its teeth and claws on the young child. I have to wonder why someone had a lioness in their house, and how they came to have it, and why they thought it was safe to be viewed at such close quarters. 

If you would like to read more stories of accidents in Tudor England, have a look at the website: Everyday life and fatal hazard in sixteenth-century England.

Such a sad story to end your Sunday evening - sorry.    

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Dyer, Lynne (2017). Bridges, buses, trains, balloons and runners! Available from: [Accessed 10 September 2017]

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