Wingerworth Hall Menagerie
Wingerworth Hall Menagerie was typical of prominent and wealthy landowners who often developed their homes and estates to capitalise on the most exceptional and significant aspects for their own pleasure and as a status symbol to impress house guests.
During the latter half of the eighteenth century some were building private menageries and aviaries in the parks of their country estates.
One of the least known menageries was the collection at Wingerworth Hall where Sir Thomas kept his. He accumulated a large collection of wild animals, most of which were kept in his stables until overcrowding meant that some of the safer varieties were moved inside the Hall with him. It is said that one of the prisoners of war (see milestone) walking in the park had a narrow escape when he stumbled upon an escaped bear, and never fully recovered from the event. Sir Thomas commissioned Sir Humphrey Repton to redesign the grounds in 1809 and include a purpose-built menagerie in the southern part of the park in woodland. Tim Warner wrote in the Country Life magazine of September 1988 that “In the southern extremity of the park in a sequestered romantic spot amid some woodland, Repton proposed a smaller lake to accompany the rehabilitation of…[the]…menagerie. This collection, comprising wolves, bears, monkeys and exotic birds had hitherto been housed at the Hall. Repton gives no indication of how the animals are to be restrained, but concentrates instead on creating a new landscape for their exhibition.”
The plan was to set the menagerie around a “rusticated keeper’s cottage wherein one room on the lower level was to be reserved for Lady Hunloke. From here three windows or glass doors would command very interesting scenery: that in front looks upon the quiet pool, whose surface is only ruffled by the aquatic fowls, while the other two windows may look on cascades, or water in violent and rapid motion, capable of being increased at leasure.” However Repton’s plans were put on hold, eventually ignored and the menagerie was never built most likely because of family financial limitations.
After his death in Paris, Sir Thomas’s grandson Henry did his best to maintain the Wingerworth Hall menagerie, but when he died in 1856, the animals were sold at auction by Nicholson of Sheffield on April 19th 1856.
A report in the Derbyshire Courier in April of that year reported that among those sold were:
• Pair of wolves from Sweden for 19 guineas to Mr Youdan, Surrey Music Hall, Sheffield;
• Brown Bear from Sweden to Mr Youdan for £26-5s-0d;
• Very handsome Russian Bear to Mr Youdan for 11 guineas;
• Pair of North American Brown Bears to Mr Youdan for £24-3s-0d;
• Pair Esquimaux Dogs (Huskies) to Mr Youdan for £7;
• Bloodhound for £10 to His Grace the Duke of Portland;
• Pomeranian dog for 4 guineas to Mr H Bowdon;
• Nasicus Cockatoo and cage for £3-7s-6d to Dr Durrant of Sheffield, and one for £6-5s-0d to Mr Barrow of Staveley.
One of those represented at the auction was Sir Joseph Paxton who bought the collection of Emus, as well as a blue and yellow Macaw for £10, and very large Eagle Owl and cage for £14.
According to the Courier these were for “placing in the garden of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham.”
Wingerworth Hall Menagerie is mention by The Follies Fellowship