The Georgian Menagerie – published today!

The Georgian Menagerie was published today by I.B.Tauris.  One of the animal  biographies or stories from the book appears in the form of a post on the Guardian blog “Animal Magic”. Click here to read about Gilbert Pidcock’s rhinceros.


About Dr Christopher Plumb

I am a cultural historian with an interest in exotic animals in eighteenth-century Britain. I recently wrote a book on the history of exotic animals in Georgian Britain. I am currently working on a cultural history of the zebra to be published in early 2018.
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7 Responses to The Georgian Menagerie – published today!

  1. Tom Almeroth-Williams says:

    Many congrats Christopher. I’ve just ordered my copy. Having read your PhD (we emailed about 3 yrs ago), I know it’ll be full of great stuff. Out of interest, did you use an agent or approach I.B. Tauris direct? Best wishes, Tom

    • Hello Tom. Thanks for ordering the book – I hope you enjoy it. I was approached by a literary agent called Kirsty Mclachlin at David Goodwin Associates (she had read my thesis online). She then worked with me to put a proposal to send to publishers (as an agent she made the pitches to publishers). My editor at I.B.Tauris was Joanna Godfrey. I hope this is useful. Could you send me your completed thesis as a pdf? I would be interested in reading it.


  2. Peter Piddock says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I look forward to reading your book with great interest, having ordered a copy today. I am the 5x great nephew of Gilbert Pidcock – my great grandfather having changed the family name to Piddock around the end of the nineteenth century. As part of my studying the Pidcock family back to the 16th century in Darley, I have carried out my own amateurish research into Gilbert and his extraordinary menagerie. I anticipate that your excellent sounding book will shed considerably more light on both Gilbert and his father, particularly as to how humble yeoman stock from Derbyshire were suddenly drawn into such a different lifestyle, and where the considerable finances required came from.

    I will no doubt be back in touch as soon as I have read your book.

    Kind regards,

    Peter Piddock

    • Hello Peter,

      Nice to hear from you – I hope you enjoy reading the book. There are some parts on Gilbert Pidcock and his menagerie throughout the book. He took some incredible sights on the road. Sadly, I don’t know much about his family background. I would be grateful if you could cast any light on that. The book does include some information on his insurance documents, one of his servants, and some of the journeys he made with animals. Best wishes, Chris

      • Peter Piddock says:

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks for reply. I’ve cobbled together the salient points of what I know of Gilbert’s personal life. I’ve ignored his professional life as, having skimmed through your thesis online, I can see that you are well on top of that area of expertise.I look forward to a more leisurely read of the book next week.

        Gilbert Pidcock , the menagerist, was born in Ashlehay, near Wirksworth in Derbyshire in 1744, the second child of 14 born to his father Gilbert and mother Sarah (nee Storer) of Holehouse Farm near Ashlehay. His father, my 5 x great grandfather, had moved to the area from Darley in Derbyshire, where the Pidcock family have roots traceable back to the early 16th century. The family had owned lead mines and smallholdings in the Darley area for two centuries, and Gilbert Senior was the first member of the family to ostensibly put down roots somewhere else when he moved to Holehouse Farm and married Sarah, the daughter of the neighbouring farmer.

        Holehouse Farm still stands, down a dead end single-track road across a small ford. Where Gilbert Senior found the wherewithal to purchase the farm is uncertain. As the youngest of 12 himself, he would have been well down the pecking order when his father died in 1729, but his funds were augmented when he inherited a share of his brother Anthony’s estate upon his early demise in 1748.

        Gilbert senior is described as a yeoman, certainly a step up from his ancestors occupations where identified. Of Gilbert Junior’s siblings, 4 sisters and the youngest brother, my direct ancestor, moved to Buxton, becoming hoteliers and innkeepers, and taking advantage of the boom years that accompanied the development of the town as a spa. Of the remaining siblings, 6 or 7 died young or in infancy, leaving William, who eventually inherited the farm, and Gilbert, the menagerist.

        David Hancocks, in the book “Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles & Techniques for Zoo Management” alleges that a Gilbert Pidcock was the first to assemble a collection of animals and take it on the road – in 1708! I am not sure where he sourced this information, but if it’s true, then this Gilbert was obviously not the renowned menagerist or his father (born in 1715), but must have been Gilbert Junior’s great uncle Gilbert (1661-1732), a husbandman from Darley. So maybe 3 generations of Gilberts had been dealing in animals and have muddied the waters somewhat!

        Gilbert Junior, the accepted menagerist, appears to have had a turbulent personal life.

        He never married, but cohabited with 3 known women during his lifetime. Between 1791 and 1807 he fathered 4 children with Sarah Wilkinson, a boy whose fate is unknown and 3 girls who settled with their aunts in Buxton. He had another son with a Mary Hanks in 1795 and a further son, fate also unknown, with a Sarah Fearnley (Framley) in 1801.

        In his will, executed by Thomas Clark, he left a total of some £5,000, with bequests to his living illegitimate children, his siblings and in-laws. Interestingly, he describes himself as Edward Pidcock in the will, although it is registered under Gilbert.

        He was buried at St James Pentonville Chapel.

        Chris, I hope this tallies with what you already know and would be intrigued to know if you’ve stumbled across any evidence that might show his father’s and great uncle’s participation in menagerie ownership or animal dealing.

        All best wishes,


      • Hello – thank you for this information. It is so interesting to hear more about the family and personal life of Pidcock! 5,000 is quite a hefty sum to leave in a will in Regency Britain (considering 50 pounds a year was considered enough to sustain a labouring family)! I am afraid that I haven’t come across Pidcocks other than Gilbert involved in menageries. Of course, this does not mean that they didn’t exist. It is interesting that his father was a yeoman. The other animal merchant I know most about, Joshua Brookes, came from a similar minor landed/ affluent family too. Perhaps not surprising considering the animal trade equired some capital/expertise to make them work.
        The trade in animals tended to run in a family so perhaps this was the case with the Pidcocks.

      • Peter Piddock says:

        Hi Chris,

        No problem and your book arrived this morning, so a good read ahead of me I suspect!

        I might try and track down David Hancocks to see if he’s forthcoming on his sources; it really intrigues me as to the identity of the Gilbert Pidcock he cites as touring England in 1708 with animals.

        Many thanks for taking the time to converse with me. You’ve had great reviews so I hope you shift a fair number of copies. I suspect I’ll be accounting for a fair few of your sales with various relatives who’ll be interested!

        All best wishes,


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