The Endcliffe Lion
by Ian Trowell - National Fairground Archive
One of the unsolved and curious mysteries of the Jungle concerns the auction of the lion cub to Norman Peace. Questions arise as to why this happened, what became of the lion once it had grown from being a cub, and who was Norman Peace...
Norman Peace, the house, and the lion cub.
Research reveals Norman Kirkby Peace to be a grandson of William K Peace, founding partner of WK and C Peace, operators of the Eagle Works on Mowbray Street. The Peace dynasty is extensive in Sheffield, a key family in the manufacture of files and tools. William K. and his brother Charles are one wing of this dynasty.
William had one son - Hugh Kirkby - and three daughters. On the death of William in 1898 Hugh took over the running of the firm, with his uncle Charles still running an American franchise. Hugh Kirkby Peace had three sons - Charles William, Norman Kirkby and Hubert Kirkby - and 2 daughters. Norman Kirkby was the middle of these three sons, born in 1877. It is this Norman, aged 33 in 1910, that purchased the lion cub from Bostock's strange auction at the Sheffield Jungle.
Norman moved in to 3 Endcliffe Hall Avenue in 1902 and is recorded as being there up until 1913, with a further record suggesting he had moved out by 1916. Helpful research from L. Ralph Peace provides something of a picture of Norman's life in 1910. Norman married Hilda Laycock in 1902, the records of the 'Ranmoor Ringers' recording a marriage on the 3 April, and research suggests that between 1903 and 1910 six children were born, with one perishing early. So, in 1910, the lion cub would have been sharing the house with five children between the ages of 7 years old and 6 months old. Something that is quite astonishing even by today's standards.
Endcliffe Hall Avenue comes to be in 1900, with the development of estate land around Endcliffe Hall. The history of Endcliffe Hall is of interest - taken over by John Brown, wealthy industrialist and owner of Atlas Works, in 1860, the original building is dismantled and replaced with what was to be the largest private residence in Sheffield. Opening in 1865 the new Endcliffe Hall caused quite a stir and such was its magnificence that it opened to the public for three days. Brown sold Endcliffe Hall in 1895, a year before his death, and it was intended to develop the building and grounds. Whilst the hall itself never underwent development, finding interim uses and going in to disrepair, the grounds to the south of the hall were developed with the looping Endcliffe Hall Avenue.
A leafy, idyllic and certainly high-class part of Sheffield, Kelly's Directory for the early 1900s only lists number 6 Endcliffe Hall Avenue in 1900, occupied by William Tasker (cabinet maker). By the following year number 3 has been added on to the avenue, though the initial occupant is Charles Seward. The following year sees Norman Peace in occupancy, and the avenue swells during the time of Peace's occupation to include numbers 5 and 7. Jocelyne Thorpe, an important figure of the University of Sheffield and research fellow of the Sorby Natural History Society is recorded as taking residency of number 5, and it would be interesting to see what he made of his feline neighbour.
Following Peace's departure the house at number 3 is occupied briefly by Shirley Montague Gunning and then, around 1919, by Charles Henry. The avenue has now expanded to include numbers 11 and 15.
Norman Peace's life and family
Little is known about Norman Peace. It is evident that he was born a wealthy and important person, the Peace families passing down the ownership and operations through the generations. Certainly his occupation of 3 Endcliffe Hall Avenue suggests he was of good wealth. However some of the recorded later events suggest a distancing or disenchantment with things. His wife died young and Norman remarried at some point to Evelyn Lucy Norman. At this point Norman seemed to drift away from the family company and briefly operated Pioneer Steel Works. He returned back to the company in 1912, but is later listed as the representative for British Rolling Mills Limited (Birmingham) via a Sheffield office in Foster's Building at 22 High Street. At this point in time, 1921, Norman is living on Kenbourne Road in Sharrow. Norman was not left anything in the will in the form of shares in the company compared to his other brothers. Records for Norman become even more difficult to trace and he is recorded as dying on 16 August 1945 aged 68 when his address was given as The Beeches, Oxley, Wolverhampton. He was survived by his wife and three of his children Hilda, Dorothy, Douglas.
The questions remain as to why someone would wish to purchase a lion cub and what became of the animal? So far we have not been able to trace any members of the Peace family who can help with this strange enquiry, but it is not inconceivable that any discontent or distancing Norman had from his assumedly preordained life would have been exacerbated by such a rash and dangerous act as purchasing a lion cub.
There is a continuing tradition of the purchase of exotic animals as pets, documented to good effect by John Simons in "Rossetti's Wombat" who describes the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite scene and their fascination with strange pets supplied by menagerie agents such as Jamrach in London. More recently, the 1960s and 1970s saw the excesses of glam-rock stardom underpinned with over-exaggerated luxury and decadence - tiger cubs sometimes part of the chic look (for that week). But Norman Peace was (presumably) neither a Pre-Raphaelite nor a 60s 'star-child' in waiting. So why the lion cub?
A different Peace and a different lion
Sheffield's cinema of 1910 - Charles Peace the main attraction.
As much as the large Peace family had carved out a huge importance and standing in the industrial development of Sheffield, the name Peace in conjunction with Sheffield became otherwise known from the 1880s onwards. Sheffield's most famous Peace is Charles Peace, the notorious burglar, murderer and slippery con-man. Curiously, and by coincidence, there are key facts that bring this story into the orbit of the Sheffield Jungle, notably the occupation of Charles Peace's father John as lion tamer with Wombwell's famous Menagerie.
John Peace worked briefly for the great company after losing a leg, no doubt being marketed at the time as something of a novelty in the taming of lions. John Peace might have passed through history without recall if it wasn't for the exploits of one of his children, but that wasn't to be. The numerous history sources on Charles Peace suggest that his father's love and mastery of animals was passed down to son Charles, with mention of Charles making a chariot and harness for the cat he loved. It is also suggested that Charles' mantra for his life of crime and evasion of justice went as follows:
"Lion-hearted I've lived,
And when my time comes
Lion-hearted I'll die."
So the famous burglar and murderer was intrinsically linked to the fearsome and fearless lion.
Peace's criminal career commenced in 1851 with persistent burglary and theft, moving up to murder in 1876. He constantly evaded conviction and capture and led a myriad life of bluffs, crimes and exciting incidents. Following his eventual capture (notwithstanding him leaping from a moving train in Kiveton Park) and execution, the story of Charles Peace became embedded in Sheffield and national folk-lore. Peace was the archetypal Victorian villain, a kind of nightmare bogey-man crossed with a swashbuckling daredevil. Immediately after his execution in 1879 there appeared a 100 issue series of Penny Dreadfuls, followed by a play and a place in Madame Tussauds. Thus his place in culture was cemented, persisting through to Peace providing plot material for Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
How might Charles Peace have been in the public eye in 1910, at the time of Norman Peace's purchase of a lion cub in the heart of the Bostock Jungle? This is quite revealing, as the introduction of early film, through the fairground Bisocope show, saw two productions detailing the crimes and capture of Charles Peace, an obvious point of focus in the fledgling days of film narrative. In 1905 both William Haggar and the Sheffield Photographic Company (Frank Mottershaw) released films on Charles Peace.
Five years later, in 1910, the fairground Bioscope would be at its high point, with references in the World's Fair newspaper to frantic activity to view Bioscope presentations at Rotherham Statutes Fair. Local showmen Farrar and Tyler had just purchased their swanky new Bioscope, and were doing good business through the winter of 1910 (the time of Bostock's Jungle) on Sheffield's Blonk Street fairground. As can be seen from the photograph above, the main attraction - unsurprisingly - was the dramatisation of Charles Peace. So we can assume that in 1910, in Sheffield, the name of Charles Peace was very much a topic of excited conversation.
Could Norman Peace's purchase of a lion cub be part of a rouse to induce the swagger and notoriety of his dreadful and dreaded namesake?
*** UPDATE ***
Following our recent talk at the Bishop's House Museum (Meersbrook, Sheffield) curator Joyce Bullivant has been researching this longstanding 'mystery' of the Norman Peace lion cub. Here's what she has found together with possible interpretations of what it might mean:
Joyce's theory is that the Lion cub was just part of a publicity stunt as it is obvious that the "christening" was to raise money for a charity. It is assumed that the cub probably went back to Bostock - or to be sold by Bostock to one of his contacts in the menagerie and zoological fields (this would explain of hearing no more of it in Endcliffe). To support this further, research points to Norman looking like the kind of person who would be up for such a stunt!
Family history research confirms that his grandfather died in 1898 leaving steel works etc to Hugh Peace (Norman's father). Digging deeper we find that in 1899 Norman Peace is in entertainment in local Church at Ranmoor as an actor in a short farce - this is the first clue to the type of character outside of business that Norman may well be. He plays the role of the dandy Earl of Mountcaster in the drama "Distinguished Visitors", and the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (2-2-1899) describes his performance as brimming with original wit and up-to-date sayings. Furthermore, there are records linking him with trips to America (presumably on business). He came back from New York on 25th April 1900 on the White Star Line, docking in at Liverpool. We know that Bostock and his American entertainment contemporaries would have been very active in and around New York at that time, so it is quite possible that a formal link to an informal interest in entertainment and spectacle might have been forged here.
Further research in a chronological fashion after 1900 buttresses what we already know: Norman married Hilda Catherine Laycock in 1902 and his father died in December 1906 (Hugh had been educated in Germany between 1882 and 1886). Of interesting note here is the revelation that there is no mention of Norman in his father's will. However 1906 also sees another possible visit to America: on Ellis Island there is a Norman Kirkby Peace, a resident of Sheffield. arriving 1906 for "various tours" and staying in New York at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and going on to Yosemite Park. Norman is then recorded as arriving back in Liverpool in May 1906 on the Oceanic White Star Line - he travelled first class.
The 1911 census confirms our previous research: Norman had 6 Children but 1 had died (all children born in Sheffield): Leonard N K Peace 9 years old, Hilda Gwendoline Peace 5 years old, Dorothy Josephine Peace 4 years old, Douglas Alexander Peace 2 years old and John Phillip Peace 9 months old.
We now also have some details of Norman's involvement in the First World War. He is listed as Captain Norman Kirkby Peace serving in the York and Lancaster Regiment between 1914-1919. Later events include his wife dying 28th May 1918 and a new marriage in December 1920 to Evelyn L Bornemann (note that his wife is listed as surname 'Norman' and this is possibly due to Bornemann being a name of German origin?). Kelly's Directory for 1932 has Captain Norman Kirkby Peace MC living at 'The Beeches, Oxley Bank' - so we know he left Sheffield sometime in the late 1920s.
Norman's mother died on 31st March 1942 at 543 Fulwood Road Sheffield, at the age of 95 years. Norman himself died 3 years later, on the 16th August 1945. He left an estate worth £18227 7s 3d - a not inconsiderate amount of wealth.
Have we solved the mystery of the 'Endcliffe Lion'? As Joyce says, the cub itself was most likely a publicity stunt and went back to Bostock's fold, so that part of the mystery can be wrapped up. We have learnt a little more about Norman Peace - a tantalising possibility of a connection to Bostock and a suggestion that Norman might have had an inclination for performance and the high life of showmanship and spectacle. We do not know where this fits in with the wider circle of the Peace family as wealthy Sheffield industrialists, and the mystery of whether Norman was ostracised from this serious business (and wealth), and - if that is the case - whether Norman's distancing from the sensible circles of the steel and tool-making businesses was of his own volition. On his death he was a wealthy man, so we must assume that his inclination to showmanship was perhaps put behind his commitment to, and capability of, running a successful business.