Snakes and Monkeys!

1870 was a good year for stories about escaped exotic animals!

In May, the Huddersfield Chronicle took great delight in reporting the police’s attempts to capture a snake in the town centre:1

Capture of a Runaway Snake.

On Sunday morning two boys called at the Borough Police Station, and informed Inspector Townend that they had seen a snake crawling down Cross Queen Street — a narrow thoroughfare at the rear of the Gymnasium Hall and the Theatre Royal, and extending, from Bull and Mouth Street, near the Police Station, to Queen Street. Inspector Townend, upon the “information received,” sallied from the office, and, near the Fire Brigade Station, in the narrow street alluded to already, espied the reptile, which would be about one yard long. The Inspector, not knowing whether it was of a venemous or docile order, felt somewhat perplexed, and contemplated the “apprehension” of the monster with bated breath. While the Inspector occupied himself with devising means for the successful capture of the stranger, who was now in jeopardy of being “brought up” under the Vagrant Act, for “wandering abroad without any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself,” the snake kept crawling onwards, to the evident amusement and gratification of the bystanders, and the Inspector was loathe to lay hands upon it, or take it into his custody. Mr. C.P. Hobkirk, however, happened to be passing, and went to the assistance of the Inspector, who, with unusual willingness, resigned his charge into other hands. Mr. Hobkirk took possession of the snake, and preserved it in the ordinary way. On Tuesday morning Mr. Withers, head constable, received a note from Mr. W.E. Thomas, stating that, in autumn last, a snake escaped from its box at the Naturalist Society’s exhibition, held in the Gymnasium Hall, and it was never found. If the snake captured on Sunday morning is that which escaped in autumn, it would be difficult to trace the ground over which, with its slow locomotion it has traversed ; and naturalists will be curious to know the kind of food upon which it has subsisted in the meantime.

In October, the Chronicle reported on an escaped monkey in Dungeon Wood, Lockwood:2

Escape and Capture of a Monkey.

On Wednesday morning, as a gentleman from Lockwood was enjoying a stroll through Dungeon Wood, he was somewhat startled by a strange sound and rustling of the bushes. A retriever dog, with which he was accompanied, soon unearthed the cause of the alarm, which proved to be an untamed monkey. Perceiving its enemy (the dog), the monkey began to chatter most energetically, at the same time bounding and climbing from one wall to another, and anon secreting itself among the brushwood. The canine tormentor did not allow it to remain long in its hiding place, and, had it not been for the timely interference of the gentleman, no doubt the monkey would have been severely treated by its pursuer. At length the monkey was captured, and claimed by Mr. Davis, lithographer, whose brother, a seaman, had recently brought it from abroad. The monkey had for the night been fastened under the cellar steps, but had contrived to escape.

illustration from "Hunting and Trapping Stories: A Book for Boys" (1903)
illustration from “Hunting and Trapping Stories: A Book for Boys” (1903)

Footnotes

  1. Huddersfield Chronicle (21/May/1870)
  2. Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Oct/1870)

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