The lion tamer of Stoke Newington
I have a confession to make. I have been snooping round graveyards again. This time at Abney Park in Stoke Newington - where I came face-to-face with this magnificent sleeping lion.
It certainly stands out from the routine headstones, crosses, angels and broken columns. A touch of the exotic in N16!
Frank Bostock started training lions as a teenager and reputedly survived maulings by a lion and a tiger - and indeed had a finger bitten off by an ape. The fullest account of his life is here.
Frank was born into a dynasty of menagerie owners and he had a head for business as well as a way with animals. In the 1890s, he rebased to the United States and spent a decade there, where his travelling menageries were hugely successful.
Bostock died while still in his mid-forties - from the flu, it seems, though other accounts speak of nervous exhaustion and the impact of successive maulings, His funeral was a lavish affair with thirty or more carriages making their way to Abney Park cemetery.
And more than a century after his death, Frank Bostock's grave still captures attention. A showman to the last!
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