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Gwola the Elephant


Queen Victoria had many pets, most notably dogs and parrots at Osborne. The much larger Windsor Castle allowed for a menagerie of animals which included monkeys, ostriches, lemurs and kangaroos. Mr George Wombwell, the famous owner of a travelling menagerie visited Windsor several times to exhibit more exotic animals such as rhinos and lions to entertain the Royal family.

In the August of 1884 Lidji Mearchea Worke, the envoy to the King John of Abyssinia, and his nephew, Lidji John Mashasa Worke, brought a young elephant to Osborne House and presented it as a gift to Queen Victoria. He was named Gwola, after a place in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, presumably this was where he was caught.

The Queen wrote in her journal, “Two very dark men….led an elephant…a small one, only 3 years old, & I shall have him taken care of at the Zoological Garden.” A tank was set into the ground for it to bathe in. The elephant was only at Osborne for a few days before being taken to the Regent’s Park Zoo in London.

The sunken stone-lined pit on the Osborne Golf Course is nicknamed ‘the elephant pit’ but it is not certain that the elephant was taken to it and it predates 1884. It is probably an old cattle drinking pond.

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Funded by the

East Cowes Community Partnership