Shropshire Star

Watch: Historic film of elephant that lived in Shropshire

The time when an elephant made its home in a Shropshire town during the Second World War is still spoken of today.


Now, a piece of remarkable film has surfaced showing the near-legendary Bishop's Castle Indian elephant walking down a country road around the Shropshire town.

The animal was believed to have been left behind by a travelling circus and lived in the stables of the Castle Hotel in the 1940s, becoming a familiar sight in the town.

Its presence is remembered by older residents in the town, and inspired a life-size puppet elephant made by local artist Bamber Hawes which led the procession at last September's Michaelmas Fair.

But now actual footage of the elephant has surfaced following a call by Flicks in the Sticks for historical home videos.

Flicks in the Sticks is a charity organisation that takes big screen films to rural communities by turning village halls into cinemas, but it is currently running the Bigger Picture Archive Project, collecting old movies of local events across Shropshire, Herefordshire and Mid Wales to ensure such such films are preserved.

The project recently also turned up rare lost film of pioneer woman aviator Amy Johnson, flying a glider on the Long Mynd in Shropshire in the 1930s.

Elizabeth-Anne Williams, of the Bigger Picture Archive Project, said: "An interview recorded with George Evans in 2011 and archived at Bishops Castle Heritage Resource Centre reveals that when the Second World War broke out, a travelling circus had been performing in Bishops Castle with three or four elephants in their troupe.

"The elephants required a lot of hay for feeding and when they packed up they weren't able to take one elephant."

George said the elephant was kept in the Castle Hotel stables, in the present car park, and he also remembered the elephant being taken for a walk past the Boys' School in Station Street where he and others gave it a swede which it 'squashed with its foot to eat it'.

Ms Williams went on: "Bishops Castle has, it seems, been a popular place in the past for unusual visitors.

"The project has also discovered some footage of a civic reception for Emperor Haile Selassie."

Footage unearthed shows the Ethiopian regent being greeted by the Lord Mayor and Bishops Castle dignatories.

It is known that he sought refuge in the UK in 1936 after the Abyssinia Crisis, living in exile in nearby Walcot Hall for a while.

Flicks in the Sticks director, Ian Kerry said: "After several months of collecting old footage we are astounded at these discoveries, which show what a rich and varied range of events have taken place over the years.

"These must have caused quite a stir locally and finding this filmed depiction of them is very special and really brings them to life.

"We hope this will stimulate people to search deeper in their cupboards even further afield across Shropshire and Herefordshire."

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