Panic At The Lord Mayor’s Show

Friday the 9th of November, 1888, was the day of the murder of Mary Kelly, which took place in her room, at 13, Miller’s Court, which was located off Dorset Street in Spitalfields.

That day was also the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, when the new Lord Mayor of the City of London was paraded through the streets and was “shown” to the citizens of the City.

It is often stated that Jack the Ripper ruined the Lord Mayor’s Show of that day, as when news of the latest Whitechapel atrocity broke amongst the crowd they abandoned the procession and headed for the East End to view what they could at the scene of Mary Kelly’s murder.

Forty-two years later, another Lord Mayor’s show would be marred by a stampeded of four elephants that were taking part in the parade.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported the story in its edition of Tuesday, 11th November, 1930:-



“Panic was caused when four elephants taking part in the Lord Mayor of London’s procession ran amok 0n the Thames Embankment.

About 50 persons, chiefly women and children, were hurt.

The procession was on the return journey from the Law Courts, when it came along the Embankment towards King’s College.

Eight students were holding their red lion mascot, and one of them, Mr L. Geffon, said:- “We were cheering and waving the mascot, when the largest elephant suddenly cantered over and seized it. My fellow-students ran back into the college, but I was not quick enough, and the elephant chased me round a tree. I was able, however, to run across the Embankment.”

Elephants in the Lord Mayor's Show.
Elephants In The Lord Mayor’s Show. From The Penny Illustrated Paper, Saturday, 18th November, 1876. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Another student said that the first elephant trumpeted as soon as it saw the mascot. The other elephants also became enraged. Trumpeting loudly, the four huge beasts lumbered in among the crowd, which scattered wildly in every possible direction.

Hundreds of people were closely packed together on the pavement, and dozens of women and children were knocked down and trampled upon in the stampede for safety.

The horses of the mounted police also took fright, and backed away from the approaching elephants into the crowd.

An old man was thrown flat on his back, while several persons stepped on him. A small boy had his head cut open. Many women suffered from injured legs and arms. Others lost their hats, handbags, and other possessions. About dozen women fainted in the crowd.

The injured people were taken to the refectory of King’s and treated by ambulance men for cuts, bruises, and shock.


Nine keepers were in charge of the elephants, the foremost beast having a mahout on its back.

The elephants ran round for about 10 minutes before the keepers were able to pacify them. They then turned round and went back into the procession.

Mr W. H. who was in the crowd with his wife and children, said:- “We escaped just in time. The leading elephant was bearing down on us when something attracted its attention. It trumpeted again, and swerved aside in pursuit of some other people. For 10 minutes before we had all been cheering the procession, and students of King’s College had been holding aloft a red lion.

Then came students of Bart’s Hospital in procession, and there was friendly shouting of “King’s” and “Bart’s.” I heard several fireworks being let off by some of the students in a barrel, and just afterwards the elephants drew abreast of the students.

An elephant which bore a young boy, dressed in gold, on its head lifted its trunk, squealed, trumpeted, and then began to lumber towards the crowd. The other elephants followed, taking up the trumpeting.”


“Several people were knocked down, but they managed to scramble up and avoid the massive feet of the animals.

I saw one man have his arm injured and a woman carried away with a broken ankle. Several others were knocked down and injured.

After much prodding and shouting, the men in charge managed to get the elephants quiet.”

Mr Peter Vogel, a special constable on duty at the entrance to the college, said that:- “there was crowd of several hundred at the point, and they ran in all directions. ”

Women and children were trampled on by the crowd, but so far as I could see the elephants did not tread on or injure anyone,” he added.

Some of the injured were later taken to St Thomas’s and the Westminster Hospitals in taxi-cabs and private cars. Eleven persons were also treated at Charing Cross Hospital, but no one was detained.


Mr Raco Power, of Brixton Hill, manager of Power’s dancing elephants, said:-

“The four elephants, which belong to my wife, are all about 30 years old. This is the first time in our whole experience that they have been involved in anything of the kind. They are four big pets and they are as good as little children.

It is regrettable that the college students teased them in this unhappy way. That was the cause of the whole trouble. I was there and saw the whole thing myself.

I shouted to the students to drop their stuffed lion and instead of doing so they dragged it with them. Naturally the elephants followed it and tried to reach it until it was dropped. As soon as they saw what it actually was they turned away and immediately quietened down.

The lion is the natural enemy of the elephant and it was a shame to tease our quartette.”


Dr. W. R. Haliday, principal of King’s College, today denied the report that ragging by King’s College students enraged the elephants.

“The students did nothing to upset the elephants. My own opinion is that the animals were bored by the whole proceedings, and, on seeing the wide opening at the entrance to the college, they tried to get through away from the crowd.

It is true that the leading elephant snatched ‘Reggie,’ the King’s College mascot, from the students. It is supposed to represent a lion, but is not very much like one. In any case, no one could imagine that would irritate an elephant.

I have written to the Lord Mayor expressing our great regret that this incident should have happened outside King’s College, but really, in this case at least, the undergraduates cannot be blamed.”