Take Me Back To Manchester

‘Wombwell’s Royal Number One’ famous travelling menagerie closed in 1872 with all the animals sold by auction in Edinburgh. The Asian elephant Maharajah was purchased by the owners of Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoological Gardens. So far so good. It was planned to send him by train to Manchester, but this plan altered rapidly when he immediately wrecked his railway carriage. Thrown off the train, his keeper suggested that they should walk to Manchester, perhaps to secure a few extra days work, and this they did over the next ten days.

The tale of this epic walk has entered into folklore and from Wednesday 8 April 2015, Manchester based comic artist Oliver East will retrace the 200 mile walk, over the ten days (8-17 April 2015).

The Disputed Toll 1875 - Heywood Hardy
The Disputed Toll 1875 – Heywood Hardy

East will follow the route Maharajah took along the A7 and A6, he will not be accompanied by an elephant, but by his phenomenal imaginative, drawing and narrative skills. To challenge himself further Oliver will set his drawings in 1872. Oliver has researched the comprehensive written archives documenting the walk, looked at the care and welfare of animals in captivity in 1872 and also researched Victorian paintings and photographs of the route, held in local art/museum collections.

During the Cumbrian leg a special documentary film commissioned by the Lakes Culture ‘Lakes Ignite’ programme will captured by Cumbrian based film makers Dom Bush and Simon Sylvester. The pair will film this epic journey as it travels through the County taking in Carlisle, Penrith and Kendal. The film will then be shown at the Brockhole Visitor Centre in the Lake District from 8 – 17 May inclusive and also at the Toronto Comic Art Festival 9 – 10 May 2015.

‘’Oliver is taking on a legendary tale linked closely to the local landscape, which is certain to capture the imaginations of people of all ages, whether they are into comics or not.”

Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Day by Day:

  • 08 April   Edinburgh (Waverley Station) – Stow
  • 09 April   Stow – Hawick
  • 10 April   Hawick – Langholm
  • 11 April   Langholm – Carlisle
  • 12 April   Carlisle – Penrith
  • 13 April   Penrith – Kendal
  • 14 April   Kendal – Lancaster
  • 15 April   Lancaster – Preston
  • 16 April   Preston – Bolton
  • 17 April   Bolton – Manchester (Manchester Museum)

Take Me Back To Manchester will be the first time that Oliver has walked in another’s footsteps i.e. Maharajah and his keeper Lorenzo Lawrence and the first time he has attempted an historical approach. The walk in the spring of 1872 was a media sensation in its day and well documented in local papers; there are also a couple of paintings/drawings recording the event (one in Manchester Museum and one in Manchester Art Gallery).

Following the walk, Oliver will create a comic book Take Me Back To Manchester, which will be showcased at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) in October 2015 and some work in progress will be included as part of the LICAF Comic Art Pavilion at the Toronto Comic Art Festival in May 2015.

Oliver will also make 20 large scale drawings that will form the basis of an exhibition at Manchester Museum alongside the skeleton of Maharajah. The exhibition of Take Me Back To Manchester is pencilled in for early 2016.

Sketch of the Take Me Back to Manchester route by Oliver East
Take Me Back to Manchester route sketch by Oliver East


To enjoy this event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here