Originally submitted by Chris Kenyon Jones
A shopping mall – with a zoo upstairs – once occupied what is now the site of the Strand Palace Hotel. The Exeter Exchange (or ‘Exeter ’Change’) was originally built in the late 17th century to house a collection of small shops at ground level. From the 1770s to the 1820s it became famous for the menagerie that was installed on its upper floors. This included not only lions, tigers, cheetahs, monkeys and birds of prey, but also at least one elephant, Chunee, who weighed nearly seven tons. Chunee also performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and at Covent Garden, and Lord Byron, visiting him in 1813, recorded that he ‘took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler’. Unfortunately, while on a walk along the Strand in 1826, Chunee ran amok, killed one of his keepers, and had to be shot dead by soldiers from Somerset House.
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