Zebra-pulled carriage in Brixton!
Curious sight on Brixton Road
We had this fascinating photo forwarded to us of a zebra-driven carriage leaving Brixton and heading for Stockwell.
The photo wasn't dated, but we'd guess that it was taken around 1915 (electrified trams didn't arrive in Brixton until 1904 so it must be after then).
The only real clue is the advertisement for Quin and Axtens on the railway bridge, although that seems to have changed regularly - witness the different styles seen in 1920 and a year later.
We can't even work out what the carriage is - according to wikipedia there's endless permutations for such vehicles, so it could be a trap, a gig, a fly or something else entirely.
Note the lower poster on the corner of Brixton Station Road advertising a piano shop, while just past the bridge can be seen the original Woolworths store, on the junction of Brixton Road and Atlantic Road.
We're discussing this photo on the bulletin boards, and one poster suggested that it may be Lord Rothschild in the driving seat - the bearded chap was famously a fan of zebra-drawn carriages, and was photographed driving both single zebras and teams of four.
However, we couldn't fail to notice the clean shaven appearance of the fella rattling through Brixton, and we wonder if a loaded toff like Lord Rothschild would be likely to take such a low form of transport - or if he'd even come to Brixton at all (saying that, Brixton was a distinctly upmarket area at the beginning of the last century).
During Victorian and Edwardian times, it was not uncommon for zoos to use animals in public to promote themselves - the sight of elephants meandering down Camden High Street was not unheard of - although there seems to be no advertising visible in this picture.
In fact, apart from the boy on the right, no one else seems to be paying much attention to the zebra which we find a bit unusual.
Perhaps it was a regular occurrence, or perhaps south Londoners were far more nonchalant back then...
Update! Thanks to the efforts of Minnie on the bulletin boards, it looks like we may have solved the mystery - although the carriage does look a bit different, the driver doesn't seem to be the same person and the markings on the zebras' foreheads don't seem identical.
"A zebra harnessed to a pony-chaise, seen driven along the side of Clapham Common. The zebra belonged to the music-hall artist, Mr Gustav-Grais. Having survived a fire it was stabled at Brixton and is seen here on it's daily exercise route in South london"
(Source: Standard article, 13th August 1912, photo/text Lambeth Archives).
Gustav Eichler ran a circus of baboons and zebra and was an accomplished trapeze artist, juggler and an all round showman. A pioneer of the parachute, he undertook daredevil jumps from gas filled balloons all over the world. His personal life was similarly adventurous, with the chap apparently having two families on the go, living just a few miles from each other.
Give us your opinions and thoughts on our bulletin boards.
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