Skip to content

A London Bestiary

July 15, 2016
by the gentle author

Contributing Artist Adam Dant has created this splendid portfolio of chiaroscuro wood cuts of Ten Creatures of London Legend

The Vegetable Lamb Of Tartary, Lambeth Palace

This was believed to be a sheep grown on a plant from a melon-like seed. Introduced to England by Sir John Mandeville in the fourteenth century, an example of this legendary zoophyte can be found at Lambeth Palace.

The City Of London Dragon, Chancery Lane

The dragon guards the boundary of the City of London and its design is based upon a seven-foot-high original created by J B Bunning in 1849, upon the roof of the former Coal Exchange in Lower Thames St.

The Werewolf Of London, Guys Hospital

In 1963, Dr John Illis of Guys Hospital wrote a paper On Porphyria & Aetiology  Of Werewolves, arguing that red teeth, photosensitivity and psychosis experienced by those suffering of Porphyria may have been the characteristics that led to them being mistaken for werewolves.

The Enlightenment Merman, British Museum

Part-monkey and part-fish, the Merman was ‘caught’ in Japan in the eighteenth century and given to Queen Victoria’s virtuous grandson Prince Arthur who donated the desiccated creature to the British Museum, where it may be found today in the Enlightenment Gallery.

The Olympic Park Monster Catfish, Stratford

In December 2011, a Canada Goose was dragged beneath the waters of the River Lea by an unseen predator believed to be a Monster Catfish known to locals as ‘Darren.’

The Sheep Having A Monstrous Horn, Royal Society

This animal from Devonshire gained fame in the capital having been presented to the Royal Society on account of a giant twenty-six inch horn which grew from its neck.

Old Martin, Martin Tower At The Tower Of London

Old Martin, the phantom bear of  the Tower of London’s Martin Tower is reported to have scared one unfortunate beefeater to death. A bear by the name of Old Martin was given to George III by the Hudson Bay Company in 1811 when the Tower had its own menagerie.

Spring-Heeled Jack, Bearbinder Rd In Mile End

Numerous sightings of a violent demonic creature with supernatural abilities at jumping terrorised people  in the East End in 1838.

The Phantom Chicken, Pond Sq Highgate

The half-plucked Chicken, which was seen most recently in 1970 by a caressing couple, is said to be the same chicken which Sir Francis Bacon had attempted to pack with ice in 1626 during an early experiment in freezing food that resulted in the philosopher’s death from Pneumonia.

Twelve Foot Fossilised Irish Giant, Broad St Station

Weighing two tons and fifteen hundredweight and standing twelve feet two inches tall, the fossilised ‘Irish Giant’ disappeared from Broad St Station in 1876 after being dug up by a Mr Dyer in County Antrim and toured around Liverpool and Manchester.

Images copyright © Adam Dant

You may also like to take a look at these other works by Adam Dant

Map of Shakespeare’s Shorediche

Map of London Slang

Adam Dant’s Map Of The Coffee Houses

Adam Dant’s Map of Walbrook

Adam Dant’s Map Of Budge Row

Map of Hoxton Square

Hackney Treasure Map

Map of the History of Shoreditch

Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000

Map of Shoreditch as New York

Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

Map of Shoreditch in Dreams

Map of the History of Clerkenwell

Map of the Journey to the Heart of the East End

Map of the History of Rotherhithe

4 Responses leave one →
  1. July 15, 2016

    Super woodcuts I didn’t see any in Lambeth Palace during my visit, lots of wood panels here I only saw the ancient fig tree. Besides the London merman wood cut there is a tale from Orford in Suffolk, a mythical merman which was fish and half human was caught in a fisherman’s net in the 15thC. I didn’t realize until now the word bestiary means a ‘medieval treatise on beasts’. So these beastly figures on the woodcuts could have been mounted on panels in a palace or large house, every picture tells a story for the medieval mind, on story boards. Thanks to Adam Dant and GA for letting us see these treasures nice one. John B

  2. July 15, 2016

    These are fascinating. I was particularly interested by the 12 ft giant . I’ve done quite a bit of research into 18th century giants from Ireland who came to London to show themselves for my novels, but I’ve never come across this one. Do you have any more information please? Thanks.

  3. Richard permalink
    July 15, 2016

    Quite startling.

  4. July 17, 2016

    I believe the vegetable lamb of Tartary in fact lives in the Garden Museum (currently closed for restoration and development works) next to Lambeth Palace. There’s a bit more about the phenomenon here:

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS