“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Flying Monk - Killed by a Tiger

Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire has a history that reaches back to 676 AD when a Benedictine monastery was first founded on the site. During this long history the Abbey has become known for two rather unusual British “firsts”...

The Flying Monk 

Around 1125 AD the medieval historian William of Malmesbury wrote in his book Gesta regum Anglorum (Deeds of the English Kings), about a fellow monk from Malmesbury Abbey who is reputed to be Britain’s first aviator. The monk in question was called Elmer (sometimes also called Eilmer) and in circa 1005 AD it is said that he managed to fly a distance of about 200 metres from the Abbey’s tower using a rudimentary type of hang-glider. It seems that Elmer’s flight was only a partial success in that he did manage to glide, however on landing he is said to have broken both of his legs that left him lame for the rest of his days. Elmer is immortalised in a stained glass window in the Abbey, where he is depicted holding what looks to be a model of his hang-glider.

Elmer's window is a little tricky to find as it is not in the main body of the Abbey, but instead is located inside the crèche. So if you want to find Elmer take a left as you enter the Abbey and you will find the crèche where Elmer lives directly in front of you.

Killed by a Tiger 

In the Abbey graveyard an interesting gravestone can be found that commemorates a rather unusual death. The gravestone remembers a Hannah Twynnoy (1669/70-1703) who was a barmaid working in The White Lion Inn (sometimes also referred to as The Lion Pub) in Malmesbury. The story is that the grounds of the pub played host to a travelling menagerie and that a tiger from the menagerie mauled the unfortunate Hannah to death. It has to be said that being killed by a tiger in an average Wiltshire town is not a typical way to go, and Hannah is often referred to as being the first person to be killed by a tiger in Britain.

As you enter the Abbey’s graveyard on the path that leads directly to the main door of the Abbey, Hannah’s gravestone can be found set back from the path on the right hand side. The fading inscription reads:

In memory of
Hannah Twynnoy
Who died October 23rd 1703
Aged 33 years

In bloom of Life
She's snatchd from hence,
She had not room
To make defence;
For Tyger fierce
Took Life away.
And here she lies
In a bed of Clay,
Until the Resurrection Day.

So if you ever visit Malmesbury be sure to watch out for deadly tigers and flying monks!

Malmesbury Abbey. 

Elmer the flying monk, holding what looks to be a model of his hang-glider.

Hannah Twynnoy's gravestone (centre of frame). 

The inscription on Hannah Twynnoy's gravestone.

Pictures, Wiltshire (August 2014).

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