Hunt is on for the Kingswood Elephant

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been commissioned to look into a 132-year-old mystery – the burial of an elephant in Kingswood.

The study comes as part of the regeneration of the town centre.

Local legend has it that the Victorian elephant belonging to Bostock and Wombwell’s travelling ‘beast show’ died and was buried in Kingswood.

Now Wessex Archaeology has been asked to carry out a geophysical survey. 

Tom Richardson, terrestrial geophysicist at Wessex Archaeology, said: “Searching for Victorian elephant burials isn’t our usual fare but a grave of that size would leave a large hole and would certainly be identifiable with the Ground Penetrating Radar equipment we will be using to survey the site. Watch this space!” 

Councillor Chris Willmore, cabinet member with responsibility for planning, regeneration and infrastructure at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “Our work as part of the Kingswood regeneration project has presented us with a unique opportunity ahead of the high street pedestrianisation work. We’re excited to see what archaeologists may uncover and if we can finally solve this local mystery or find some new mysteries to solve.” 

Purported to have been buried in the area of Whitefield’s Tabernacle or Holy Trinity Church, the elephant is said to have died in 1891 from yew leaf poisoning. Although no historical sources reference the death or 

burial of an elephant in the area, the Kingswood elephant is etched in local memory.

Alan Bryant, curator at Kingswood Museum, said: “I first heard about the Kingswood elephant burial in the 1970s when I was doing my rounds as a local milkman. Since then, I have had countless conversations and debates with local people about it. I remember a new mains sewer pipe was installed in the 1980s and I made a point of having a look to see if there were any anomalies in the ground. Alas, nothing to report but I for one am delighted at the potential of discovering the legendary Kingswood Elephant burial.”