The elephant, which famously walked from Edinburgh in 1872, is on loan from Manchester Museum
Never mind ‘the elephant in the room,’ it’s all about the elephant in the station this month, as the skeleton of Maharajah - Manchester’s most famous tusker - has taken up residence at Piccadilly.
Maharajah, who belongs to Manchester Museum, is being exhibited at Piccadilly Station from 4-16 June (7am-7pm) as part of the museum’s new outreach programme; helping to bring some of its most extraordinary objects to unlikely locations citywide.
For Maharajah, this is the latest chapter in a transient life that bought him to Gorton’s Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in 1872. The zoo’s owners purchased him from a travelling circus in Edinburgh, from where he was due to travel down south by train.
That was the plan anyway…Maharajah had other ideas and tore the roof off his carriage. When the driver refused to let him board, the only option was to walk the 200-mile journey with his keeper, Lorenzo Lawrence. It took ten days and turned the pair into local legends.
After a decade as Belle Vue’s star attraction, Maharajah died aged eighteen. His skeleton was displayed at the zoo before being sold to Manchester Museum, where it took centre stage in the Manchester Gallery. This is currently closed for the museum’s hello future transformation; a £13.5m development - due to complete in 2021 - that includes a new Exhibition Hall, South Asia Gallery, Chinese Culture Gallery and the world’s first Centre of Age Friendly Culture.
During its development, the museum is working with local communities and businesses to display its collections across the city; as well as inviting people to share their ideas of where in Manchester they would like to see other artefacts from the museum.
Only in Manchester could the story of an elephant that refused to get on a train end up in a train station
Esme Ward, director of Manchester Museum, said: “The aim of taking Maharajah to Piccadilly Station isn’t just to add more miles to his journey. It is about bringing the museum’s collections to people who might not usually get the chance to witness them. We’re also using the exhibition to raise awareness of population levels of Asian elephants, as they’re at a high risk of extinction.”
She added: “We have 4.5 million objects in our collection and will be taking some of our favourites directly to the people of the city to the places they live, work and play. We’re on a mission to become the most imaginative, inclusive and caring museum in the country - and Maharajah in Piccadilly exemplifies this ambition.”
Maharajah will be on display at Piccadilly from 4-16 June, 7am-7pm
Main image: University of Manchester