It was a Friday afternoon in June 1889 in Llandrindod's Bridge Hotel* as Mr Osborne, a Neath grocer, packed his bags in preparation for catching the evening train to South Wales. There was no mention of Mr Osborne's wife Ellen in the subsequent newspaper reports so the sudden appearance of a female through the open window of Mr Osborne's room might have set tongues wagging. Unfortunately the female in question was a full grown African lioness escaped from Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie, which was encamped on a nearby piece of waste ground.
Of course we need to take tales of big cats, both then and now, with a pinch of salt. After all the escaped tiger myth of the 1890s was a Radnorshire joke at the expense of the big city journalists. In this case, however, the story seems true enough. The 50 year old defended himself stoutly with a chair and was soon rescued by the staff of the menagerie who eventually bundled the lioness back into captivity.
Lions aside, what I find interesting about Victorian Llandrindod is the number of local families with an entrepreneurial streak who built up the town. The Wildings at the Bridge hotel or the Thomas family of Penybont who established the Central Wales Emporium for example. We could do with some of that get-up-and-go today ....... the expansive car park that is the modern-day county council, not so much.
*Years later of course the Bridge Hotel would be renamed the Metropole, for the sensible reason that the then owner, Mrs Miles, had purchased some second-hand china resplendent with the letter M. In 1889 the hotel was still owned by the local Wilding family who had named their business after the bridge over the nearby Arlais brook. It had originally been called Coleman's hotel after its first owner Mr Coleman, a Howey based grocer and draper.