In October 1703, 33-year-old Hannah Twynnoy, a native of the small village of Hullavington in Wiltshire, was working as a barmaid in Malmesbury.
Life was mundane for someone like Hannah; she wouldn’t have travelled much outside of Malmesbury, and somewhere like London would have been the most exotic place she would have dreamed of.
So it must have seemed amazing when a travelling circus set up camp in the back yard of the White Lion on Gloucester Road, where she worked.
The circus specialised in exotic animals, such as a tiger, which Hannah, understandably, was fascinated by. She was warned by the owners of the circus not to touch the temperamental animal, but knowing little of the creatures, she could resist trying to provoke a reaction from it.
The tiger put up with Hannah’s attention for a few days; but after a while, it became fed up of being the target for her curiosity.
On 23 October 1703, the tiger lost its patience and went for Hannah, mauling her to death.
- Hannah and her innocent curiosity about this wild animal – so unlike anything she had ever seen before in the south Cotswolds – is remembered via her tombstone in the graveyard of Malmesbury Abbey.
“In bloom of life/She’s snatched from hence/She had no room/To make defence/For tyger fierce/Took life away/And here she lies in a bed of clay/Until the Resurrection Day.”