Boy Killed by a Lion in Loughborough

21 August 2020

Tudor England was a dangerous place. There were plagues and wars, perilous childbirths and shocking infant mortality. Many risks were faced by people as they went about their everyday lives but what follows must have been a strange fate even in those days.

“Roger Sheppard, sonne in lawe to Nicholas Wollandes was sleayne by a Lyones – whiche was brought, into the towne, to be seyne of such as would gyve money to see her. He was soore wounded in sondrey places and was buried the xxi daye of august 1579.”

Source: The Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland

A “sonne in lawe” in those days would have been a stepson and, at the time of the accident, Roger was only five years old. According to reports he received five wounds. The fatal wound was one in his left side, opposite his heart. It was one inch long, one inch wide and six inches deep. The accident happened at 11.00am on 20th August 1579 and Roger was buried the next day in the churchyard of Loughborough Parish Church. It was reported in the first parish record book.

The lioness was being looked after by John Castle in a room belonging to Nicholas Wollandes, a Bailiff of the town. It was chained to a beam. Clearly this was not enough to hold the animal back for the lioness was able to use its teeth and claws on its unfortunate victim.

Article written by the Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers.

Dyer, Lynne (2017). Bridges, buses, trains, balloons and runners! Available here [Accessed 10 September 2017]
University of Oxford, Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in 16th Century England.