It is with great pleasure that we welcome Neil Arnold to the CFZ bloggo with this first guest blog. I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...
I have read with intrigue the musing of author Frank Buckland. In his 19th century book Curiosities of Natural History he tells a fascinating little tale pertaining to London, and it’s many water fountains dotted around the West End.
Buckland, in the chapter Fish and Fishing, from the first series volume, speaks of how goldfish, once confined to a lake near Tsientsing mountain in China, originally made their way England, and also how such fish ended up in fountains around London.
He states, “They were first brought to Europe in the seventeenth century, and continued very rare in England till the year 1728…”
Buckland adds: “When they were cleaning out the basins of the fountains at Charing Cross (London), I asked the foremen if he ever found any fish at the bottom, when the water had been drawn off. He told me that sometimes goldfish were found, and that he imagined they got there out of the glass globes of the men who go about the streets selling goldfish, and who come to Charing Cross fountains to change the water.”
It was believed by the foreman that these fish might have escaped, especially when these fragile bowls often cracked, when being knocked against the basin. However, Buckland also goes on to speak of eels being found in these basins, and believes he may well have had something to do with such finds. He says, “Some four years ago, I bought in Hungerford market a quantity of small eels, and taking them home, placed them in a large tub; but they did not thrive, so I tied them up in a handkerchief, and transferred them to the Charing Cross basins. I heard no more of them till a friend told me of a paragraph he had seen in a newspaper, stating that some good-sized eels had been found in the basins at Charing Cross; and that the newspaper correspondent accounted for their presence by supposing, ‘…that they had escaped from the fish-mongers shops at Hungerford market, and had gone to the nearest water by instinct’.
This of course seems unlikely as the nearest water would most certainly have been the more accessible Thames, and Buckland argues, “..imagine an eel escaping from a fishmongers, crossing over the crowded Strand, and climbing up the sides of the stone basins to get into the water. I know that eels will travel from place to place; but I much doubt their ever taking such a journey as attributed to them by the newspaper correspondent, who needed not to have resorted to such an ingenious, but impossible theory, had he seen me put the eels into the basins some months before.”