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Devon County

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The attack on the Exeter Mail by a lioness
The attack on the Exeter Mail at the Winterslow Hut by a lioness


From Stage Coach and Mail by Charles Harper

Published 1903


"Fortunately for the peace of mind of our grandfathers, the startling adventures that befell the up Exeter Mail at the Winterslow Hut, on the night of October 20th 1816, was unique. The coach had left Salisbury in the usual way, and had proceeded several miles, when what was thought to be a large calf was seen trotting beside the horses in the darkness.


When the lonely inn of Winterslow Hut was reached, the team had become extremely nervous, and could scarcely be kept under control. At the moment when the coachman pulled up, one of the horses was seized by the supposed calf, and the others of the terrified team began to kick and plunge violently. The guard very promptly drew his blunderbuss and was about to shoot this mysterious assailant, when several men, accompanied by a large mastiff, came on the scene; and it appeared that this ferocious "calf" was really a lioness, escaped from a travelling menagerie, and these men came in pursuit. The dog was shouted on to the attack, and the lioness thereupon left the horse, and seizing him, tore the wretched animal to pieces.


At length she was secured by a rope and taken off in captivity. The leading  horse was fearfully mangled, but survived, and was exhibited for a time, with great financial success, by the showman whose lioness had wrought the mischief.


When the interest had subsided, "Pomegranate" - for that was the name of the horse - was sold. He had been foaled in 1809 and was a thoroughbred, with rather too much spirit for his owner, who had sold him out of his stable for his bad temper.


The severe work in coaches of that period soon took the unruly nature out of such animals and no complaint was made of him in his long after-career on the Brighton and Petworth stage coach."


*The village of Winterslow lies on the road from Salisbury to Andover. "Hut" was the local name for a road suitable for coach travel. The Winterslow Hut was a famous Inn and is now known as the Pheasant Hotel.


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