A disastrous aquarium

The Westminster Royal Aquarium opened in 1876. As well as thirteen tanks for fish, the leisure complex aimed to offer educational exhibitions, concerts and lectures, a library, restaurants and even a roller-skating rink.

Unfortunately, the Aquarium ran into problems. Sea creatures, including a beluga whale, died in the tanks and were never replaced. The Aquarium abandoned its ambitions as a forum for high culture and resorted to the first ever female human cannonball show, boxing kangaroos and a three-legged boy in order to attract the public.

Its failing reputation was satirised in several popular music hall songs. This cover shows one of the few surviving images of the building, which was demolished in 1903.


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