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By Philippa Turner on

A Tail from the Cuthbert Grasemann Archive

Archives and Records Management Masters student Philippa Turner delves into the delights of our archives.

Personal collections can give us insights into an entire career, and some strange and wonderful incidents. Here are two photographs from the Cuthbert Grasemann collection showing an escaped lion at Clapham Junction in October 1943:

[Ref: GRASE/1/6]
[Ref: GRASE/1/10]

Southern Railway’s 1943 magazine gives us the story behind this unusual disruption to service: the lion was bound for Petersfield, Hampshire, and as the boxcar he was travelling in pulled into the station, he made a bid for freedom, jumping onto the platform and scattering scared passengers. The Home Guard was called in as ‘Leo’ stalked into a yard near the station, lay down, and then proceeded to have a leisurely nap. Eventually, Leo was coaxed through a hole in the fence by a plate of kidneys and into a crate on the other side. Safely recaptured, he carried on to Petersfield.

This British Pathé film of the incident shows just how much a sensation Leo caused.

During the First World War he was a member of the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers. A talented artist, he produced a sketchbook filled with colour sketches of officers and members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.)—a gem in this small collection—as well as written descriptions and anecdotes relating to these and other characters he encountered in France and Belgium.

[Ref: GRASE/3/1]
[Ref: GRASE/3/1]

Other sketchbooks in the collection include pen portraits and scenes from railway life, as well as a carefully executed set of drawings of women and men in various fashions, which is annotated ‘Florence 1905’.

[Ref: GRASE/3/4]

Grasemann had an interest in women’s fashion: another of his sketchbooks is in the V&A Archive of Art and Design (AAD/1988/11) and includes drawings of fashions from London, Paris, and Brussels, and annotations that show he was interested in how and why fashions changed.

The collection also includes correspondence, personal papers and newspaper cuttings relating to Grasemann’s career in the rail industry. He was Public Relations and Advertising Officer for Southern Railway, and then for British Rail’s Southern Region, between 1930 and 1950.

The Papers of Cuthbert Grasemann are now available to search via the National Railway Museum’s new online archive catalogue. The archive collection is available to view in Search Engine.

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