Slumped in a the corner of an expansive British churchyard is the grave of Hannah Twynnoy, an 18th century barmaid who is said to have been the first person in Britain’s history to be killed by a tiger.
An eloquent poem is engraved on the aging stone that references the “Tyger” that led to Hannah’s demise. The poem reads:
In bloom of LifeShe’s snatchd from hence,She had not roomTo make defence;For Tyger fierceTook Life away.And here she liesIn a bed of Clay,Until the Resurrection Day.
While this poetic account does not prove Twynnoy’s cause of death, there is also a well-known local story about the woman’s demise. As the legend goes, Twynnoy was a barmaid in Malmesbury when a traveling menagerie set up shop in the expansive rear yard. The waitress had taken to taunting the animal in her free time. Unfortunately the tiger managed to escape and went right for the barmaid, mauling her to death before it was recaptured. At one time there was even a plaque explaining the story that has long since been lost over the centuries.
The grave gives her death date as October 1703, making her death the earliest reported case of a tiger killing a human in British history. To commemorate the pioneering death, all of the local girls with the name Hannah visited the grave and left flowers. None of them seem to have had such trouble with exotic animals.
Know Before You Go
The grave is on its own on the right side of the stone path leading to the main entrance of the abbey. It is set back between two raised tombs.