It is likely that the first guests of the menagerie were wild beasts from Normandy, during the reign of King John (1199-1216). It was a long established custom that exotic animals were a favourite gift between countries and National rulers. Leopards and lions followed, and a polar bear arrived which was tethered and allowed to swim in the Thames for food. Many similar gifts were donated over the centuries.
The eventual site of the menagerie was in the south east corner and there are many colourful stories about its activity. In 1821, Alfred Cops was appointed and he developed the menagerie extensively, filling it with many new exhibits, much to the delight of the public, who arrived in droves to view. By 1830, it was decided that the Tower was not the right place for the animals and they were removed to Regents Park Zoo, which had opened in 1828. The buildings were knocked down and Mr Cops was allowed to remain until his eventual death in the 1850’s.