From about 1773, the upper floors of the Exeter Exchange (a popular shopping arcade) took on a new role: a menagerie of exotic animals. It was formed by Gilbert Pidcock, and upon his death in about 1810, the menagerie passed to Stephani Polito. On his death in 1814, one of his employees, Edward Cross, took over the menagerie. Cross renamed the collection the Royal Grand National Menagerie. When the Exeter Exchange was demolished in 1829, as part of general improvements to the Strand, the animals were dispersed to the new London Zoo in Regent’s Park and Cross’s new enterprise at Surrey Zoological Gardens.
The menagerie displayed a wide variety of animals to the public, aimed to compete with the menagerie at the Tower of London. In 1812, the animals at the Exeter Exchange included a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a lion, a jaguar, a sloth, a camel, monkeys, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, an elephant, an ostrich “said to weigh upwards of 200 lbs and to be 11 feet high”, a cassowary, a pelican, “emews”, cranes, an eagle, cockatoos, elks, kangaroos and antelopes.