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Mr. Benjamin Drakes, a waterman, shot a seal in the river Thames at Wandsworth, London in January 1857.

Seal shot in the Thames at Wandsworth.

The Illustrated Times, no.91, Vol. 4, London, Saturday, January 17, 1857, price 2½d, page 45, shows, `The seal shot in the Thames. That any free animal should consent to be found in the Thames of the present day seems absurd. Above the bridges, indeed, we must believe that there are little fishes; for do we not see them angled for every season? and Richmond dinners have acquainted us, en route, that swans do haunt the aits. But of all animals in all places, a seal in the Thames near Wandsworth, does seem the most incongruous and impossible. Yet a seal at Wandsworth was actually shot a few days ago by a waterman, Benjamin Drakes by name, and a “beautiful specimen” it is described to be. It measures four feet in length, and two feet one inch in breadth. Apart, however, from any intrinsic feature of interest which the animal could possibly display, the fact that it ventured so far as Wandsworth, through such a villanous medium, renders him an object of curiosity, worthy to be commemorated by the [en]graver as well as by the pen.'

I cannot identify this person, as there is no similarly named person born about 1810/30 in my records. I suspect that he is from the area around the Humber estuary, Lincolnshire, visiting London to deliver one cargo and collect another; he appears to be about 30 to 45 years old at the time - please can you help?