The Victoria and Albert Museum—known colloquially to Londoners as simply the “V&A”—houses one of the world’s preeminent collections of art and design, attracting millions of people to West London each year to gaze at the beautiful objects it houses. Yet few realize there’s a much more unusual claim to fame hidden on the grounds.
Tucked inside a niche in the museum’s John Madejski Garden are two small plaques memorializing Victorian England’s most celebrated pooches: Jim and Tycho.
For many years, the Yorkshire terrier Jim was the faithful companion of the V&A’s first director, Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant who was instrumental in establishing the museum. Jim would accompany Cole on all his official business, and even travels abroad. Forever by his master’s side, he became so well-known that by 1871 he warranted his own portrait alongside Cole in the pages of Vanity Fair (Carlo Pellegrini’s “King Cole,” in which Jim is shown rising up on his back legs, was published on August 9, 1871).
Sadly, on January 30, 1879, Jim died from a combination of asthma and hypothermia while on a winter’s walk. Cole records in his diaries that the day started sunny, but very quickly turned frosty. The beloved pup was 15 years old.
So distraught was Cole, that a memorial plaque to Jim was erected within the central courtyard garden of his museum, where it remains to this day. Jim was later joined by Tycho, the companion to Cole’s son Alan.
Know Before You Go
The memorial plaques to both Jim and Tycho are set within the walls of the John Madejski Garden in the museum's central courtyard.
Go straight through the central shop into the garden. Turn immediately right. The plaques are on the other side of the double column on the right