Chang Woo Gow: The Chinese Giant Who owned The Ashleigh
Did you know The Ashleigh was once the home of a Chinese Giant?
Chang Woo Gow, also known as Chang the Chinese Giant, was born in Fuzhou, China in 1841. He was born taller than most people, and his height became a defining characteristic of his life. In the mid-1860s, he made his first public appearance in London, and thousands of people flocked to see his eight-foot-tall frame and hear his displays of linguistics, as he was reportedly able to speak ten languages.
Chang soon became a sensation and went on tour across Europe and America. He was accompanied by his wife, Kin Foo, and together they arrived in Australia from the United States in 1870. Over the next several years, they toured the country, entertaining audiences with Chang's remarkable height and linguistic abilities.
After the death of his first wife, Chang met and married Catherine Santley while in Australia, and they returned together to China. They had two sons before moving to England, where Chang attracted the attention of American showman and entrepreneur P.T. Barnum. In 1880, Barnum contracted Chang to join his famous "Greatest Show On Earth," a travelling circus, menagerie, and museum of freakish human 'specimens'.
We're sure you have heard of P.T Barnum but if not Hugh Jackman played him in the film The Greatest Showman!
After retiring from the stage, Chang moved to Bournemouth, England, with his family to help cure his suspected tuberculosis. In Bournemouth, he opened a tearoom and an "Oriental Bazaar" selling Chinese curios and fabrics. The family settled into a home they called "Moyuen," which was located on Southcote Road in Bournemouth. The house had a large garden and was surrounded by trees, providing Chang with privacy and seclusion during his retirement.
Chang and Catherine Santley had two sons, named Edward and Ernest, both of whom inherited their father's exceptional height. The family became popular and respected members of the local community in Bournemouth, and Chang was known for his love of music, particularly his favorite instrument, the erhu.
Chang Woo Gow passed away in 1893, reportedly of a broken heart, four months after the death of his wife. His funeral was attended by many locals who had grown to know and admire him during his time in the town. Due to concerns about grave robbers vandalising his final resting place, both Chang and Catherine lay in unmarked graves. Chang's coffin was said to be over 10ft long, to accommodate his exceptional height.
Today, Chang Woo Gow's legacy lives on in Bournemouth, where his former home, "Moyuen," is now our home. The Ashleigh. We regularly have him remind us that he is still around, the heating in our dining room turns on mysteriously and when we ask him to turn it off again...he does! He is also quite partial to making one of the lights in the upstairs landing turn on and off.
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