Lizzie the Elephant, Sheffields Industrial Mascot during World War I

Sheffield, known as “The Steel City” in the United Kingdom, played a crucial role in the British war effort during both World Wars due to its high number of steelworks. During World War I, scrap metal collecting was common in Sheffield as it was necessary for the military-industrial machine. Lizzie the Indian Elephant, a wartime icon of Sheffield, helped transport machinery and munitions around the city and delivered scrap metal to keep the foundries running.

“Pressed into Service”

In 1916, Thomas Ward, a local Sheffield scrap dealer, leased Lizzie from a menagerie run by William Sedgwick in Sheffield’s Wicker Arches as most of the country’s horses had been requisitioned for use in Europe. Lizzie wore specially made leather boots to protect her feet from sharp scrap metal when she was in the steelworks. Lizzie became a commonplace feature around Sheffield and was loved by the locals who viewed her as one of their own.

A Rate Sheffield Lass

Sheffield’s hard-working people came to love Lizzie as she worked hard every day. Lizzie was known for being a little cheeky at times, eating a young schoolboy’s cap and grabbing a freshly-baked pie through an open window with her trunk. Despite this, Lizzie was a great help beyond her day job when she pulled out a snowed-in engine on her own. Lizzie became a local celebrity in Sheffield and captured the hearts of the locals.

After the War

After the end of World War I, there are conflicting stories about what happened to Lizzie. Some say she continued working for Thomas Ward, while others suggest she returned to Sedgwick’s menagerie and entered work with a circus or was purchased by a zoo. Regardless of what happened to her, Lizzie remains a symbol of Sheffield’s wartime industrial effort and the hard-working people who helped win the war.

The Legacy of Lizzie in Sheffield

Despite the disappearance of Lizzie, the impact she had on Sheffield remained unforgettable. The city’s steel industry was essential to Britain’s munitions production during World War I, and Lizzie’s contribution proved crucial to their success. She also became a symbol of Sheffield’s welcoming nature.

Following the war, Sheffield experienced a significant influx of immigrants, but unlike other cities, it did not experience any social unrest or upheaval. In 2016, the city celebrated Lizzie’s legacy with its largest public art exhibition. This event featured 58 fiberglass elephants decorated by local artists and exhibited throughout Sheffield’s city center. The elephants were later auctioned off to support the Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Lizzie’s memory and contributions continue to positively impact Sheffield almost a century after her service.


1. Who was Lizzie the Elephant?

Lizzie the Elephant was a large, mechanical elephant that was built during World War I in Sheffield, England. She was constructed to help with the war effort by carrying heavy loads of steel and other materials around the city.

2. How did Lizzie get her name?

Lizzie was named after the wife of the owner of the construction company that built her, William Arrol. Her full name was “Lizzie Arrol,” but she was commonly referred to simply as “Lizzie.”

3. What was Lizzie’s purpose during the war?

Lizzie was used to transport heavy loads of steel and other materials around Sheffield during World War I. She played a crucial role in helping to keep the city’s factories and foundries running, despite the shortages of manpower and resources caused by the war.

4. How was Lizzie operated?

Lizzie was powered by a steam engine, which was located inside her body. Her operator would sit in a small compartment on her back and control her movements using levers and pedals.

5. What happened to Lizzie after the war?

After the war, Lizzie was used for various industrial purposes around Sheffield for several years. Eventually, she was retired and fell into disrepair. In the 1970s, a group of local residents decided to restore her and turn her into a tourist attraction.

6. Where can I see Lizzie today?

Lizzie is currently on display at the Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield. Visitors can see her up close and learn more about her fascinating history and role in Sheffield’s industrial past.

7. How big is Lizzie?

Lizzie is approximately 10 feet tall and 20 feet long. She weighs around 20 tons.

8. What makes Lizzie an important part of Sheffield’s history?

Lizzie is an important symbol of Sheffield’s industrial past and the city’s contributions to the war effort during World War I. She represents the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people of Sheffield during a difficult time in history.

9. Are there any other mechanical elephants like Lizzie?

While Lizzie is certainly one of a kind, there have been other mechanical elephants built throughout history. One of the most famous is the “Jumbo” elephant, which was built in the late 19th century and became a popular attraction in both Europe and America.

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