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Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester

673 of 1170 nominations


Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester

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Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester

Founded by Cheshire entrepreneur John Jennison, the Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester began life in May 1837, when the attractions included a large number of birds and animals. At this early stage, the animals were the distinctly unexotic likes of rabbits, goats, dogs and a fox. A decade later, and visitors could see monkeys, armadillos, wild cats and a bear. Despite being officially called Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue offered so much more, including a boating lake, a circus and even horse racing.

Redevelopment during the 20th century brought many revolutionary new designs for animal houses. An outdoor gibbon enclosure, a raccoon pit, and a rhino pen constructed from stone left over after the demolition of the old city jail were among the new features introduced. Belle Vue was eventually overshadowed by Chester Zoo, amid concerns that surrounding an animal park with a funfair and firework displays wasn’t best animal-welfare practice. It closed its gates on 11 September 1977, but lives on in the memories of many.


Your comments

Although now defunct, Belle Vue Zoo Park existed for almost 150 years, housed the best animal collection outside London, was home to the fastest roller coaster in the World (The Bobs) and contained the Kings Hall, regarded as the most desirable concert venue in the provinces.

Christopher Kilcourse

Of course Belle Vue Zoological Gardens had its faults as most zoos still do. I was a keeper there in the late 50s and it was a very, very special place. How many people can say of any job that every single day was magic? Mine truly were.
Dave Marsh

I used to visit Belle Vue as a child in the 1950's - I think there used to be a special train organised from Crewe once a year. I also visited in the 1960's and saw a flea circus. My grown up children are convinced that I am "making that up" but I distinctly remember watching performing fleas, walking a tightrope and pulling a chariot, through a large magnifying glass! Happy Days.
David Claridge

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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer