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1930's

One of the first members of staff

By Lynne Collins

The zoo was our life and our family. I was born in a zoo house which was minutes from the staff and zoo entrance. If you lived there you could hear the sealions and lions so it is part of your everyday life and who you are.

My dad, Charlie Collins, was one of the first members of staff to work at Chester Zoo. George Mottershead gave Dad work from the children’s home he'd been living in and Albert, George’s father, took him under his wing initially. In those days I guess everyone did everything and after dad helped build the first reptile house he looked after what reptiles they had.

Then Dad's building skills were developed and used fully. There's still sandstone walls with his signature mortar work around, but not so many now. We definitely know Dad was involved with the reptile house, tropical, giraffe, apes, elephant, primates, Lecture theatre, cafe's etc. right up till they brought in the first external contractors to build the 'new' penguin enclosure, it made me laugh at the time that they asked dad to build the one bit of sandstone wall which held the plaque.

The zoo was and, I guess, still is a family. Mum, my sister and I also worked there in various guises over the years.

See more: Friends and family, Mottershead Family, Staff