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1931

The zoo officially opens

By Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo opened officially on 10th June. It was staffed almost entirely by the Mottershead family. George was Director-Secretary, his wife Elizabeth dealt with the catering and Muriel their daughter was the Zoo’s first curator. June, their younger daughter, was still too young to do very much but as soon as she could she joined in with the rest of the family in helping keep the zoo going.

George's father, Albert, took charge of the greenhouses and gardens as he had a horticultural background and Lucy, George's mother, staffed the zoo’s first entrance and pay booth, which was little more than a wooden shed. When the zoo first opened, there were so few visitors that they would have to ring a bell to summon Lucy from the lodge to take their money – one shilling for adults and sixpence for children.

Those first years were very difficult financially and as the animal collection grew, new enclosures were built with whatever came to hand. As the zoo grew, so too did the visitor numbers but it would be another ten years before the zoo started to make a surplus. Little did the family know that the nine acres of land that the zoo currently sat on would eventually expand to over 100 acres!

"As a guide, philosopher and friend, Mr Mottershead is a host himself, and he always will be delighted to give visitors a description of the habits of the birds and animals he has brought together in surroundings that are ideal." - Chester Observer, June 1931

See more: Mottershead Family, Special Zoo Moments