07 23/07/2018

Chester Zoo opens doors to founder’s historic home

The doors will open to the historic home of Chester Zoo founder George Mottershead, following a £3m refurbishment, restoration and expansion to convert The Oakfield into a pub and restaurant.

  • High quality pub and restaurant will give new visitor access to original heart of Chester Zoo
  • The Oakfield – family home of zoo founder George Mottershead – will open its doors this July
  • Launch follows £3m restoration of nineteenth century grade II listed building

Chester Zoo’s is opening up visitor access to the historic heart of the zoo and home of pioneering founder George Mottershead, with the sensitive restoration of The Oakfield. Pictured: The Oakfield in 1913, George Mottershead in the First World War, The Oakfield interior, and The Oakfield exterior. 

The major development has been primarily designed to enable more visitors than ever before to discover the inspirational grade II listed family home of Chester Zoo founder George Mottershead and his family.

Visitors will be invited to relax in the Mottershead’s former library, with carefully restored fireplace and wood panelled walls, or enjoy a meal in the rooms which were once both a family home and the functioning centre of the zoo.

The creation of a stunning new Garden Room – adjoined to the original house by glass - has been sensitively designed to complement the nineteenth century building. The Garden Room opens the building out onto the expansive Oakfield lawn.

The project brings to life the building which is at the heart of Chester Zoo’s history.

Identified by Historic England as a ‘particularly important building of more than special interest’, The Oakfield was first built as a Victorian country house in approximately 1884.

During the First World War it was used as a hospital for Belgian refugees, before George Mottershead, who had himself served in The Battle of The Somme during the First World War, bought the house in 1930 with a view to opening the first “zoo without bars” with animal welfare at its heart.

The family’s vision for the zoo has helped it to become the UK’s most visited zoo and the third best in the world according to Trip Advisor rankings.

The latest iteration of The Oakfield building continues the “always building” philosophy of the pioneering Mottershead family.

The additional revenue generated by The Oakfield will help fund even more conservation projects to protect endangered species from extinction, in line with the Mottershead family vision for the house.

Simon Lockhart, Chester Zoo’s Food and Beverage General Manager, explained:

The Oakfield is in keeping with the successful freehouses that Cheshire has to offer. We have sought to combine the best of them all to create a satisfyingly good pub with a really good menu.

The pub is as much a testament to the past as it is a vision for the future of the zoo. We have been careful to retain the original qualities of the house so it has a real home from home feeling, and the building remains a centre-piece of the zoo in its own right.

Jamie Roberts, Senior Food and Beverage Manager said:

We have really considered what our guests may want from The Oakfield, with both the design of the building and of the menus.

On a cold winter’s day, you may just wander in for a coffee and a chat with one of the team, while you warm up in front of the fire - there are five of those to choose from after all! Whereas, on a lovely, bright day you may choose instead to sit out on the terrace with a satisfying glass of wine, or head to the new garden room, where you can enjoy an appetizing lunch as you look out across the beautiful grounds.

We are busy now getting everything ready, but the really exciting part comes when we welcome people through the door. We are all very proud and passionate about The Oakfield. We want to share our love of fantastic, fresh food and great service with our guests. We hope to see you there soon!

The Oakfield will be open to visitors during core zoo opening hours. For more information, and to book tickets to Chester Zoo, visit www.chesterzoo.org.

Follow The Oakfield on social media:

Instagram: theoakfieldatcz

Twitter: @TheOakfieldatCZ

Facebook: The Oakfield at Chester Zoo

Fact file:

  • Oakfield is a Victorian country house, built in approximately 1885.
  • A smaller building on the site was originally acquired by a wealthy Liverpool tea merchant and former Lord mayor of Chester Benjamin Chafers Roberts, who built the impressive Oakfield House building, designed by Cheshire architect Edward Ould.
  • It was later designated as a Grade II listed building.
  • It was let during the First World War to Belgian refugees and was used as a hospital.
  • George Mottershead, who had himself served in The Battle of The Somme during the First World War, bought the house in 1930.
  • The house was the start of his masterplan to create the UK’s first zoo without bars, with animal welfare at its heart.
  • Chester Zoo became a conservation charity in 1934
  • The house was the administrative hub of the zoo - which expanded rapidly.
  • By the time George Mottershead, OBE, died in 1978, aged 84, his dream of a ‘zoo without bars’ was well and truly flourishing.
  • In 2014, the Mottershead family story was re-told through a major six part BBC drama series called Our Zoo.
  • Chester is now the UK’s most visited zoo and the third best in the world according to Trip Advisor rankings.

Notes to editors     

Chester Zoo

  • Chester Zoo (www.chesterzoo.org) is a registered conservation and education charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire. Welcoming 1.9 million visitors a year, it is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 21,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild
  • Chester Zoo is England’s most visited tourist attraction outside London, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)
  • Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at www.actforwildlife.org.uk
  • www.facebook.com/chesterzoo1 
  • @chesterzoo