EXPLORE THE ZOO

Explore all the great personal stories that make up our shared history of the zoo, from our opening 1930s until the present day.

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1930s
1930

I am as old as the zoo

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1930
I am as old as the zoo

I am as old as the zoo. As a child during and after the war, my brother and I visited the zoo with my parents entering by the Caughall Road entrance, coming by car. We often met Mr Mottershead, especially when we were able to hold the lion cub.

I remember the elephant and the short rides made in front of Oakfield House. I enjoyed the aquarium, the bird exhibits the chimpanzees, etc. This was a special treat to visit the zoo during the school holidays.

This interest has continued with many friends and their children being taken on a visit to the zoo and since 1987, taking my grandchildren. The changes have been fantastic and the popularity of the zoo is evident by the crowds from all over the world who come not only to see the livestock but also the marvelous gardens.

I just wanted to say thank you for a lifetime of memories…I’ve supported the zoo all my life.

By Susan Thomas

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1930

I have been coming to the zoo for over 80 years!

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1930
I have been coming to the zoo for over 80 years!

'My zoo' as it is known to my family as I have been coming for over 80 years. My father brought me when I was very small as he loved your gardens as well as the animals… When my granddaughter was born I brought her in the pram to the zoo and have continued for the last 25 years. She comes now with her friends. When she was growing up we both adopted animals: she an orangutan and I an elephant.

Your zoo is a wonderful place and growing by the years. I knew all the elephants by name and used to come to all the elephant evenings. I had my shoelaces undone by an elephant one evening. I love them.

By Mrs Audrey Coathey

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1940s
1940

Riding the elephant on our day at the Zoo

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1940
Riding the elephant on our day at the Zoo

I am 77 and have a vivid memory of riding the elephant. I remember the special steps that we used to climb up to get on board. The ride was amazing as we saw the lions. I also remember the polar bears in their enclosure. When I married in 1640 we bought a house in Little Sutton. As a result our children visited the Zoo often as it was just down the road. No rides but we remember visiting Jubilee as soon as he was outside. Thank you for the memories.

By Mrs M Wallace

Friends and family Mammals

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1950s
1950

50's memories of the zoo

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1950
50's memories of the zoo

My sister and I lived near the zoo in the 50's and we visited lots of times. We used to enjoy a ride on the elephant. We climbed on to a seat which went sideways on the elephant. We had a lovely ride. I think the name of the elephant was Mollie but can't remember the name of the keeper who used to take us around. I also remember the polar bear cub too. There were so many lovely memories I have of the zoo. Of course my children have been and also my grandchildren although I don't live near enough to visit that often anymore. I can't believe what a different Zoo it is now from when I first visited and so large. The entrance was in a different place off the by-pass. You went in through the big gates where the lodge is.

By Lorely Nash

Special Zoo Moments

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1950

Cheeky monkeys

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1950
Cheeky monkeys

In the fifties I visited the zoo several times with my family on bus trips organised by our local Sunday school or Miners Welfare In those days family cars were a rare thing so bus trips were a yearly highlight. I used to get very excited because I loved the zoo especially the elephants. On one occasion I developed a really bad headache and as Mum didn't have any aspirin she told me to ask a member of staff if we could buy any in the zoo. She told me to follow her and I found myself in the monkey house, which was horseshoe shaped, walking behind the cages! Obviously she told me to walk against the wall so I couldn't be grabbed! The inmates were just as interested in me as I was in them! I now bring my grandchildren to enjoy the zoo and am a proud adopter of the elephants. Hope to visit again soon.

By Jean Shaw

Mammals

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1950

A member since 1957!

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1950
A member since 1957!

My mother made me a member of Chester Zoo in November 1957. At this time, I used to take my young son to the zoo most days, and he got to know all about the animals. When my mother moved to Chester in 1974, she became a member, and visited the zoo frequently. She enjoyed chatting to Mr Mottershead.

She says that when her mother, May Harvey, (my granny) retired to Chester in 1974 and became a zoo member, she used to see Mr Mottershead around the zoo quite frequently. Mr Mottershead would be getting around the zoo in a mobility vehicle, and he would stop for a chat with my granny. He’d say ‘Our legs might not be so good these days, but we’re all right up here’ (tapping his head) ! My granny found Mr Mottershead very friendly and ‘down to earth’ with a lively personality, and she loved seeing him around and being able to chat so informally.

I still visit the zoo with my daughter and her three children, and we enjoy it all very much.

By Veronica Patrick

Members

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1960s
1960

The Fountain Restaurant with Mum and Dad

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1960
The Fountain Restaurant with Mum and Dad

This is me with my mum and dad. The image of my dad and I shows us on the balcony
of the Fountain Restaurant. I remember how we used to go up there for lunch where we would sit outside. The image of me with my mum at the Fountain Restaurant shows us at ground level which, looking at the bedding plants, this was taken in summer.

By Graham Bramcroft

Members

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1960

A family of members

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1960
A family of members

The Bland family have been involved in the zoo since its beginnings. We have all been life members for many years. At the opening of the new Tropical House my daughter, Christina, was in a pushchair and my son William, now 52 years, was very keen – the press photo of him was taken at the time. The photographer actually put him on the back of the giant tortoise and took a photo. The security man objected and the photographer was made to remove him and place him behind the barrier. William at the time was very disappointed as he just loved all the animals.

My family have so many happy memories of our visits and we now take family and friends whenever possible. I remember Mr Mottershead with very fond memories. I wish Chester Zoo all the very best for the future and shall continue to visit and support it as long as I can.

By Florence Bland

Members Reptiles

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2000s
2000

Chester Zoo memories

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2000
Chester Zoo memories

We’ve been talking on air at Smooth Radio about your great initiative and I thought I’d share a couple of memories with you - I’ve been going to the zoo all my life, with the family and school in the 80’s and 90’s… I worked in the Oakfield restaurant in 2001(ish) and then I produced outside broadcasts in the zoo for Dee 106.3 in 2003/4. Since 2005 we’ve been keen supporters of the zoo at Smooth Radio North West and that will continue.

I’ve attached pictures of my dad visiting with his mum in the early 60s (lion) and me with my mum in the early 80s (hippo) - Neither of us know how to look at a camera but I hope they are of use.

By Jamie Griffiths

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1970s
1970

Day at the Zoo with my big sister

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1970
Day at the Zoo with my big sister

My auntie worked for a local magazine and organised a day out at the zoo for me and my sister along with our own photographer and of course, our auntie. We were so lucky to be able to get up close to the animals although sometimes that was a bit scary when you're not much bigger than some of them! I remember being ready to leap off the wall when a camel approached me and I also remember being asked to pretend to be asleep for the last photo and that's clear from the expression on my face! Happy memories.

By Karen Gerrard

Special Zoo Moments

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1960s
1960

Memories of George Mottershead

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1960
Memories of George Mottershead

Many of the early visits to the zoo with my parents featured conversations with long standing keepers and in particular encounters with Mr Mottershead. Through the eyes of a child Mr Mottershead was almost a big an attraction as the animals himself, it would be fair to say and not a criticism but a quality that he appeared slightly eccentric, even funny to a child, always busy, always in a rush to be doing something and always running late due to his schedule and willingness to engage with people.

He seemed to love to see the awe on children’s faces when they were approached by a roaring lion and by the looks of wonder that seeing these animals for the first time meant to kids like me.

Sometimes an animal, a small primate or a parrot accompanied him. I can still picture him one day working his way around the zoo with a parrot that refused to leave his side and had been abandoned by its owners and left at the main entrance, but under his instruction the bird was still given a home.

He also had a side that was much sterner and liked to see respect for the animals living there, he had a dislike of anyone shaking fences or bars or aggravating the animals and would not compromise the zoo’s guidelines for visiting the zoo.

He was strict about no feeding the animals and would not budge on the policy regardless of who was protesting at the time. He could make you aware that you were a visitor in the animal’s home and so you should respect that accordingly.

Whilst it is delightful to speak of memories regarding Mr Mottershead, it is also only fair to speak of how proud he would have been of the modern zoo and how astonished he would have been in the progress made.

By Ian Price

Friends and family

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1970s
1970

50 years of memories

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1970
50 years of memories

My first memories of Chester Zoo take me back to my childhood in the early 1970's. One Sunday every month my dad had a Zoo Council meeting and my mum,brother and I would go with him but whilst he had his meeting we would be served breakfast in one of the front rooms at the Oakfield by Maureen Allsop, a very kind and loyal member of staff at the zoo. After breakfast we would have the run of the zoo to see all the animals for the rest of the morning. Over the years I grew to know Chester Zoo as if it were my own garden! We would drive into the zoo via the members entrance displaying a ' Zoo Council' plaque as if we were royalty.
During my lifetime I have experienced many changes in the Zoo. From the opening of the Noah water feature opened in 1977 by Lady Tollemarche to the opening of the penguin pool in 1981 by Sir Patrick Moore. Then the opening of the monorail ( which I recall had a fault on the day and was delayed!), the birth of Jubilee the baby elephant, Granada Reports filming at the zoo and more recently the official opening of the new entrance by HRH the Queen. I have had more than 50 years of happy memories at Chester Zoo and still enjoying the zoo with my own family as a life member since 1981.

By Christine Farniss

VIPs

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1970

Memories of our favourite animal!

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1970
Memories of our favourite animal!

I am sending you photos of our favourite animal in early 70s! Love visiting the zoo. Keep up the good work, especially in these difficult times. Best wishes to you all.

By Sandra Millington

Friends and family Mammals

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1970

How About Bringing 1,000s of pupils to The Zoo?

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1970
How About Bringing 1,000s of pupils to The Zoo?

From 1975 to 1998, I brought on average 130 pupils, split each time over 2 different days from Lostock Hall High School to your zoo in October of each year. The memories of doing that are still fresh in my mind; some funny, some absolutely awe-inspiring, but for most of those 1,000s of pupils their visit seemed to remain with them for years.

The awe-inspiring? My group had the honour to meet George Mottershead while visiting the zoo. Such a lovely gentleman to meet and much as I would have loved to have accepted his invitation for me to have lunch with him in his old home, then the Oakfield restaurant, he acknowledged my need to supervise my pupils. Even my pupils encouraged me at accept his invitation, but I was astute enough to know that they may have had their own agenda as to what they should do.

Their memories? I simply lost count of the number of pupils at either our valedictory dinners or later Proms or at prize-giving who related their own memories of the zoo back to me at those times. I was later to become a professional photographer and was honoured to have photographed former pupils’ weddings including to other former pupils. They too recalled their memories of their Chester Zoo visit.

My personal memories? There are so many. I will mention just a few. Firstly the enormous help I received while doing my In-service B. Ed. Degree dissertation which was about The Use of Zoos as Educational Facilities, with enormous help from your Education Officer at the time. Sorry, due to the passage of time and thus the aging of my little brain cells, I cannot recall his name but I did know that he was a former History teacher. Throughout my years of visits [and, by the way that always included during my summer holidays (who says that teacher get long holidays?)], I always did my pre-visit reccies to see if and what had changed so that I could plan my routes for the various groups and also modify my worksheet, so I was seeing the zoo at least 3 times a year. Thus I also saw that it was ever progressing, ever bringing up or in something new (and I’m not just talking about all the births, some of which happened right in front of the pupils eyes!). The one thing that was consistent though, through all my years of observation, was the knowledge and dedication of your zoo staff, and I don’t just mean your keepers. You were like one big, happy family, all dedicated to both your cause and in memory of the cause that the great man George Mottershead started with his overriding motto of ‘A zoo Without Bars’. May I add my own motto? A Zoo Without Comparison.

Kind regards and Happy 90th Birthday to you all for next year!

By Neil Swindlehurst

Friends and family

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1970

Grandad, Mum, Guy and I

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1970
Grandad, Mum, Guy and I

I was six and my Mums family were all from the Nantwich area. Mum was born in Shavington near where the Mottersheads lived. I remember my brother Guy and I visiting Chester Zoo for the first time and being totally amazed. My face ached from smiling at all the wondrous animals I had only experienced in books or Jonny Morris programmes.

A glorious sunny day holding my Mum's hand and chattering ten to the dozen to Grandad who was an encyclopedia of knowledge. I specifically remember the orangutans, ice cream and coming home with a little blue bird on a branch which I adored and kept for so long. I now live in Hong Kong but every summer we visit family and go to Chester zoo with my two children Jessica and Aidan. Jessica has just adopted a tiger so we are especially excited to return. Chester Zoo will always be in our hearts and memories.

Thank you.

By A friend of the Zoo

Friends and family Mammals

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1980s
1980

When I grow up, I want to be...

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1980
When I grow up, I want to be...

This was my first visit to the zoo shop. Little did I know I would end up working at Chester Zoo in retail!

By Alison Brooks

Staff

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1980

Boxing Day at the Zoo

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1980
Boxing Day at the Zoo

We have been members for many years and sometime in the mid 1980s when our boys were very young we decided to make the trip on Boxing Day for a visit - a sixty mile round trip from the St Helens area. It was sleeting outside but we thought what the heck let's go anyway. TV was rubbish and the lads were bored at home despite their new presents. We arrived at the old car park on the Caughall Road side of the zoo mid morning. The car park was deserted apart from one car and by this time the snow was falling heavily. As we went in the man on the kiosk expressed surprise - 'not many here today' he said.

We had the time of our life and we barely saw a soul that day. The zoo looked magical in the snow and it felt as though we were in our own wildlife park. We understandably lingered a long time in the old bird house (where the Komodo Dragons now live) and the Tropical House in order to warm up, but the lads didn't seem to feel the cold as much as my wife and I. The journey home afterwards was slow in the worsening conditions but it been a truly wonderful trip and well worth the effort.

By David Breeze

Friends and family

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1980

Our Adoption!

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1980
Our Adoption!

In 1981 my husband and I had a very special day!

We went to the court room in Chester and legally adopted our son Darren. We had asked him what he wanted to do afterwards and his request was a visit to Chester Zoo!! We had lunch there and a lovely walk round . His favourite animals were the penguins!

We went home and had a wonderful party with family and friends.
Chester Zoo holds a very special place in our memories!

By Penny Allen

Friends and family Birds

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1980

A Chester Zoo memory

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1980
A Chester Zoo memory

A pivotal date in the life of Chester Zoo was 3rd April 1986 when an Extraordinary General Meeting was held at the Chester City Hall. At the time the zoo was running into serious financial difficulties. The end result of this E.G.M. was that those of us who had called for it to be held, were elected at the next meeting to the Zoo Council, myself included.

I took on the role of Chairman of the Development Committee, though at first there was little or no money allocated to this section! However, it did not stop us from looking to the future. A particular idea that I held was that as the zoo had its entrance in the wrong place, that long term this would have to be changed, for the benefit of the zoo and the residents of Caughall Road – who had suffered from the massive increase in traffic over the years.

Recently, wearing another hat as a Local Government Councillor, I had been the Chairman of the Cheshire Association of District Councils, and had the benefit of knowing many Councillors and Chief Executives of the eight districts. More particularly Chester City Council where Dennis Burton was then the Chief Exec. In discussions with him, I had learned that Chester was looking for possible sites for new ‘Park and Rides’. It also turned out that he had never met Michael Brambell, the zoo’s Chief Exec. I thought it was high time that they should meet and arranged for them to contact each other. - negotiations commenced.

The rest, as they say, is history and the result after some major building works, and a fair amount of disruption, has produced what you see today, to the benefit of both the zoo, you as visitors, and the residents of Caughall Road and Upton.

My only deepest regret has been that, due to prebooked commitments I was unable to attend at the official opening by H.M The Queen.

By Nicholas Wilson

Members

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1980

Hand-rearing zoo animals

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1980
Hand-rearing zoo animals

When I was asked if I would be prepared to take on the hand-rearing of one of the zoo's unusual Coleto Mynahs, I knew that I was in for a time of hard work. Afterwards, I could happily say that it was worth it.Gary, as he was named, was a real character. When he arrived in my office, he was six days old and he weighed a mere 16 grams, was the size of a walnut and completely bald. I couldn't describe him as beautiful, interesting is a better way of putting it, however he imposed his will on office life in an uncanny way.I remember him growning, gaining weight and becoming fully feathered - apart from the completely bald patches which remained around his eyes. The Coleto Mynah is a native of the Philippine and Sulu Islands. The adult pair we had in 1987 managed to rear one chick from several broods and, having failed with their first two clutches it was decided that we'd attempt to hand-rear the one chick of the third clutch. Hence the arrival of Gary into office life. Initially, he required feeding a small amount every 15 to 20 minutes, from 7am to 11pm. It was fascinating to watch his tiny feathers grow and develop and, once his eyes opened at around ten days after I received him, he grew in leaps and bounds.After about four weeks, he started to feed himself, although this was rather haphazard at first. He learnt to pick things up, and proudly scattered paper and pencils all over the room. He chattered away happily to himself all day long, and used to divefrom wherever he was perching to land on the head of anyone entering the room.Taken from 'Chez Nous' - 1987Photo credit: Chris Vere

By Penny Rudd

Staff Birds

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