Picturing the building of Newquay Zoo 1969 then and now

1969 then and now lake road 2
Newquay Zoo Lake Road Then and Now 1969 /2016 – black and white photo Ernie Littlefield, colour photo Mark Norris
1969 then and now tropical house 2
Newquay Zoo then and now photos Tropical House and Monkey Walk then 1969 (Ernie Littlefield), now 2016 colour Mark Norris.


Ernie Littlefield was the Parks Superintendent for Newquay Urban District Council in the 1960s and 1970s, so effectively Newquay Zoo’s first head gardener.

Ernie  also cared for the Trenance Gardens and Rose Gardens around the famous Trenance Boating lake. This was the area where the first fledgling ‘Newquay Children’s Zoo‘ was created by Charles Trevisick and Ken Smith in the late 1950s / early 1960s until Newquay Zoo was built on its present site in 1968/69. For more details of this period  see our Wikipedia timeline and future blogposts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newquay_Zoo

Taken over near our Lake Road and Maze end of the zoo:  Mud and more mud as the zoo site develops 1968 / 1969 Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

Black and white photos are all  courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo collection.

Ernie and his team of gardeners laid out the formal planting of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69.

Long after Ernie’s retirement, one of his 1968 young trainee gardeners Michael (or Mike) Perry was still caring for it until his retirement in the late 1990s.

Now retired, Michael Perry was one of life’s gentlemen and a gentle gardener,  who remembered Ernie kindly as a hard task master but an excellent teacher with very, very high standards.

1999 30 birthday Littlefield
92 year old ‘Head Gardener’ Ernie Littlefield returns to the Zoo he planted in 1969 for our 30th birthday hosted by our then Zoo Director Mike Thomas  (from the Newquay Zoo press cuttings c. 26 May 1999)


I was fortunate enough to meet Ernie Littlefield (but sadly only the once) when he returned to Newquay Zoo in 1999 on our 30th birthday to cut our birthday cake and review how his planting was faring 30 years on.

“When I first visited the site it was uninteresting meadows with a whole lot of diseased elm trees … Now visitors have a lovely show.” Ernie Littlefield, 1999

Newquay Zoo Opening Day May 26 1969 photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield


I knew of Ernie Littlefield as gardener through the planting around me at the Zoo. I knew of Ernie’s other passion through his son  John Littlefield who ran the beautifully landscaped Pitch and Putt golf course opposite the Zoo entrance (where our Bison used to roam in the 1970s, but that’s another story).

Ernie’s other passion was photography, photographing the zoo in black and white as it was built in 1968/69.  Strangely photography was a passion that Michael Perry, cheerfully recording the changing zoo and its staff into the 1990s. (His zoo collection is now in private hands in Newquay).

ACE engineering staff putting mesh on our vanished Walk Through Aviary, Newquay Zoo 1969 – the Newquay gasometer at Trocadero has also gone. Photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo


1969 then and now walkthrough aviary 2016 gems
Building the new ‘Gems’ walkthrough aviary 47 years on just to the side of the old aviary, Gems of the Jungle site, Newquay Zoo May 2016.



1969 then and now walkthrough aviary
From within one old former walkthrough aviary to the modern version – Gems of the Jungle – under construction Newquay Zoo May 2016. Photo Mark Norris.


Some of the old photographs are interesting as we rebuild modern versions of original enclosures for modern zoo uses.

A  few yards from the old 1969 Walk Through Aviary is the site of the old 1969  leopard / puma and later macaw aviary,  demolished last year to make way for the new Gems of the Jungle walkthrough aviary opening later this year, home to colourful endangered Asian songbirds.

1969 walkthrough aviary alex charity .jpg
The ‘old’ Walkthrough Aviary 1969 when new, Newquay Zoo (now dismantled and nicknamed the Secret Garden). Keeper probably Alex Charity. Photograph: Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo Collection.

It’s been a muddy winter to build through, so nothing has changed much since 1969.

Here are some more of Ernie Littlefield’s photos of the zoo being built in winter 1968 and spring 1969:

Edging enclosures at Newquay Zoo – possibly the central deer area?  1969 Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.


1969 then and now deer paddock
The same edging can still be seen today around the central deer area, now with the world’s rarest deer the Prince Alfred’s Spotted Deer from the Visayan islands of the Philippines. Photo Mark Norris.

1969 then and now deer paddock 2


Looking down the Lake Road towards the Zoo Entrance and railway viaduct Newquay Zoo  May 1969.  Photo Courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

1969 then and now lake road

1969 then and now lake road 2

The Railway Viaduct is a great help in working out where some photographs were taken from.


littlefieldtrophouseWho is that happy child? The original one storey Tropical House, original Monkey Walk and Children’s Zoo, Newquay Zoo 1969.These tiny saplings are now great trees. Photo courtesy of Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo.

1969 then and now tropical house 2

The scene as it is today 2016, from tiny saplings to giant trees …


zoo70scafeThe Zoological Café as it was then known. A colour tourism guide photograph (early 1970s) of Ernie Littlefield’s planting around the  original Zoo / Trenance Gardens café, Newquay Zoo. Parking by the tennis courts can just be glimpsed.

Happy 47th Birthday Newquay Zoo for 26 May 2016.

Look out for more random photos and items each month for our archive as we work towards our 50th anniversary on May 26 2019.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History Blog, May 2016




Author: worldwarzoogardener1939

World war zoo gardener and zoo educator at Newquay Zoo Cornwall UK

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