NZ100 Newquay Zoo 2069

Penguin Kids Club predictions of NZ100 20169

This is a brilliant and inventive set of ideas of how Newquay Zoo and its surrounding area may change by its 100th Birthday in May 2069.

It was written by members of our children’s club “Penguin Club” in 2004 for our 35th Birthday Time Capsule. A copy is included in this 2004 Newquay Zoo Time Capsule, buried on the woodland slope near our Dragon Maze.

This document has been released from our Newquay Zoo Archive as part of the countdown towards NZ50, our 50th Anniversary in May 2019. Watch this space and the Newquay Zoo website  for more details

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, 26 May 2019 (Newquay Zoo’s 49th Birthday).


Before Newquay Zoo (B.N.Z.)

It’s Newquay Zoo’s 49th Birthday on Sunday May 26 1969 / 2018 and the start of the twelve month countdown to our NZ50 50th anniversary celebrations in May 2019.

Talk to historians and there are dates in B.C., there are dates ending in  A.D. and other versions. Round here we ought to talk about B.N.Z. Before Newquay Zoo (which meant our zoo history started roughly around 1969). Add to this BITD Back in the Day and TW Time was and you are a proper historian!

Time was there was a small children’s zoo in Newquay before our 1969 Newquay Zoo site.

There is very little known about the ‘first’ Newquay ‘Zoo’, a children’s petting zoo over in the Rose Gardens section of Trenance Gardens, just over the road from the zoo today.

It operated as far as we know only in the summer, the animals returning in winter to Exmouth Zoo. It existed from probably the late 1950s through to 1968/9, when a separate permanent zoo (us!) was built by Newquay Urban District Council.


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Ken Smith 


This first zoo was built by Charles Trevisick who ran the long-vanished Ilfracombe Zoo, it was  taken over and run by West Country zoo man Ken Smith of Exmouth and Shaldon Zoo.


Charles Trevisick


Charles Trevisick featured Newquay Childrens’ Zoo on only one page of his autobiography My Home Is A Zoo.


Charles Trevisick’s fleeting mention of his Newquay Zoo and its animals.


This seasonal ‘zoo’ was staffed in its latter years by the late Peter Lowe (formerly of Chester Zoo) who went on to become the designer and curator of our existing zoo.

Peter  Lowe had technical support from T.D. (Tom) Hurley, the Borough Engineer for Newquay Urban District Council and advice from Chester Zoo founder George Mottershead (whose life story was recently told in BBC series ‘Our Zoo’). We wrote about Peter and George’s working relationship here:
ken smith

Information on this first Newquay Children’s Zoo is pretty scarce.

Russell Tofts’ excellent book on Ken Smith, Animals in the Blood: The Ken Smith Story, subtitled “A Biography of Gerald Durrell’s Right-Hand Man” was published in April 2012. It has a precious couple of paragraphs about this first Newquay Children’s Zoo.

You can buy the book through the Bartlett Society  at

Charles Trevisick set up the Newquay Children’s Zoo over in the Rose Gardens area of Trenance Gardens in Newquay, a few minutes walk from our current site,  probably in the late 1950s.

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So Ken Smith took over the running and ownership of Newquay Children’s Zoo in its final years , 1966 / 1967. We gain a few clues as to what this first zoo looked like:

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Extracts From Russell Toft’s book Animals in The Blood (2012)

This mention of a Hyacinthine Macaw by Mike Curzon, a well known zoo curator bird keeper,  is interesting, as one is pictured in our zoo section of a Newquay tourism guide of the time. They were pretty rare birds in zoos then and no record exists in the patchy Newquay Zoo index cards for macaws, parrots and other birds covering 1969-1976. This lack of a zoo record card suggest this valuable  bird probably never transferred to Newquay Zoo and may have returned to Ken Smith when Newquay Children’s Zoo closed down c. 1969.


1972 guide to Newquay – macaws, bikinis and golden sands.



This bird is still listed as Endangered and part of an organised breeding programme in many zoos. Hyacinth macaw numbers are in decline as a result of habitat loss and over-collection for the illegal pet trade.  It is estimated that at least 10,000 birds were taken from the wild in the 1980s:


1969 Nz parrot
The same photo from the 1972-3 guide but cropped or white out of the trellis background – to look more like Newquay Zoo?


Anyone recognise any of the people in these photos? Please let us know via the comments.

Current Newquay Zoo bird keeper Gary Ward and Curator John Meek  checked the photo, used in several publications into The Newquay Zoo period (stock Newquay tourism colour photo?) and conformed that it is a Hyacinthine Macaw.
early Newquay Zoo animals.png
The leafy tree and white trellis background is also interesting. Roger Williams, our longest serving Newquay Zoo Keeper on and off since about 1970 didn’t recognise any of the people but thought that this may have been taken at the original Children’s Zoo in the Trenance Gardens as a publicity shot of some of the animals (monkey, macaw, rabbit).

1969 tropical house

Alternatively, the white trellis might be part of the original monkey walk, still preserved in the structure of our Nocturnal House.

Who knows? This colour picture with the Hyacinth Macaw may be currently our only picture of the original Newquay Children’s Zoo in the 1960s. 

More on the first Newquay Children’s Zoo from Russell Tofts:

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This passage by Russell Tofts suggests that the Newquay Children’s Zoo project was coming to a close. Russell Tofts mentions ‘council apathy’ towards its offspring and changing councillors.

Since the book was written in 2012, we now have some of Peter Lowe’s letters to George Mottershead at Chester Zoo (from the Chester Zoo archive) from about this time period as Peter prepared to take over the setting up of the new Council built Zoo. (we’ll publish these in a future blogpost) It seems that supportive councillors like Councillor ‘Jimmy’ J. Rogers  had seen the possibilities for a permanent zoo and so had switched their interest and attention to this.


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A seasonal collection: Trudy Smith mentioned (here) was Ken Smith’s wife.


Trenance Gardens Today

Nothing remains of the first Newquay Children’s Zoo at the Rose Gardens site. Strolling up to Cheski’s wedding last month in May 2018,  I photographed the lovely gardens on a Spring evening.



Newquay Zoo is now the other side of the Railway Viaduct, always a good locator point on old photos. Trenance Gardens, Tolcarne Brick Seat 2018






1906 – the Birth of the leisure gardens at Trenance Gardens that would one day lead to a zoo …


trenance gardens 1910s 1920s
1910s / 1920s Trenance Gardens , Trenance Valley scene (Homeland Guidebook)





Rose Garden Plan – what it will look like in Summer!


Where the First Newquay Children’s Zoo may have been, the trellis of the current Rose Gardens Trenance Gardens April 2018.
The Rose Gardens over winter April 2018

The Tolcarne Brick Seat has an interesting link to the current Newquay Zoo – it is the site of our African Savanna field, opened in 2009, was formerly a school playing field known as Little Wembley. It was built across a former brickworks, Tolcarne Brickwortks, whose distinctively marked bricks make up not only many local houses but also the Tolcarne brick seat in Trenance Gardens (lovely local touch this!)

tolcarne brick (brick website)

Tolcarne brick from the Brick research website

The Tolcarne seat is mentioned in Newquay Discovery Trail panel outside the zoo



You can see more of this fabulous map online:




The leisure activity in this area of Newquay seems to have grown from the founding of the Trenance Gardens in 1906 and the Trenance Bowling Club  (founded in 1916).


newquay Guide 1952
Once Tolcarne Brickworks: The zoo’s Savanna fields lie beyond the Bowling Green,  Newquay Town Guide 1952


We have a few glimpses of the Newquay Zoo site in its days as a farm and brickworks.

The Savanna field like much of the zoo appears to be brick clay, puddling easily and good for animal hoofmarks, not so good for hoof-care without drainage and hard standings.


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Fields as far as you could see: 1936 Newquay Guide – beyond Trenance Bowling Club, the far fields surrounding the 1969 built zoo can be seen, where our Bison roamed briefly (1969-1973) and crazy golf is still played.


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1936 Newquay Guide. The farm fields beyond the tennis courts and Bowling green, farmland that would one day be the various attractions of Trenance Leisure Gardens (mini Railway, crazy golf and zoo) .

Probably the best glimpse that we get is the photograph taken from the Viaduct by former Council head gardener Ernie Littlefield  about 1968:


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Ernie Littlefield’s view of the zoo in 1968 whilst it was almost open fields with the mini Little Western Railway already in place. The Bowling Green is off to the left. The bear pit is taking shape. (Newquay Zoo Archive)

Compare this photo to Ernie Littlefield’s May 26, 1969 Opening Day photograph:


Opening Day
Opening Day, May 26, 1969. Photo by Ernie Littlefield / Newquay Zoo Archive.

So there you go, the long and the short of it, the Back in the Day,  B.N.Z Before Newquay Zoo.

Completing the Before Newquay Zoo trip back in time … glimpsed on my walk past the Rose Gardens, once home to the first Newquay Children’s Zoo, I walked aong the Gannel River, past Trethellan Farm field, prehistoric housing.






A few minutes walk from Newquay Zoo and Trenance Gardens – Trethellan Farm prehistopric site, Gannel Estuary (and Newquay Rocks painted pebble c. 2018)



A possible prehistoric worked flint tuned up in the zoo flowerbeds back in 2003, spotted by zoo visitor Mike Solomon.


Worked flint from our schools display case of fossils – found 31 March 2003 by Mike Solomon, Newquay Zoo.


Strange to think that people have been visiting Newquay and living here for thousands of years, sometimes to watch animals … and occasionally hunt them for meat and fur. The threat to many of our rare animals today – an oddly full circle place to end our 49th Birthday blogpost.

Happy Birthday Newquay Zoo, 49 years old on Whitsun / Sunday the 26 May 2018.

Watch this blog post and the Newquay Zoo website for details of our 50th birthday in May 2019 .

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 24-26 May 2018












Newquay Zoo Wedding 2018

Congratulations to long serving Newquay Zoo Keeper Mark Tomaszewski  (‘Cheski’) on his marriage to Claire Organ.

Cheski joined us as a Keeper in our Council Zoo days c. 1982/3.

Claire is a former Newquay Zoo staff member and volunteer, early member of   Penguin Club c. 1990s and one of the first cohort of Cornwall College Newquay students when it opened in 2000.

I dug out a couple of younger pictures of Cheski and Claire from our Zoo Archive:

Claire Organ bugs 1999
Claire Organ at a Newquay Zoo Bugs event c. 1998-2000


photos MN Claire Organ Mike Kent 2001
Cornish Guardian photos January 2001



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Cheski pictured in Mike Thomas’ zoo memoir, Strange Things Happened On My Way to The Zoo.


Cheski (centre stage) in the “keepers choir” (Christmas 2001?) Newquay Zoo.

Our very best wishes from all the Newquay Zoo staff past and present on your wedding and your future happiness!

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 26 April 2018




A trio of Newquay Zoo Postcards and Record Cards 1970s


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Newquay Zoo African Lion Record Card (Newquay Zoo Archive)
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African Lions (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ1)

I recently picked up a trio of vintage postcards of early 1970s Newquay Zoo animals. These are postcards printed using photos from the eventual 1970s / 80s Guidebook. Most of the Newquay Zoo postcards that I have found are also doubled up in the Zoo Guidebook.

How do these link in with our other records of our early animal inhabitants?

African Lions

We still have African Lions at Newquay Zoo (2018). Our first two Newquay Zoo lions  moved in 1969 into what has now become the site of our new Gems of the Jungle aviary, before the Lion House was built c. 1970/1.

According to long serving Keeper Roger Williams, our first lions  were known as Queenie and Charlie.

This new / old 1970 Lion House building housed  Pumas in the 1990s, then Fossas from 2003-2017.

Now almost 50 years old, it will soon be taken down (April / May 2018)  pending further use. Before it comes down, I have photographed it as I did for the old Puma / Leopard House / Aviary that became Gems of the Jungle. I have also roughly measured it as well, dens and all! This will feature in a future blogpost.

From the Record card,  it appears Queenie and Charlie were presented by Bristol Zoo (i.e. like animal transfers today, no money changed hands). These may have been older animals as in March 1973 the male (Charlie?) died of radial (limb) paralysis.

A new four year old Lion male and female arrived from the now closed Sherwood Zoo  (1968 – 1976) for £500 a pair.

Very briefly for a few months we had three lions, the elderly female (Queenie?) passing away in January 1974.

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A Lion featured with a Scarlet Macaw on the front of our 1970s guidebook.

A forthcoming blog post will try to set out as clear a timeline of our Newquay Zoo Lions as best I can research.

NZ Chinese leopard record card 1969
Chinese Leopards Record card (Newquay Zoo Archive)

Chinese Leopards

Our pair of Chinese leopards were bought in  May 1969 from London Zoo ‘surplus’ livestock for 180 guineas a pair. This was all “back in the day” before cooperative breeding programmes for endangered species were widely in place between zoos, such as we have today. The leopards were soon replaced in 1973 by Pumas, after the female leopard was euthanized.

Where South-East Asian birds now stroll and fly in our new walk-through Gems of the Jungle,  Chinese Leopards once prowled and growled (next door for a short time to Lions, then Pumas).

It is not recorded  which sub-species of Chinese Leopard our  pair were.  Chinese Leopards today are increasingly threatened (Vulnerable IUCN Red Data List) by habitat loss and hunting.

We have a modern copy of a back-dated ZIMS record from London Zoo which suggests that Cleo the female (LON 7 or 0080, b. Oct 1968) and male (b. 1968 LON 7 0079) left London Zoo on 2 May 1969 and may have been brother and sister,  who arrived here very young. It may explain why they did not (thankfully!) breed. Assuming of course that the ZSL London Zoo sire and dam record is correct.

The female Chinese Leopard (Cleo?) died or was euthanized on 3rd  May 1973.

Talking to Roger Williams and Mark ‘Cheski’ Tomaszweski, she may have had a form of cancer or Feline Leukaemia. No cause of death is given on our record card, very different from the extensive medical records and post-mortem information gained today from an animal’s life and death.

The remaining male Chinese Leopard was sold or exchanged for four Pumas ( 1 male / three females) with Ravensden Zoo (c. 16 -18th August 1973). This was obviously the exchange rate as no money transaction is recorded. Roger Williams thinks the male Chinese Leopard may have been called Raj.

One Chinese Leopard equals four Pumas!

Ravensden Zoo Company was once a well known animal commercial ‘exchange venue’ or ‘clearing house’ between zoos for ‘surplus’ livestock from about 1961  onwards (Ravensden Zoological Co / Ltd closed c. 2000?).

The four Pumas of 1973 were housed on both sides of this house from 1973, the Lions having moved out. The male Puma having proved an awkward male, you could separate him off using the dens and two sides of the enclosure.

Later in the mid 1990s three new pumas Shane, Tina and Jethro arrived from other closed zoos like Haigh Mini Zoo in Wigan.  They went into the old 1970 Lion house whilst we fundraised for the Puma House (which now houses Lynx). I hope you’re following all this change!

chinese leopard and bear PC 1970s
Chinese Leopards and Himalayan Bears (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ3)

Himalayan or Asiatic Black Bears

bear record card

The whole story of the Himalayan bears arriving from a pub named the Bear in  Hodnet, Shropshire will feature in a forthcoming blogpost. A fascinating story that Keeper Roger Williams remembers well.

Himalayan or Asiatic black bears (Selenarctos thibetanus) are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red Data list. Their endangered status is mostly due to habitat loss and the Asian bear parts and bile trade

Chatting to long serving Keepers Roger Williams and Mark Tomaszewski, Three of these first four bears were called Chunky, Jemima and young Marion (who died 1982/3). One of these four, a female bear arrived from Bideford  after the short-lived Bideford Zoo closed (opened 29 May 1966 – closed 17 Oct 1970).

After the brief information on the record card, we only have a post-mortem record for Chunky. I remember the last of these, a partially-sighted old female called Chunky,  who passed away from old age / euthanized c. January 1995.

Chunky is not the kindest of names for a lady bear! Bears could once freely be fed peanuts or fruit by the public, according to the 1969 Guide and Map. No more – this was obviously in the days before today’s strict nutritionally balanced diets.

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You may feed the Bears … but not with dangerous plastic bags. Newquay Zoo Guide Map 1969. Interesting it says “Open all the Year Round”??


Californian Sealions

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Each Newquay card had a code or ref number SNZ2

Californian Sea lions Zalophus californianus are currently Least Concern on the IUCN Red Data List.

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Californian Sealions Newquay Zoo early 1970s (Cotman / Jarrold postcard SNZ2)

sealions record card

Two female Sea Lions arrived in June 1969 from Tysley Pet stores in Birmingham, the month after the zoo opened. A pair of females cost £350 pound shillings and pence (LSD / or guineas) in 1969. A male Californian sealion  joined them in March 1971 from Ravensden Zoological Company for £175, obviously the same going rate for Californian Sealions at the time, even after decimal currency was launched mid  February 1971.

No successful breeding is recorded by the time the male sealion died in October 1975.

Where did the female Sealions go? I don’t currently know. These record cards only last into the mid 1970s and we have a bit of a records gap from then on into the 1980s.

The Californian Sealions eventually passed or moved away and the pool became home for a time to remote control model boats (!) from the early 1980s until it became a Humboldt Penguin Pool again, as it has been for at least the last 25 to 30 Years.

Roger and Mark think at some point a species of seal may have briefly been in residence, before penguins.  Where the Penguins lived in 1969 before their pool was built in the early 1970s  (currently home to Meerkats) is  unclear at present. That is another story …


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Newquay Zoo 1969 Guide and Map showing where Sealions and Lions and Bears (Oh my!) were once housed.


There is a great picture of Norman Marshall the Head Keeper working with sealions , an archive photo loaned by Mrs. Marshall.

Norman Marshall sealions Marshall family pic
Norman Marshall Head Keeper 1970s with Sealions (Scanned photograph in Newquay Archive on loan from the Marshall family)

This baccy tin is obviously a very early form of sealion enrichment and training!

The Californian Sealion in their 1970s / 80s guidebook description is rather grandly  “ranked amongst the most attractive of  Zoo exhibits”. 

As you can see, c. 1969 Guide leaflet and map, there were three sea lion feeds2.45, 3.45. 4.45 – obviously a popular event. Bears (3pm) and Leopards (3.15pm) were also daily public feeds except Leopard starve day on Friday.


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1969 Guide Book and Map – Feeding times. Some of these photos are borrowed from Chester and Colchester Zoo


Here are the Guide book listings from the 1970s / 1980s zoo guide, using the same postcard pictures:


Some of our early Bears from the 1970s guidebook.



Interesting how little information is mentioned about ‘Conservation’, in fact this would wait until the Newquay Zoo Children’s Zoo Guide of 1989 and our 1996 Guide Book.

Another nugget of Newquay Zoo history trivia!

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, April 2018.


Animal Adoption c. 1995

1995 Animal Adoption NZ

1996 Animal Adoption NZ 2

Adoption leaflet 1994/5 An early slogan “Help us Help the Animals of the World” for Newquay Animal World, before its return to its Newquay Zoo name c. 1996/7

This is a great reminder of the names of past animals and of past species we used to work with.

Today in 2018 we still offer adoption packages for some of the same species (meerkats, sloths) and slightly different animals such as Red Pandas

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 1 March 2018

Cornish Animal Name Trail 2003 and Cornish National Piskey Reserve at Newquay Zoo


Repost of our 5 March (St Piran’s Day) blog post from 2017 about our 2003 Cornish Animal Names Trail and Piskey Reserve.

Happy St. Pirans Day or Gool Peran Lowen!



dragon maze 1991 year of the maze
A Cornish dragon – 1991 map of our 1983 hedge maze – still standing but time has changed the route through slowly!  Blogpost on our maze due shortly…

Blog posted by Mark Norris, (proudly quarter Cornish on my Granny’s side!) Newquay Zoo Archive, St. Piran’s Day, 5th March 2018.


Newquay Zoo Vans


We’ve had some bashed zoo vans in the past but nothing as dinky or as elegant as these two.

Classic Cars Newquay Zoo logo van

I picked these up secondhand as part of my Newquay Zoo memorabilia. I have no idea whether these were ever sold in the Newquay Zoo shop.

One of these is mentioned as a “Code 3 not finished by the Manufacture” so whether this model is an special edition or not, I do not know.

Both vans feature our old zoo logos, the Classic Cars one with the logo used before 2003 and then the newer zebra logo from 2003/4 onwards.


Attractively packaged Lledo Newquay Zoo van

I have driven a few of the zoo vehicles over many years.

We have featured our full size Newquay Zoo vans once on a blogpost before

and this 2012 zoo website story (a past marketing story) about design wrapping our zoo van inspiring a local taxi firm.


Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive 28 February 2018.