Connie, one of our longest serving volunteers, recently dropped in a handful of ‘snappy snaps’ as part of our NZ50 Anniversary request for photographs of the changing zoo over the last 50 years.
Her extended family having worked in various staff roles at Newquay Zoo, Connie basically grew up here!
These are pre-digital camera snaps, old school camera film and prints. Like many of my snappy snaps, they are occasionally a bit blurry, but nonetheless valuable for the glimpses that they give of Newquay Zoo in its 30th-something years (built 1969), when it was privately run by Mike Thomas and team (1993-2003).
That was Then, This is Now!
On a bright sunny morning in July 2018 before visitors arrived, I walked around Newquay Zoo trying to locate and photograph the scenes that Connie had photographed. This was not so easy in some areas, especially with two more decades of jungly exotic plant growth.
Connie’s photos (featured here) start from around 1999 / 2000 and up until the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust took over in August 2003, when Mike Thomas retired.
Our 1987 Tropical House is shown in its original simple light green wall background, looking through big windows into the Village Farm area.
Lake islands have long provided safe homes for many of our primates such as Lemurs and Tamarins.
Sometimes it was harder to work out where Connie’s photograph was taken from, such as in the Oriental Garden. The steep stone steps and stonework of the original Japanese Water Garden can be glimpsed in the background of her photograph. These have now gone and the whole area is more accessible.
The free-ranging Wallabies and Patagonian Cavy or Mara were very popular with visitors, much less so with our zoo gardeners. Now these roaming herbivores have moved on, the exotic planting has survived much better and Newquay Zoo is much more jungly. Funny coincidence that.
Connie’s final photograph shows the Newquay Carnival in 1999.
The Newquay Carnival still takes place in late June / early July. Sometimes we head up from Newquay Zoo to join the parade during a busy summer and sometimes not.
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.
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 featured Newquay Childrens’ Zoo on only one page of his autobiography My Home Is A Zoo.
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: https://wordpress.com/post/worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/10699
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:http://www.arkive.org/hyacinth-macaw/anodorhynchus-hyacinthinus/
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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!)
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).
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.
Probably the best glimpse that we get is the photograph taken from the Viaduct by former Council head gardener Ernie Littlefield about 1968:
Compare this photo to Ernie Littlefield’s May 26, 1969 Opening Day photograph:
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 possible prehistoric worked flint tuned up in the zoo flowerbeds back in 2003, spotted by zoo visitor Mike Solomon.
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.
Our monthly Newquay Zoo history snippet for February 2017 focusses on the late 1980s and a rather unusual renaming of Newquay Zoo.
When I first started work at ‘Newquay Zoo’ in the mid 1990s, under the new private ownership of Mike Thomas, it still bore its Council Zoo renaming of Newquay Animal World. So did our letter heads, leaflets, vehicles and uniforms.
This strange name, presumably chosen to match the Water World swimming pool name, led to some odd telephone conversations in the zoo office.
People would phone up and ask to buy a guinea pig. We would then have to explain we were a zoo, not a pet shop, despite our name.
Mike thankfully changed the name back to Newquay Zoo about 1996/97, despite the extensive criticism of ‘zoos’ and the word Zoo flourishing at the time.
The posters and leaflets show the joint marketing of 2 major ‘world’ attractions‘Animal World’ and ‘Water World’ along with the other surviving elements of the original 1960s and 1970s Trenance Leisure Gardens.
This was all part of renewed attempt to market the Trenance Gardens area as a ‘World’ of Leisure, 26 acres of Sports and Leisure.
Inside the Animal World leaflet (c. 1993) are visible some staff that I remember when I started at Newquay Zoo – top left, keeper Claire Roper with our then zoo vet Mike King, Claire is also seen with some of the encounter animals with visitors, keeper David Eyre with python (and elsewhere Kinkajou).
The posters below are from the joint Newquay’s World of Leisure that was (and still sort of is) Trenance Leisure Parks late 1980s / early 1990s.
Interestingly the Zoo (at only 8 acres) is branded as a “ZOOlogical theme park”, no doubt to account for the entertainment features such as the recently planted Maze, Activity play park and Tarzan trail all c. 1983.
Interesting in itself to see how styles of zoo posters and general attraction advertising have or haven’t changed over the years, something we look at with students on business and marketing or leisure and tourism type school and college talks.
The 26 acres of the ‘World of Leisure’ that was ‘Trenance Leisure Gardens’ have changed somewhat after a business dip mid-1990s.
Newquay Zoo is now run as part of a conservation charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trusthttp://www.wwct.org.uk/ with Living Coasts and our big sister zoo in Devon, Paignton Zoo. Newquay Zoo expanded onto the nearby ‘Little Wembley’ sports field, growing a few acres to its current 12 – 13 acres to create the Savannah area which opened in 2009.
We now open all year round, from about 1993/4 as opposed to the original Council Zoo being open Easter to October.
The Toboggan Run has given way to the Wooden Waves skate park.
The miniature train and the pitch and putt / crazy golf still thrive, the Tennis Courts are now part of the Heron Tennis Centre whilst Water World’s swimming pool and gym is still very busy, its visitors watched as ever by our African Lions. http://www.tempusleisure.org.uk/waterworld-newquay/
The Lakeside Café, Boating Lake and Rose Gardens (home to the original Charles Trevisick’s Newquay Children’s Zoo – see below) are still flourishing.