How botanic gardens and zoos survived wartime – talk at Kew Gardens 20/10/14

October 15, 2014

Preparing for my talk:

“How  botanic gardens and zoos survived wartime”  Mark Norris, Newquay  Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project

Monday 20th October  6pm, Jodrell Lecture Theatre, RBG Kew. £2 entry. Please arrive by 5:45pm.

For more details and to see the other talks this coming year see http://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/kmis-updated.pdf

http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/how-botanic-gardens-and-zoos-survived-wartime

 

George Mottershead’s trip from “Our Zoo” at Chester Zoo to Newquay Zoo …

October 9, 2014

GM PL letters 6Series 1 of “Our Zoo” has come to a close with episode 6  leaving us all wondering whether the Mottershead family can  convince a visiting inspector to overturn the council ban on the fledgling Chester  Zoo. An inspection of the zoo is held but the final decision could take weeks – can the Mottershead family hang on and will there be life after Oakfield House?

If you miss it on BBC I player, the DVD is due soon – and leaves me hanging on for the wartime section which will surely come in future series.

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead's memoirs.

Our Zoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead’s memoirs.

I’ve written several previous blogposts about Chester Zoo’s wartime history. A story that not many know  is how an elderly George Mottershead in his last decade (he died of a stroke in 1978) helped and advised one of his ex-keeping staff, the late Peter Lowe to  design and partly stock my home zoo of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69. George’s correspondence with Peter Lowe into the early 1970s  has been kindly  scanned by Chester’s archive team to help us piece together our Zoo’s early history, ready for our 50th anniversary in 2019.

When someone asks why it’s worth the  bother  my hoarding and tracking down  old photos, record cards and the paraphernalia of our zoo history, I can mention the simple answer: prime time BBC 1.

GM PL letters 1

Letter by Newquay Zoo Curator Peter Lowe to his old boss George Mottershead at Chester Zoo, 12 June 1969

Peter Lowe and the Newquay Council  sent condolences to George on the death of his wife Lizzie Mottershead in 1969. They had been writing to each other about Newquay Zoo since early 1968. In the letters he asks after June Mottershead – the young June of “Our Zoo” – and her husband Fred Williams, both people that he would have known whilst on the Chester Zoo staff.

By 1969 the real cast of “Our Zoo” was thinning – Muriel had now emigrated to New Zealand, one of Lizzie Mottershead’s uncles (merged into one character in the TV series) Robert Atkinson had died fighting in WW2 and Grandma Lucy passed away in 1945. Mottershead’s aristocratic patrons and friends were still strongly supporting Chester, such as the ‘Duchess’ or ‘Sally’ (the Duchess of Westminster) who came down to see and keep in touch with Peter Lowe in Cornwall in August 1971.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo - memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

There follows two years of regular correspondence with George Mottershead, trips by Newquay Council staff to Chester and Bristol Zoo and the successful opening of Newquay Zoo on Whit Monday  26 May 1969. There are some interesting letters arranging for  Mr Mottershead to visit the Zoo in October 1971, staying at the Kilbirnie Hotel (like Newquay Zoo, still open 40 years later).

GM PL letters 3

George Mottershead to Peter Lowe and family, 21/10/71

Miss Howard (Nancy) was George’s secretary and travelling companion on trips to Newquay and American zoos  in his later years. It is to her organisation partly that we owe the survival of this amazing cache of decades of George’s correspondence.

Sadly these all appear to be carbon copies of George’s letters to Peter, so we don’t have signed letters from George but he was obviously a very busy man into his eighties.

GM PL letters 5

The letters run from 1968 to 1971, finishing just after George Mottershead’s visit. It is interesting to read George’s comments on the fledgling Newquay Zoo and the worries of its first Curator Peter Lowe. George speaks with the reassuring wisdom of someone who has built his own zoo, often against criticism or local lack of faith in its future. In several places George with his long experience “strongly advises” against certain ideas. However George in another letter reassures Peter (and by extension the Newquay Urban District Council) that the Zoo’s first few weeks attendance of 15,322 was not too bad, considering the fine weather that saw people head to the beach, not pay the 3/6d adult and 1/6d child rate to see the zoo.A council car parking charge of 2/0d – two shillings – was causing complaint even then.

I don’t think your attendance of 15,322 is too bad for something which has just opened. Why do people want to be right in the top rank as soon as they start. Everything has to grow! When I first came to Chester we didn’t have anything like that in the first twelve months.” George Mottershead to Peter Lowe, 20/6/69

“In a month’s time we shall have been open for 12 months and have had 152,507 visitors through the gates to date”. Peter Lowe to George Mottershead, 27/4/70

This is still not too bad an annual  attendance for us today!

George’s zoo at Chester survived the recession of the 1930s and the difficult wartime years. The early days of Newquay were not without problems. Electricity blackouts, postal strikes and industrial action are mentioned, a glimpse of what was to come throughout the 1970s.

It is good to think that George got to finally walk round our zoo, taking in what Peter Lowe and his colleagues and council staff had achieved.

If you walk round Newquay today, you can still see the ‘bone structure’ of our 1969 zoo that George and Peter discussed in their letters. The  old lion and leopard houses are still standing, along with the bear enclosure,  long converted to other uses and more  suitable animals. Within a few years, these older houses will come down to make way for new enclosures;  I’m sure George would approve, his motto for Chester Zoo being “Always Building!” and that the zoo that Peter and George built is looking towards its 50th anniversary and future task of conservation and education.

Rare 'Yaki' Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo enjoying fresh broad bean pods, summer 2010. (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Critically Endangered  ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo, a group with females on breeding loan from Chester Zoo, enjoying fresh broad bean pods from our wartime allotment, summer 2010; this enclosure housed bears from 1969 to c. 1994 (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

The Chester and Newquay zoo links are still strong. An education centre and service was written about in 1970; we now teach thousands of local school children and hundreds of HE students on zoology degree programmes based next door  at Cornwall College Newquay. We have several families of endangered animals here at Newquay Zoo on breeding loan or descended from Chester Zoo animals – Humboldt penguins, critically endangered Sulawesi Macaque monkeys – as part of modern studbooks and conservation breeding programmes through BIAZA and EAZA to which Chester and Newquay both belong. George Mottershead and Chester Zoo was  part of the early Zoo Federation in the 1960s which became BIAZA in 2005.

There is more about the early years of the Zoo on our Wikipedia timeline.

The Bison enclosure on the hill outside the zoo – an advert for the Zoo’s presence in the valley –   that once  housed ex-Chester Bison Fred and Freda is now gone, probably by 1973. There are many letters discussing its construction and obtaining the Chester stock.  It is now part of the surrounding fields and crazy golf course.

I never met George Mottershead as he died whilst I was a child. I was lucky enough to meet Peter Lowe and his wife on a rare visit back to Newquay Zoo, shortly before our 35th or 40th birthday. He had with him a large battered sketch plan of the zoo that he had to rapidly sketch out when the Council appointed him to run the zoo. I had no way of copying it at the time and sadly Peter Lowe, like George Mottershead,  has now passed away.

bison record card

One of our surviving stock cards from Newquay Zoo, regarding the Bison that came from Chester Zoo. The female was supposed to be a straight swap for a llama which sadly died of ‘pulpy kidney’ before this could occur in 1971. Money changed hands for animals then in a way it doesn’t now in a modern zoo.

Chester Zoo has made much of its history, with an archive, timeline, tours, a website, and of course the TV series.This is something that we at Newquay and many zoos could learn much from. If anyone has any other archive photos, film or memories, we would love to hear from you at ‘our  zoo’ at Newquay to expand our archive. Contact us via our website.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

George Mottershead, Peter Lowe and our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment project share a strange wartime ‘make do and mend’ spirit of improvisation that sees a thread or link from our zoo today, our 1960s zoo origins and George Mottershead who was nearly killed on the Somme and nursed his zoo through wartime and postwar challenges. Had George Mottershead been killed or paralysed, maybe Newquay Zoo might not be here today – at least in the same shape or form – if Chester Zoo had never been built. One feels the same ‘what if?’ story about Paignton Zoo, Herbert Whitley and his family experiences in WW1. We have much to be thankful for, especially to men like George Mottershead.

As we work towards our 50th anniversary in 2019, I will scan onto and blog post about some of the early Newquay guidebooks and record cards that have survived or been acquired for our archive, one not as well filed as Miss Howard’s neat Chester Zoo correspondence files.

There are many more interesting snippets to type up and explore of what might have been at Newquay – second thoughts considering housing a baby elephant, strongly advising against whether wolves would be suitable alongside leopards or the noise affect neighbouring houses, whether staying open till 10 pm was sustainable in the summer months. A Zoological Society of Cornwall to run the zoo was hinted at, to relieve the financial pressure on the Council funds and taxpayers; this never happened but many years later, Newquay is now run as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust charity.

Newquay 70s guidebook cover

The cover of the first Newquay Zoo Guidebook from the early 1970s – c. 1974

I’m not sure the early days of Newquay Zoo are quite dramatic enough for a screenplay, although we were established in the Apollo Moon Landing Year of 1969, built as the swinging 60s became riotous, when Newquay had Magical Mystery Tours from The Beatles, early surfers on real waves not in cyberspace, all Pure Heartbeat / The Royal  1960s nostalgia period stuff. The few photographs we have of the staff, visitors and builders’  haircuts and clothes alone are worth a series in themselves …

newquay penguins

Great hair and Humboldt penguins, where our meerkats now roam. Newquay Zoo postcard and photograph in our guide book c. 1974

So Newquay Zoo staff and visitors, past and present, owe a small debt to George Mottershead and his “Our Zoo” family. Thanks, George!

I hope you enjoyed  the “Our Zoo” series, the website coverage on the BBC and Chester Zoo website (including a Chester Zoo YouTube website) and June’s books Our Zoo or its predecessor Reared in Chester Zoo, if you can track a copy down. Happy reading, happy viewing and of course, happy gardening!

Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo Gardens project.

Picture of the Week: Coxley Primary School Project

October 8, 2014

Originally posted on :

Coxley Primary School Poppy Project. 11281 petals commemorating the men who died from Somerset along with those who served in the county regiments during the First World War.

http://www.coxleyschool.co.uk

View original

Reared in Chester Zoo: Reading more about the Chester “Our Zoo” story

October 2, 2014

For the many zoo visitors I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks whilst doing our daily animal talks at Newquay Zoo, quite often the BBC’s series of “Our Zoo” about the early days of Chester Zoo is mentioned.

Those that know of my wartime garden project or interest in wartime zoos and botanic gardens often ask what I think of it and how accurate it is. Until the new book “Our Zoo” by June Mottershead comes out in October 2014, alongside the BBC Series 1 DVD, I direct people to track down a copy of “Reared in Chester Zoo, the Story of June Mottershead” written by June with Janice Batten (published by Ark Books, 2008).

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead's memoirs.

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead’s memoirs.

Within the 2008 book are many of the wonderful photographs glimpsed in the “Our Zoo” title sequences. You should be able to find copies easily enough online.  June’s earlier book about Chester Zoo, “Zoo Without Bars” (by June Williams, her married name) is now out of print and only available from  secondhand bookshops.

Tucked inside my well read copy, I keep the CD-Rom of scans of the surviving Chester Zoo Newsletters, written by the Mottershead family, dating back to the earliest days of “Our Zoo” in the 1930s (available from Chester Zoo’s library /archive) , which have given such incredible detail to the book. For me this is superb  month by month detail to help understand how the zoo struggled and survived the 1930s and the wartime 1940s. With the speed that the first series of “Our Zoo” is going through the early 1930s section, no doubt this wartime  section will be in “Our Zoo” Series 2, which I hope is in the BBC pipeline …

(BBC staff please note:  I have my own tin hat, spade, stirrup pump and ARP uniform from our wartime zoo schools workshops if the BBC want any 1940s  extras  :)

I’ve written previous blogposts about Chester Zoo’s wartime history. A story that not many know (and so a  blog post to save  for another day) is how an elderly George Mottershead in his last decade (he died in 1978) helped and advised one of his ex-keeping staff, the late Peter Lowe to  design and partly stock my home zoo of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69. George’s correspondence with Peter Lowe into the early 1970s  has been kindly  scanned by  Chester’s archive team to help us piece together our Zoo’s early history, ready for our 50th anniversary in 2019.

So the next time someone asks why it’s worth the  bother  my hoarding and tracking down  old photos, record cards and the paraphernalia of our zoo history, I can mention the simple answer: prime time BBC 1.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the “Our Zoo” series, the website coverage on the BBC and Chester Zoo website  and the book Reared in Chester Zoo, if you can track a copy down. Happy reading, happy viewing and of course, happy gardening!

I’m off soon to Kew Gardens on 20th October 2014  to deliver an evening talk at 6pm (open to the public) as part of the annual Kew Mutual Improvement Society KMIS session talks, all  about how  zoos and botanic gardens survived wartime,  where no doubt Chester’s canny George Mottershead and wartime surplus concrete will be mentioned. See Kew’s http://www.kew.org website  for details.

Reared in Chester Zoorearedinchesterzooback

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh commemorate WW1

September 19, 2014

Much has been made by politicians on various sides of the Scottish Referendum in the 1914 centenary year about the contribution of Scottish people to the Allied war effort in World War 1.

In the week of the Scottish Referendum, I received a surprise email from Ann Hill about a press cutting in the Downs Mail Maidstone online edition for September 2014, asking if I had any more information or contact with relatives of Walter Henry Morland? The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh are looking for relatives of their fallen staff, including Morland who worked at Kew Gardens as well as Edinburgh. Through the World War Zoo Gardens project I have met or heard from several relatives of keeper and gardener casualties from London Zoo and Kew Gardens.

At last a photo of Walter Morland, part of Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland's relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland’s relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

I had come across Walter Morland through his Commonwealth War Graves Commision entry as a “rose garden specialist” when researching the lost staff of RBG Kew Gardens, alongside Sydney Cobbold, . Staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh have been putting together a display, alongside a poppy lawn sown by staff and Scots military veterans.

The Scotsman – Wednesday, 22nd July 1925

BOTANIC GARDENS WAR MEMORIAL.

Sir Lionel Earle, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., C.M.G., Secretary of H.M. Office of Works, yesterday afternoon unveiled a memorial tablet to the twenty members of the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens staff who gave their lives, in the Great War. The tablet is in the entrance hall of the laboratory. About a hundred relatives and members of the staff were present. Sir Lionel Earle said the memorial served a double purpose. Firstly, it was a lasting testimony to the members of the staff who sacrificed their lives for the great cause; and, secondly, it was a memorial to Sir Isaac Bayley-Balfour, late botanist, administrator, and agriculturist, who did so much for the Botanic Gardens. It had been Sir Isaac’s last wish that a memorial to these men be placed in the entrance hall. The Rev. E. C. Houlston, B.D., officiated at the service, which concluded with the sounding of the “Last Post.”
Extract taken from the Scottish War Memorial project website

I had come across photos of the memorial to the RBG Edinburgh staff photographed on the Scottish War Memorials Trust website.

What I hadn’t seen was the Roll of Honour of all the RBG Edinburgh staff which isaccessible on their website. In a future blogpost I  will look more closely at the details in case as with some information that I’ve found on other sites during  my research  has become unavailable over time.

Knowing that Walter Morland had died at Gallipoli on 2 May 1915 and having an interest in Gallipoli where one of my relatives served, I was surprised to read how many of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh men had served or died at Gallipoli, all as a result of serving at the hard-pressed 5th Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), obviously the local regiment for many of these Edinburgh men.
Breifly, the http://www.1914-1918.net/royalscots.htm webpage lists the 5th as 1/5th Battalion (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles)
August 1914 : in Forrest Hill, Edinburgh. Part of Lothian Brigade, Scottish Coast Defences.
11 March 1915 : transferred to 88th Brigade, 29th Division at Leamington Spa.
Sailed from Avonmouth 20 March 1915, going via Egypt to Gallipoli 25 April 1915.
Returned to Egypt 7 January 1916.

Brabyn’s other surviving RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots then fought in France, after their service in Gallipoli.
Moved to France, landing at Marseilles, 10 March 1916.
24 April 1916 : transferred to Lines of Communication.
15 June 1916 : amalgamated with 1/6th to become 5/6th Battalion (due perhaps to decimation of numbers?)
29 July 1916 : transferred to 14th Brigade, 32nd Division.

Some of Walter Morland’s RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots served and thankfully survived to be demobilised in 1919, no doubt to see the war memorial erected.

It is good to see many organisations taking time  to commemorate the service and sacrifice of  their past staff and families.  It is also good to put a name to a face for Walter Morland at last, gone but definitely not forgotten. As Lawrence Binyon phrased it in his poem “For The Fallen”, published in the Times 100 years ago this week, “We Shall Remember Them”.

I hope that somebody eventually makes a family connection with Morland and his colleagues, so  are able to help RBGE and the research of its archivist Leonie Paterson at commemorate@rbge.org.uk

I will talk more about some of these lost Gardeners from zoos and botanic gardens in my forthcoming KMIS / Kew Guild related talk about may World War Zoo Gardens research and the blogpost research ‘Such is the price of Empire’ (a quote from Walter Morland’s Kew Guild Journal obituary) at Kew Gardens on the evening of the 20th October 2014. Check the http://www.kew.org events and what’s on section for details.

Our Zoo: Chester Zoo and the drama of zoo history

September 5, 2014

I have been looking forward to watching this autumn BBC’s “Our Zoo” about the  early days of Chester Zoo, with some excellent links to past and future on the Chester Zoo website -
http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama

Researching zoo history is often a “Cinderella” subject, many people wondering why it’s worth it (outside of the zoo history enthusiasts of the Bartlett Society – see blogroll links) and rarely makes it to mainstream television!

Back in May 2011 I spent an interesting couple of days tracking down wartime concrete at Chester Zoo, during a zoo history conference. Here is an edited blog post I wrote at the time tracing an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history and on the way discovered four wartime hippos in Budapest.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

May 2011, Chester Zoo: We weren’t sure whether to called this post Zoo Do You Think You Are? (after the BBC TV Family history series), thanks to a quick quip from Richard Gibson at Chester Zoo or maybe  Zoo Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? (to the theme tune of Dad’s Army) in view of the wartime concrete, Home Guard and Zoo family history connections I was tracking down.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television, genealogy being the social or leisure side of genetics. Genetics is now the everyday business of zoo breeding programmes. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression or looking at your children for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do over time. Like gardening, it’s probably age-related, primal and territorial. My family, my birth place, my tribe. So why should it be any different for zoos to look back at where they came from? Can we catch a glimpse of the future from a look at their past? This is partly what I’ve been researching through the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Chester Zoo history symposium 20 May 2011 from the SHNH website

What are zoos for? How should zoos work together? Why should zoos keep an archive of past events and what should they do with this material? These were some of the many questions raised by the May 2011 Symposium on Zoo history / Zoo future hosted at Chester Zoo “From Royal Menageries to Biodiversity Conservation”http://www.chesterzoo.org/ and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Zoo and  a joint celebration of the work of several societies together. The Bartlett Society (www.zoohistory.co.uk), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums   (WAZA) www.waza.org , Linnaean Society and celebrating its 75th birthday, the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) www.shnh.org The proceedings or symposium was recently published in 2014. It reflected the World of Zoos and Aquariums as it was attended by delegates from Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and South East Asia / Australasia.

Only 91 animals remained amongst the ruins of wartime Berlin Zoo by 1945 from an old German / US archive press photo (World War Zoo gardens collection at Newquay Zoo)

Dr. Miklos Persenyi, Director General at Budapest Zoo in Hungary showed some beautiful slides of how the once war ravaged zoo in Hungary has been restored, even the 1960s buildings are being ‘restored’ to match the striking Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th Century. Miklos joked that he is employed by the Budapest Tourist Bureau, as the zoo, botanic garden and ‘cultural centre’ that it has become looks well worth a visit. After my short presentation on wartime zoos which mentioned Berlin Zoo being left with 91 animals after air raids and street fighting, Miklos quietly capped this with his story of the 15 animals left alive at Budapest zoo after the freezing winter months of 1944 when the Zoo and city of Budapest became a besieged town and battlefield between the Germans and the Russians. Amazingly, whilst the local people eat anything they could to survive, four or five of these surviving animals were Hippopotami (or Hippopotamuses). These plant eaters survived in the warm waters of the thermal springs there, alongside a handful of ‘singing birds’. The people of Budapest rebuilt their zoo after the war, whilst bombsites of local buildings and churches near the zoo were unofficially commandeered to grow crops for people and animals  http://www.zoobudapest.com/english Miklos has been involved in the writing of an interesting and beautifully illustrated history of Budapest Zoo, with a version in English well worth tracking down.

This comment by Miklos about the last fifteen animals left in Budapest Zoo and the efforts to rebuild it by gave some important human detail to the broad sweep of zoo history, of different groups and associations which eventually became the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in a reunified Europe after the Berlin Wall and collapse of Communism / end of the Cold War c. 1989  Equally moving was the long slow progression to today’s World Association of Zoos and Aquariums from its late Victorian beginning in Germany, through wartime disruptions, revolutions  to today’s worldwide organisation “United for Conservation” at last! It was long time coming.

One of the Symposium concerns was the lack of original zoo history research being done into the past life of zoos, as often what we read is simply a regurgitation of the same old sources. The published proceedings (available through Chester Zoo’s marketing department) are a good example of this new research.

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Chester Zoo the conference host is home itself to an interesting wartime story. As part of my World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo, I have been researching what happened in wartime zoos, with an eye to what lessons we can learn from surviving our wartime past for the management of zoos through future challenges. This work is often hamstrung by the lack of (accessible) archives in many zoos. Not so Chester Zoo which has an excellent and accessible archive, partly scanned and the Chester Zoo News (1930s-1980s) available to buy on CD-Rom from their library!

These magazines must have refreshed memories and dates with lots of detail in June Mottershead’s vividly remembered account Reared in Chester Zoo (written with Janice Madden, Ark Books, 2009) of growing up at Chester Zoo, helping out as it was built by her father and as it struggled to survived through the slump and wartime shortages of the 1930s and 1940s to her marriage to Keeper Fred Williams.

Chester Zoo history timeline banners, Chester Zoo, 2011

This story of George Mottershead and family is well told in banner panels for each decade of the zoo’s 80 years, over near the ‘new’ 1950s Aquarium and the modern Cedar House which houses the library and archive.

My guide for that day in 2011, the then Head of Discovery and Learning archivist Stephen McKeown told me that the concrete pillars of the aquarium were hand-cast by June and Fred, often working into the night by lamplight. So like George Mottershead, they literally did build their zoo by hand. Sadly the original Chester Zoo Aquarist, Yorkshireman Peter Falwasser died of wounds on active service in North Africa, 1942. Before his death, Peter wrote excitedly to Chester Zoo colleagues of all the wildlife and especially fish he was seeing in the Middle East and wondered how to get them back to Chester Zoo. So this new aquarium  in the 1950s was maybe a quiet sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

In 2013 I received scans from the Chester Zoo archive of letters from and to Peter Falwassser, which I turned into the following blog post, Last Wartime Letters:

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/last-wartime-letters-of-peter-falwasser-chester-zoo-aquarist-1916-1942/

Sometimes research does a little back-flip of name recognition in an unexpected place, a little cross-over between themes. Strangely following another wartime gardening lead into 1940s and 50s garden  books linked to Theo Stephens’ little garden magazine, My Garden, I havecome across  a late 1940s garden article that may well have been written by Peter’s older sister Christine Rosetta ( b. 1905, Cawthorne, Yorkshire). She may have been the  C.R. Falwasser, a gardener and writer,  who wrote the article in My Garden’s Bedside Book (1951?)  called “I Swept the Leaves” mentioning “But when you hire yourself during wartime and become part of a staff …” by the 1950s she pops up in the phone book in horticulture at Alltnacree, Connell, Argyll.  Strange coincidence.  I wonder if she would have got on with the Mottershead family of Market Gardeners, including Grandad Albert, Chester Zoo’s first Head Gardener, who fed the animals and people of Chester Zoo in wartime.

Inside June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo May 2011

A quick trip downstairs to the public toilets in Oakfield House today takes you to the site of the ‘old’ or first wartime Aquarium and air raid shelters for staff,  based in the cellars and former kitchens of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s. It was in poor condition after serving as a VAD convalescent home for officers in the First World War as many such houses did around Europe. This must have had strong associations for Private George Mottershead, who  apparently spent several years recovering after the war in a wheelchair.

Looking at the 1930s map by George Williams inside June’s book, it is still possible to glimpse a little of the original zoo, especially starting from the red brick house and stables block, used extensively for temporary animal houses in the first decade or so. Lion scratches and a small plaque by the stables archway give a clue to what once happened here, the nucleus of what has today grown to become Chester Zoo.

The roar of big cats can still be heard across the path from the old temporary ‘pen’, the site of George Mottershead’s lion enclosure that he started to hand-build in 1937 but was delayed by wartime, only finished in 1947. Scratch marks in the brickwork of the stable block, reputedly made by lions, are marked by a simple plaque.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past – within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Stables and Courtyard gateway, May 2011

The stables and courtyard of the big house of another era are closed to the public but very visible from public walkways, the stables now house the works depot and offices.

History in the Chester area is never far away – usually just inches under your feet. The Romans had a garrison town (Deva) here, into whose near-complete buried amphitheatre in town were dug the air-raid shelters for June’s school. Behind Oakfield House, recreated Roman Gardens and new glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area by June’s  ‘ Grandfather’ Albert, George Mottershead’s father.

This glasshouse like those in many zoos was a victim of wartime shrapnel, in this case probably anti-aircraft or ack-ack ‘flak’ from nearby AA guns firing at enemy raiders heading for the towns and ports of the Northwest. Friendly fire like this also killed a Coypu, one of the only direct wartime casualties amongst the animals from enemy action (many other zoo animals like penguins slowly declined from wartime substitute feeding). Here in these vanished glasshouses and kitchen gardens, food was once grown for the mansion and for the early zoo. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, originally in the Sale area. ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and through wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals.

Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was so badly wounded on the Somme that it took him years to teach himself to walk again. Albert and Stanley Mottershead’s  names are on the Sale War Memorial, recently researched by George Cogswell and pictured here. This could so easily have been George Mottershead. no George, no Chester Zoo.

George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of mnay family photos in the new June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo

Family photographs of these friendly ghosts can be found in June’s book but also mounted on the walls of the newly opened June’s Pavilion catering area near Oakfield House, next to the Growzone conservatories for today’s Chester Zoo gardeners. Zoos, like armies, march on their stomachs and good food is very important to the human and other animals at the zoo. It is often the make or break of a zoo visit and probably one of the harder things to get right for everyone. I learnt this lesson on day one of zoo management at Newquay Zoo, the afternoon spent with sleeves rolled up and rubber gloves in the sink partly alongside Pete the Ops Manager washing up and KP-ing in the Newquay Zoo café during an afternoon rush and shortage of café staff. So I understand how important June, her sister Muriel, her mother Elizabeth and Grandmother Lucy like all the women in her family were in feeding zoo staff, evacuees and zoo visitors as well as zoo animals before and during the war. [Note: 2014, This is something that comes across strongly in the BBC series Our Zoo broadcast in Autumn 2014 and I interviews with June Williams.]

It is very fitting to have ‘June’s Pavilion’ as not a museum or a memorial but something practical, and fun – a family eating place with family photographs on the wall. George Mottershead in First World war uniform with Elizabeth and baby Muriel, Grandad Mottershead, June and Fred, all look down, alongside many other of the army of Chester Zoo staff of the past, over another generation of zoo visitors tucking in to food before heading off to look and learn about more animals.

Having read June’s account in hindsight and the detailed newsletters month by month during uncertain times gives you chance to relive the early years, month by month, almost to glimpse through the windows of Oakfield House and spot familiar ghosts on the lawn.

Next to Oakfield House beside the lawn in its own small garden stands a small simple memorial plaque to George Mottershead, erected by the zoo members and staff after he died in 1978. George looks out of the photo back towards the stables and the windows of Oakfield House which must have seen so many stories, from the gentry and hunting at the big house to wounded soldiers of his own war, wartime evacuees in the next war, refugee elephants and their mahouts, a place of family weddings and still a venue for an excellent quiet lunch in the panelled dining room.

After the war, things did not become easier straight away. There was still food rationing and materials for building were in short supply.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Britain had to feed itself, the displaced millions of Europeand repair huge numbers of bombed factories, schools and houses around the country. A short walk away from Oakfield House, you can still glimpse one of George’s practical bits of post-war salvage. Fred Williams, June’s husband, as Clerk of Works carried on this salvage tradition.

At the rear of what was once built as the Polar Bear enclosure can be seen some at first rather plain and ugly concrete pillars. Ironically now part of the Europe on the Edge Aviary, these pillars started life for a very different purpose – heavy concrete road blocks and tank traps from the desperate days of improvisation by the Army and Home Guard against invasion by the armies of Hitler’s Germany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

The round shapes of these concrete blocks can be seen clearly in Frith picture postcards featured in a recent zoo postcards book by  Alan Ashby (www.izes.co.uk). These pillars  are an unlikely memorial to a past generation, though thankfully June is still (2011/2014very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and the recently opened June’s new Pavilion.

Stephen McKeown spoke in 2011 about further ideas for developing family history on the way to our Chester Zoo members talk at the Russell Allen lecture theatre at Chester zoo (named after Maud Russell Allen, an early council member or benefactor in the 1930s and 1940s). Chester are thinking about developing the guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details [including on the Our Zoo BBC related events].

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6700000/newsid_6706300/6706315.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1

Since 2011, I have been sent by Chester Zoo Archive  the scans of many letters to and from George Mottershead to (the late) ex Cheter Zoo staff member Peter Lowe, who became the first curator and designer of my home zoo, Newquay Zoo, something worth a blog post in future. So George Mottershead surviving the Somme to open his own zoo helped indirectly in the early history of my own zoo at Newquay Zoo.  You can read more about our wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo on our blog, contact me via the comments page or check out our zoo website pages about World War Zoo on www.newquayzoo.org.uk

The new World War Zoo gardens sign at Newquay Zoo, 2011

War and the Whitleys: Para-medics, Peacocks and Paignton Zoo

August 28, 2014

Herbert Whitley, trademark cigarette in mouth (Image source: Paignton Zoo website)

Herbert Whitley, trademark cigarette in mouth (Image source: Paignton Zoo website)

It is 70 years this year since the events of D-Day, and this month 75 years since World War Two began and also 100 years since the outbreak of World War One – both wars were to cost the Whitley family dear. The 29th August 1944 / 2014 is one such sad anniversary.

Our sister zoo at Paignton was started in 1923 by an eccentric and wealthy figure with hard business sense, a passion for the colour blue and an eye for good breeding stock amongst plants and animals – Herbert Whitley.

Herbert Whitley (1886 – 1955) was one of four sons of Edward Whitley, a Liverpool based brewer (Greenall Whitley) and Victorian MP (1825 – 1892). Herbert’s father Edward has an impressive entry in Debrett’s 1886 House Of Commons directory from the year Herbert Whitley was born.  On his father’s death, Herbert Whitley, two brothers William and Charles and a sister Mary moved from Liverpool and Lancashire to Devon around 1904 to 1907 with his widowed mother Eleanor (1848 – 1929). Here Herbert quickly established an estate of several farms in the area with his brother William. His older brother Edward Whitley Junior (b. 1880) remained with his young family  in Liverpool, after studying medicine.

With an agricultural or science based degree behind him, Whitley quickly used his family wealth to establish stud kennels and farms for his experiments in breeding dogs, farm animals, pigeons, horses as well as building greenhouses for exotic plants.  Unlike Picasso, Herbert Whitley never grew out of his ‘blue period’. He had a lifelong passion for blue animals and plants, from peacocks to rosemary. Paignton Zoo has recently been searching for ‘lost’ cultivars from Whitley’s Primley Botanic Nursery,  named ‘Primley Blue’ (including mallow, rosemary and hebe).

These plants and animals would by summer 1923 be transformed into the nucleus of the collection which became Primley Zoological Gardens, opened to the public for educational rather than just purely entertainment reasons (see below). A fight ensued with local authorities over its educational role, rather than pure entertainment which saw Herbert close his zoo for a number of years rather than be liable for an ‘entertainment tax’ on zoo visits.

It is said that Herbert Whitley’s zoo began as a child, when his mother gave him a pair of canaries. He went on to breed and exhibit finches, rabbits, poultry and pigeons. His archive or library has scrapbooks and bound journal volumes featuring his many breeding successes, some featured in Jack Baker’s ‘biography’ of Whitley (see below).

Herbert and his brother William formed a partnership to manage the Primley estate farms. Their  plan was to create a breeding centre for pedigree livestock, but exotic animals soon appeared. The first monkeys arrived in 1910 and a pair of sulphur crested cockatoos in 1911 – the foundation of Herbert’s bird collection which was later to feature secret carrier pigeons and unfortunate GI snacks in the shape of peacocks.

Going public after a private wartime tragedy
In 1923, in the aftermath of the First World War, Herbert Whitley opened his collection, then known as Torbay Zoological Gardens, to the public. The Zoo closed briefly in 1924 due to a dispute over entertainment tax; Whitley felt very strongly that his collection was a place of learning and not entertainment. In 1930 the collection changed its name to Primley Zoological Gardens.

Sadly by the time his fledgling zoo opened in 1923, one of the four Whitley brothers was dead. Charles Whitley, one of the four Whitley brothers was dead, killed in the First World War. Some of the family of his estate workers and no doubt some of his horses would no doubt have perished too on the Western Front.

Hibers cemetery, where Herbert's brother Charles Whitley is buried, on the brow of the hill to the left of the cross of sacrifice (Image; CWGC website)

Hibers cemetery, where Herbert’s brother Charles Whitley is buried, on the brow of the hill to the left of the cross of sacrifice (Image; CWGC website)

Captain Charles Whitley, 7th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Military  Cross, died aged 28 on 11th April 1917 during the Battle for Arras. He is buried at  Grave Reference C. 15, Hibers Trench Cemetery, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists him as born at Halewood, Liverpool and as the Son of the late Mr. Edward and Elizabeth Eleanor Whitley, of Primley, Paignton, Devon.  There are several websites which describe Charles Whitley including portraits:

http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/memorials/hawarden-memorial/hawarden-sodliers-2/charles-whitley/

Several zoo keepers from London Zoo were also killed in this same period and battle. One wonders what might have happened if Herbert Whitley had been fit enough to fight?

Herbert Whitley was lucky in someways to have poor enough eyesight to fail an army medical, likewise his brother William who had severely damaged his leg in a riding accident years before. Their contribution to the war effort would be as estate owners, animal breeders and farmers, then a reserved occupation.

The agricultural challenges of 1914 -18 are described in a new book on the People of Devon in World War One by David Parker (History Press, 2013), an interesting social history to complement Gerald Wasley’s Devon in the Great War (Halsgrove, 2013).

With disastrous harvests in 1916/17, enlistment and call up of agricultural workers and horses and a deadly U-Boat campaign targetting Allied supply routes and merchant shipping, Britain experienced a potential food crisis that would severely affect its ability to feed itself, maintain maximium war production and win the war. In spite of the agricultural and mineral wealth of its vast Empire, the British people saw increasing price rises in basic foods which eventually saw an early form of rationing introduced in 1917/18. Remarkably throughout this period of the U-Boat campaign, Primley stud  pedigree farm stock was being  shipped overseas, business as usual,  to bolster the Empire livestock.

British farming was at the start of the First World War struggling to keep up with imported cheaper food. It was in one of its many picturesque but poor states, in recession and the doldrums again at the end of the Victorain and Edwardian period, one well recreated in the BBC’s Edwardian Farm (filmed in Devon and Cornwall around the Tamar Valley and Morwhelham Quay).

Herbert and William Whitley took up farming or running an estate in an age of agricultural revolution, of new machinery such as the first tractors, steam farm machinery and interest in new chemical fertilisers. Devon farms however were still largely powered by men and horses, two valuable assets that would be drawn away by the demands of war.

‘What If’ History?

Captain Charles Whitley served on the Western Front, gaining a Military Cross for gallantry before being killed in 1917. If Herbert had been fit to serve, this could well have been his fate, a “What If?” History that would see no Paignton Zoo opened, no Slapton Ley Nature reserve preserved for the nation from inappropriate development and ultimately no Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) formed on Whitley’s death in 1955.

In 2003 my 1960s home zoo at Newquay, host of our World War Zoo Garden project, became part of the WWCT alongside Living Coasts, built on the old Marine Spa site of the Beacon Quay area of Torquay and Brixham, which had its own unusual wartime history, worthy of a future blog post.

Much of what we know of Whitley today is thanks to the “Blue Book”, the closest we currently have to a biography of Whitley, written by someone who knew Herbert Whitley in the 1940s and 1950s. The book is  appropriately known as the “Blue Book”, not just from the bright blue cover but from Herbert Whitley’s love of this colour; it is a slim and lively volume of reminiscences of Whitley collected by its author Jack Baker in the 1980s called Chimps, Champs and Elephants (out of print but available online).

Herbert Whitley was famously shy of women and never married, but his trusted ‘right hand man’ was unusually for the time and the company of a reclusive bachelor, a woman called Gladys Salter. Gladys had been a land girl on National Service in the First World War version of the Women’s Land Army.

The Whitley family losses in WW2

The Whitley family lost two further members in WW2 before Herbert Whitley’s death in 1955, an RAF pilot and a paratroop medic in the Normandy battles. They share a striking stone memorial in a Devon churchyard.

Herbert’s brother Charles Whitley was killed in 1917. Two Whitley nephews Edward and Peter were killed in World War Two, sons of Herbert’s brother & farmer business partner William Whitley.

Herbert’s nephew Captain Edward Neil Whitley  (born c. 1918), Service No: 252025, Royal Army Medical Corps serving with the Parachute Regiment.  He died back in England on 29th August 1944 of shrapnel wounds received four days after landing on D-Day 6 June 1944. His gravestone reads interestingly:

“Who landed in Normandy on D Day with the 6th Airborne Division,

was wounded by mortar fire on June 10th while succouring a foeman”

suggesting that he died whilst treating a German casualty. His unusual gravestone can be found at  Buckland-in-The-Moor (St. Peter) Churchyard in Devon (see below).

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists him as the son of William and Elizabeth Frances Whitley, of Ashburton; husband of Eileen Zender Whitley. B.A. (Cantab.), M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. He had a son, Micheal Neil Whitley, pictured on the  the Para-Data entry for his father Edward.  Edward literally was a ‘para – medic’ as he parachuted in with the British 6th Airborne Division paratroops on D-Day June 1944 and is pictured on the Para-data history website along with documents to his mother and photographs.

Pictures of the unusual granite memorial in Buckland churchyard to both Edward and his brother Peter can be seen on the Devon Heritage website.

Edward Neil’s brother and Herbert’s nephew Pilot Officer Peter Percy Whitley  (born c. 1910) Service No: 118892, 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve died on active service, listed as  missing over Cologne on a bombing raid on 15th October 1942. As missing aircrew, he has no known grave and is remembered on Reference Panel 72, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. He is also listed on a roll of honour in Ashburton, Devon.

Runnymede memorial to missing Allied aircrew of WW2  (Image: CWGC website)

Runnymede memorial to missing Allied aircrew of WW2 (Image: CWGC website)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists him as the son of William and Elizabeth Whitley; husband of Primrose Vinen Heron Whitley, of Teignmouth, Devon and father of Elizabeth Clare Whitley.

Paignton Zoo, Mr Whitley and D-Day 1944

The death of his nephew Edward was not the only D-Day connection for Whitley and his Paignton Zoo. Herbert Whitley bought the unique Slapton Ley area in 1921 to save it from commercial exploitation. Slapton Ley and its surrounding beaches and rural area became part of a massive US Army training ground in 1943-4 before D-Day, although amphibious landing training had happepned there several years before War broke out. This area saw the accidental deaths in training during Exercise Tiger on February 28th 1944. An unofficial memorial, a Sherman tank salvaged from the sea bed nearby and a more official US war memorial cross records the US forces thanks to the sacrifice of local people in giving up their homes and farms now stand near the beach, remembering the wartime losses.

Clennon Gorge, part of the extensive woods and nature reserves on Whitley’s Primley estate (and now part of Paignton Zoo) was an area of quarries and small wildfowl lakes that Herbert Whitley was developing to house animals in a naturalistic style. This style was inspired partly by the Hagenbeck family of German zoo owner and animal dealers that influenced animal enclosures worldwide including at London Zoo’s Mappin Terrace ‘artificial mountains’ and Whipsnade Zoo’s 1930s enclosures.

Clennon’s wooded areas and quarries were to prove perfect cover from German aerial reconnaissance for the campsites and well stocked cookhouses of US troops, secretly hidden close to Torquay and Brixham embarkation beaches before D-Day. On clearing the area after the GIs left, Whitley’s wartime staff found the remains of some of the bored and anxious GI’s last suppers – some of the famous Primley peacocks and wildfowl amongst others of his bird collection.

One possible wartime Paignton Zoo site of Clennon Gorge quarries, possible site for US troops GI cookhouse / campsite before D-Day June 1944, cleaned up after the war to become a now peaceful nature reserve at Paignton Zoo. (Nov. 2010)

One possible wartime Paignton Zoo site of Clennon Gorge quarries, possible site for US troops GI cookhouse / campsite before D-Day June 1944, cleaned up after the war to become a now peaceful nature reserve at Paignton Zoo. (Nov. 2010)

Sadly despite appeals in their veterans’  newsletter, we have unearthed no further memories of this unusual last supper  incident from the veterans and their families of the US 4ID association, once camped at Paignton.

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/d-day-1944-and-the-disappearing-peacocks-and-ducks-of-wartime-paignton-zoo/

Photographic proof! Peacock (or peahen) sized garden pests peck away at our salad leaf selection, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo.

Photographic proof! Peacock (or peahen) sized garden pests peck away at our salad leaf selection, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo, 2010.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/d-day-and-a-curious-1944-matchbox-diary/

There is a delightfully dated 1941 newsreel glimpse of  the women staff of wartime Primley or Paignton Zoo in its Chessington partnership era, entitled Ladies Only, worth watching at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/ladies-of-the-zoo-issue-title-ladies-only/query/flamingos

Having looked through Whitley’s wartime zoo and estate ledgers in the Paignton Zoo archive, it was  a case again in wartime of  ‘business as usual’. There are also interesting folders of Whitley’s  fairly random and eclectic press cuttings about animals, the war and Whitley’s interests.

There are many more interesting stories to research about Paignton’s wartime history, from its wartime business partnership with Chessington Zoo & Circus, the evacuation of Chessington staff there (look out for future blog posts featuring interviews with surviving staff children from this time) and further research into Whitley’s wartime ‘secret agent’ carrier pigeon lofts, part of the National Pigeon Service but staffed by Royal Signals staff. Where better to hide secret pigeons than in the middle of a large bird collection?

We would be delighted to hear via our comments page from anyone who has further memories of Herbert Whitley, his family and how his estate and zoo fared in wartime.

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, August 2014.

 

 

Happy 5th Birthday World War Zoo Gardens Newquay Zoo

August 17, 2014

Happy Birthday! Late August is the 5th anniversary of our World War Zoo Gardens wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo. It’s also our 5 year #Twitterversary  for @worldwarzoo1939

What better birthday card than a plain wartime birthday card, which jokes about rationing everything ... (Image Source: Author's collection, World War Zoo Gardens)

What better birthday card than a plain wartime birthday card, which jokes about rationing everything … (Image Source: Author’s collection, World War Zoo Gardens)

Our aim over five years since marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war in 2009 has been very practical  to grow small unusual fresh food treats for our animals, but it’s also been about research and living history,  recreating the sort of allotment that grew up in zoos, botanic gardens, back gardens, railway sidings, anywhere there was land to grow ‘Dig for Victory’ vegetables to provide self-sufficiency from U-boat blockades of food,  when food much as now was mostly imported …

Inside the wartime birthday card a suitably foody rationing joke (Image: author's collection, World War Zoo gardens collection)

Inside the wartime birthday card a suitably food rationing joke (Image: author’s collection, World War Zoo gardens collection)

Now we have reached the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939, an event somewhat overshadowed by the #WW1 centenary www.1914.org.

World War Zoo gardens graphic sign Summer 2011

World War Zoo gardens graphic sign Summer 2011

With the WW1 centenary we have been looking at what effect resource shortages of food, fuel, staff and building materials had on zoos and botanic gardens in wartime; a summary of blog posts and other WW1 related events can be found here.

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

There is a great little photo summary of the World War Zoo gardens project here on the BIAZA zoo website from 2011, when Newquay Zoo won its first ever zoo gardens and planting award.

Mark Norris in costume as the zoo's ARP Instructor and volunteer Ken our zoo 'Home Guard' delivering a World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo (Photo: Lorraine Reid / Newquay Zoo)

Mark Norris in costume as the zoo’s ARP Instructor and volunteer Ken our zoo ‘Home Guard’ delivering a World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo (Photo: Lorraine Reid / Newquay Zoo)

We’ve survived snow and ice, very wet summers, very dry summers, saved seeds, produced podcasts as well as peas, fed monkeys with home-grown artichokes and broad beans, had our gnome guards go wandering across Europe … it’s been a very busy five years!

 

Rare 'Yaki' Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo enjoying fresh broad bean pods, summer 2010. (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo enjoying fresh broad bean pods, summer 2010. (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

LDV Gnome guard in his usual allotment spot in our wartime 'Dig For Victory' garden Summer at Newquay Zoo, 2010

LDV Gnome guard in his usual allotment spot in our wartime ‘Dig For Victory’ garden Summer at Newquay Zoo, 2010 before he went wandering around the UK and Europe …

 

Our Gnome Guard on his planned travels, appearing in our wartime display at Trelawney Garden Centre's wildlife gardening weekend, August 2010

Our Gnome Guard on his planned travels, appearing in our wartime display at Trelawney Garden Centre’s wildlife gardening weekend, August 2010

Over the last few years we have been doing schools workshops based on everyday  life in WW2 and what happened in zoos, which you can read about here.

Time for a cup of tea and a chat,  outside our wartime garden exhibition.  Trengwainton 2014. Image - WWZG.

Time for a cup of tea and a chat, outside our wartime garden exhibition. Trengwainton 2014. Image – WWZG.

One of the highlights of the past 5 years has been chatting to visitors of all ages (and notably once a group of unclad naturists) ‘over the garden fence’ at  Newquay Zoo about everything from memories of food rationing to sustainability, allotments or schools gardens or meeting many people at other events from garden centres, garden societies and 1940s events at places like the National Trust’s Trengwainton Gardens.

Mr Bloom visits the World War Zoo Dig For Victory wartime garden at Newquay Zoo, 2 April 2012 with project manager Mark Norris.

“Who’s That?” Our most famous garden visitor Cbeebies Mr Bloom visits the World War Zoo Dig For Victory wartime garden at Newquay Zoo, 2 April 2012 with project manager Mark Norris. His photo still on display in the garden still gets lots of delighted recognition from younger zoo visitors!

 

This World War Zoo Gardens Blog has now reached over 60,000 visitors worldwide who may never even have visited Newquay Zoo, along with Twitter followers @worldwarzoo1939 as well.

Clays Fertiliser advert from 1940s Britain

Clays Fertiliser advert from 1940s Britain

Thinking about food waste, allotment gardening and energy saving have remained as much a part of modern life (especially throughout the recent recession) as it was in the 1940s. Soon we’ll be blogposting about the current EAZA European Zoo Pole to Pole campaign and ‘Pull the Plug’, looking at how people in the 1940s were encouraged to save energy for the war effort, rather than to tackle climate change and protect polar wildlife.

A small memorial at Newquay Zoo to the many zoo keepers, families and visitors worldwide who have been affected by wartime since 1914 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

A small memorial at Newquay Zoo to the many zoo keepers, families and visitors worldwide who have been affected by wartime since 1914 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

It’s been a great group or team effort from many staff and volunteers at Newquay Zoo to get the allotment site established, maintain it when I was off ill for a year in 2012 (throughout a very wet summer) and  fantastic to establish partnerships with a wide range of people from our wartime sister zoo Paignton Zoo to London Zoo, Kew Gardens and many others. Some of these zoo and gardens staff have now retired or moved on, but as Richard one of our previous gardeners in a past  zoo newsletter wrote: “Every gardener has added something to the Zoo, developing the gardens over time. It feels like a team project where you are working with people you have never met”.

Site staff and keepers lend a hand with sandbags - Lisa from zoo site staff helping out with the World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, December 2009

Site staff and keepers lend a hand with sandbags – Lisa from zoo site staff helping out with the World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, December 2009

Adrian our Operations manager waylaid to lend a hand with the sand(bags) for the World war Zoo keeper's garden! Newquay Zoo, Dec. 2009

Even the odd zoo manager as in wartime would have to pick up a (Cornish!) shovel and get stuck in filling sandbags – Adrian our now retired Operations manager waylaid to lend a hand with the sand(bags) for the World war Zoo keeper’s garden! Newquay Zoo, Dec. 2009. This rocky slope originally an aviary for the Cornish chough became eventually a coati house before its rebuilding in 2010 as the Madagascar Aviary.

 

Scroll back through past blog posts for some of the highlights of our project. Happy reading!

Thanks to everyone for their support, and we look forward to another 5 years of gardening, research and digging around to unearth more fascinating stories of life in wartime zoos and botanic gardens.

Happy gardening!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo,  August 2014

 

Remembering WW1 in zoos and gardens

August 3, 2014

Although I have spent  the last 5 years as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo researching WW2 and how it created shortages and other challenges for zoos and botanic gardens, I have frequently been asked recently about the effects of WW1 in light of the www.1914.org centenary events now underway.

Here is a summary of our recent WW1 related blog posts that you might find of interest.

William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1  (Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1
(Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

1. The Lost Zoo Keepers and Gardeners of London Zoo WW1

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/london-zoos-war-memorial-recent-pictures/

London Zoo plans a WW1 centenary exhibition http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/whats-on/the-zoo-at-war

and also a Little Creatures family celebration of regimental mascot Winnipeg or the original Winnie the Pooh being deposited at London Zoo 100 years ago when its Canadian Regiment went off to France.

http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/whats-on/little-creatures-family-festival

and material from Mary Evans picture archive:

http://blog.maryevans.com/2013/04/london-zoo-at-war.html

2. Lost Zoo Keepers from Belle Vue Zoo Manchester (and London Zoo) WW1 – updated from 2010/11

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/%e2%80%9clost-in-the-garden-of-the-sons-of-time%e2%80%9d-remembering-the-fallen-zoo-staff-from-wartime-zoos-onremembrance-sunday-and-armistice-day-2010-in-the-wartime-zoo-gardens/

3. National Allotment Week, 4- 10 August 2014 and other ww1 centenary garden links

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/national-allotment-week-4-10-august-2014-in-the-world-war-zoo-garden-at-newquay-zoo/

4. Port Lympne Zoo / Reserve centenary WW1 / WW2 and other WW1 centenary garden links

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/world-war-zoo-gardens-project-spreads-to-other-zoos-and-gardens/

5. Lost Ecologists of WW1 – Linnean Society casualties

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/lost-fellows-the-linnean-society-roll-of-honour-1914-1918/

6. Lost Ecologists of WW1 – The British Ecological Society

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/lost-ecologists-of-the-first-world-war/

7. Mr. Mottershead, WW1 and WW2 at Chester Zoo – “Our Zoo”

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/zoo-do-you-think-you-are-tracking-down-family-history-and-wartime-concrete-at-chester-zoo/

8. Animals in wartime WW1

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/war-horse-war-elephant-war-ferret-the-wartime-role-of-zoo-and-other-animals-from-tommys-ark-and-the-world-war-zoo-gardens/

 

A small selection of WW1 items on display alongside our usual WW2 material, display case, Tropical House, Newquay Zoo.

A small selection of WW1 items on display alongside our usual WW2 material, display case, Tropical House, Newquay Zoo.

Botanic Gardens in wartime WW1

Many Botanic Gardens had a zoological section and similar challenges to zoos in wartime. I wrote a free downloadable  article about this for the BGEN gardens website:  http://bgen.org.uk/resources/free/using-the-garden-ghosts-of-your-wartime-or-historic-past/

1. The Lost Gardeners of Kew Gardens in WW1

Kew has many activities such as tours and an exhibition planned. I will be giving a talk at Kew on 20 October as part of their Kew Guild / KMIS evening talks.

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

2. Lost “Gardeners and Men” WW1 poem from Kew Guild Journal

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/for-king-and-country-fought-and-died-gardeners-and-men/

3. Lost Gardeners – 1914 / 1915 Part 1

A brief  look through the garden journals of the time at the effects of war on gardens, estates and gardeners

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/lost-gardeners-of-world-war-one-1914-and-1915/

4. Garden writer Herbert Cowley, Kew Gardens  and WW1  Dig for Victory schemes

http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

5. Finally, a brief look at the home front, rationing, food and farming  in one Cornish village in WW1

http://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/life-in-wartime-devoran-in-world-war-1/

 

Watch this space for further WW1  blogposts:

Several more blog posts are in preparation in my spare zoo and home time for 2014 and 2015:

  • The Whitley family in WW1 and Ww2 who set up our sister zoo Paignton Zoo
  • Gardeners in 1916 onwards using the garden journals now online
  • WW1 in adverts from original magazines
  • Energy saving and salvage initiatives in Ww1 , WW2 and the EAZA Pole to Pole “pull the plug” campaign 2014
  • London Zoo in WW1 and the ‘first Blitz’ of WW1
  • Dublin Zoo,  Irish zoos and gardens in WW1
  • Updates on the Belle Vue Zoo and London Zoo memorial casualty research.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them …”, words from the 1914 poem by Lawrence Binyon familiar from many Remembrance services and written on cliffs at Polzeath (or Portreath – some controversy on this!) near Newquay Zoo, home of the World War Zoo Gardens Project:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/3112708.stm     BBC Cornwall page and plaque pictures.

We would be interested to hear of other gardens and zoo related stories from WW1 – contact us via the comments page!

Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo – World War Zoo Gardens project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging into Bristol Zoo’s wartime garden past – mystery photograph solved!

July 31, 2014

The mystery garden supplying Bristol Zoo Gardens pictured in The Bristol Post Jan 1946 (Source: Bristol Zoo gardens archive / Bristol Post)

The mystery garden supplying Bristol Zoo Gardens pictured in The Bristol Post Jan 1946 (Source: Bristol Zoo gardens archive / Bristol Post)

I was recently sent an intriguing photo of ‘Jan 1946 Dig for Victory’ or ‘Dig for Plenty’ efforts somewhere in Bristol, connected to feeding the animals, staff and visitors of Bristol Zoo. It had turned up towards the end of  the writing of Alan Ashby, Tim Brown and Christoph Schwitzer’s ‘s excellent recent history of Bristol Zoo gardens as part of their 175th birthday anniversary (available through their webshop.)

The photograph had come to light or not been included as the location was unattributed until after the book was published, despite work by PhD students Sarah-Joy Maddeaus, Andy Flack and John Partridge on the Bristol Zoo staff. This was the case with several other wartime episodes that Alan and I had uncovered after publication.

Did I know where this productive garden was?

Could I find out with help from appeals through Bristol Newspapers, Bristol museums or zoo archives?

The answer turned out to be surprisingly close to home, Alan told me on his recent visit to Newquay Zoo’s wartime garden   with another fellow Bartlett Society for Zoo History research member Rob Vaughan. We were busy looking at Newquay Zoo’s enclosures, old and very new like the new Macaw Flight aviary.

Alan accidentally answered his own question on a trip to Wild Place, Bristol Zoo’s long established outstation on the old Hollyhill Wood or  ‘Hollywood Towers’ estate near Cribbs Causeway motorway interchange at Bristol, which recently opened to the public in summer 2013. (See their Wild Place  facebook page too). You can read about its garden history and tower here and about its development on its Wild Place Wikipedia page

68 years later, the other side of the garden wall today, Wild Place, Bristol, 2014  (Picture: Alan Ashby)

68 years later, the other side of the garden wall today, Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Picture: Alan Ashby)

 

Even more surprisingly, Alan found nearby another familiar structure from wartime gardens, what looked like a tool shed but originally the garden’s air raid shelter! The building with the chimneys over the garden wall  is still standing, another object that helped Alan Ashby  place the picture.

What could well be the original air raid shelter, now Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Photo: Alan Ashby)

The original air raid shelter, Sanctuary Garden,now Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Photo: Alan Ashby)

This shelter in their Sanctuary Garden is also pictured on their Wild Place project Facebook page entry for Remembrance Sunday last year 2013.

Wild Place project Facebook photos Sanctuary Garden wartime shelters, covered in edible nasturtiums!

Wild Place project Facebook photos Sanctuary Garden wartime shelters, covered in edible nasturtiums!

There is a brief history of the Hollywood Tower estate (which survived intact into the 1950s/60s) on the Parks and Gardens site with information from the Avon Gardens Trust.

Bristol Zoo Gardens as its name suggests is famous for its gardens, lawns to lounge on and floral displays, transformed in wartime into vegetable beds much to the dismay of its gardens staff. This tradition lives on with gardens used to transform old enclosures and enrich animal lives, much as we do with plants at Newquay Zoo. The Bristol Zoo Edible Garden is one such very successful gardens project at Bristol Zoo set up by Head Gardener Eddie Mole and team.

I love walled gardens and this walled garden reminds me very strongly of the garden restoration at Heligan in Cornwall but also the wartime garden restoration at Trengwainton (National Trust) Garden in Cornwall, where we took our World War Zoo Gardens travelling display along to their wartime garden recent 40s event, pictured here.

Another interesting wartime zoo garden mystery solved and another interesting set of gardens and amazing animals to go and see!

More on Bristol Zoo’s archives, recent 175th anniversary and history including WW1 pictures here along with interviews with John Partridge some fabulous film footage of Bristol Zoos’s gardens including the gardens with uniformed visitors  in the 1940s (with elephants!)

Happy National Allotment Week 4 – 10 August 2014 - see also our previous post on this event.

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo


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