HISTORY OF GLASGOW ZOO, CALDERPARK
Zoological Society of Glasgow was founded on 15th December,
1936. The Society's aim from the start was to found a zoological
garden within the city boundaries. The initial proposal was to participate
in the Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park in 1938 with a four-acre
exhibit of Animals of the British Empire, and then expand
into the rest of the park when the Empire Exhibition finished.
proposal was rejected by the Exhibition organisers, so various other
locations were considered. No site within the city could be identified.
At the end of 1938 the Society looked at the Calderpark Estate,
a couple of miles beyond the city boundary. The name of the Society
was subsequently altered to the Zoological Society of Glasgow and
West of Scotland, although more recent boundary changes have incorporated
Calderpark back into the city.
founder President of the Society was Edward Hindle, Professor of
Zoology at Glasgow University. He subsequently moved to the Zoological
Society of London. The founder Secretary was Sydney Benson, who
became the first Director of the zoo. Another early member of the
Society, Edward H. Bostock, had promoted the idea of a zoo for Glasgow
for forty years and his family connection with animals in Glasgow
went back well over a century.
onset of World War II delayed the opening of Calderpark Zoo until
9th July, 1947. Since its opening there have been three Directors
only: Sydney Benson, Jerry Fisher and the present Director, Richard
more information on the background of the current Glasgow ZooPark
ZOOS AND WILD ANIMAL SHOWS OF GLASGOW
Zoo at Calderpark is only the most recent of a series of wild animal
collections found in Glasgow over the past two centuries. They illustrate
quite well the changes over time in views on animal captivity.
WOMBWELL'S MENAGERIE, GLASGOW GREEN
Wombwell founded a touring menagerie in 1805. This made regular
visits to Glasgow for many years. Each year at the Glasgow Fair
holiday (the last two weeks in July) the menagerie took up residence
on Glasgow Green along with many other amusements. Contemporary
accounts in newspapers welcome the menagerie enthusiastically, praising
its educational and entertainment value, and describe the animal
collection in detail.
1839, the menagerie, transported in fifteen waggons, included two
elephants and a rhinoceros, zebras, onagers, llamas, six lions,
panthers and leopards, ocelots, and three tigers. One hyaena is
rearing a young one (an impressive piece of captive breeding) and
a kangaroo is carrying a joey. The 'wild ass-zebra' mentioned may
be the now-extinct quagga. In 1840, Wombwell is credited as having
bred 160 lions over the preceding 25 years.
GLASGOW ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, CRANSTONHILL
concept of zoological gardens stems from the founding of London
Zoo in the late 1820s, keeping animals in parks being considered
a humane improvement on keeping them in buildings or touring cages.
Following on from the opening of London Zoo, a number of zoological
gardens were founded around Britain.
1840 Glasgow hosted the tenth meeting of the British Association
for the Advancement of Science. There are a few references in
contemporary records to the Glasgow Zoological Gardens at Cranstonhill.
Cranstonhill was at that time the estate of a mansion house on the
western edge of the city. The zoological gardens, located opposite
the old Glasgow Royal Botanic Gardens, were founded by Thomas Atkins,
also proprietor of the Liverpool Zoological Gardens. Atkins had
previously owned a touring menagerie in competition with Wombwell.
there is reference to the 'rare birds and beasts, which must
gratify not only the curious, but be the source of interest and
instruction to the lovers of natural history', only four species
have so far been identified. Three were donations: golden eagle,
pig-tailed ape and Indian goat. The fourth species was the alpaca.
It seems likely that the zoological gardens were founded to promote
alpacas as a new Scottish domesticated animal to revive the textile
the summer at dusk the gardens laid on great firework displays.
Each show attracted as many as 4,000 paying visitors, with a further
40,000 watching the displays free outside the gardens.
more information on the Glasgow Zoological Gardens, 1840 click HERE
THE SCOTTISH ZOO AND VARIETY CIRCUS, NEW CITY ROAD, COWCADDENS
Scottish Zoo opened near Sauchiehall Street on 12th May, 1897, inside
a large building. It was the brainchild of Edward H. Bostock, a
great-nephew of George Wombwell. E.H. Bostock had taken over the
Wombwell touring menageries, adding his own name to the business
in the process.
charming, fictionalised description
by John Joy Bell of a visit to the Scottish Zoo (written in Glaswegian)
appeared in the Evening Times newspaper in 1902. This mentions performing
lions and tigers, E.H. Bostock's famous stuffed elephant (now in
Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum), a polar bear, sloth bear, hyaenas,
camels ('the wee yin's face is awfu' like Aunt Purdie'),
parrots, monkeys, common seal, Californian sealion, and a tapir.
for details of a marriage conducted in the lions cage of Bostock's
Jungle in 1910.
PICKARD'S NOAH'S ARK, PANOPTICON, 115 TRONGATE
Panopticon started life in 1857 as the Britannia Music Hall. Albert
E. Pickard, an eccentric Yorkshireman and business rival of E.H.
Bostock, bought it at the turn of the century. In 1908 he opened
a menagerie in the basement called Pickard's Noah's Ark. Pickard's
obituary in 1964 (he died in a house fire aged 90) says that he
was proprietor of a wax-works, a macabre museum, several cinemas
and a monkey-house. It is not clear whether the monkey-house is
this basement menagerie or a separate animal show.
THE GLASGOW CORPORATION ZOO, THAT NEVER WAS
the Scottish Zoo closed in 1909, E.H. Bostock offered the animal
collection to the city as the basis for a municipal collection.
The Corporation rejected the offer and the animal collection was
about a Corporation zoo continued, however. In April, 1913, a meeting
of the Special Sub-Committee as to the Establishment of a Zoological
Garden in one of the Public Parks considered a letter from E.H.
Bostock welcoming the news that the Corporation proposed to open
a zoo in Glasgow's Rouken Glen Park and offering a present of Indian
cattle to start the animal collection. The committee sought advice
from the zoos of London and Edinburgh.
outbreak of the Great War meant that the Glasgow Corporation zoo
WILSON'S ZOO, 68-76 OSWALD STREET
Wilson family operated a commercial zoo in Glasgow for many years.
On Wednesday 23rd December, 1936, a 'miniature zoo' opened
inside a disused church near Glasgow's Central Station, renovated
and modernised for its new purpose. This replaced an earlier zoo
under the railway arches in Argyle Street. The Oswald Street establishment,
owned by William Wilson and his son, housed a varied collection,
including lions, a black panther, monkeys, a badger, parrots, macaws
and a delightful mynah bird remembered for saying, "Where's the
sawdust man?" in a broad Glaswegian accent. It was very popular
and crowded, with two levels of cages and a pet shop in the basement.
This zoo continued to operate until the 1950s. When it closed, the
pet shop business moved just across the River Clyde to Carlton Place.
Oswald Street Zoo opened only one week after the founding of the
Zoological Society of Glasgow. It is possible these two events are
linked in some way, although no documentary evidence has been found
CRAIGEND CASTLE ZOO
Wilsons staged a couple of animal collecting expeditions to Africa
and needed to expand. From 15th April 1949 to September 1954 they
ran an outdoor zoo at Craigend Castle, Mugdockbank, near Milngavie
in the countryside north west of the city, but this proved difficult
to get to by public transport. The collection included monkeys,
crocodiles, an Indian elephant called "Big Charlie", lions
and leopards, and many birds. The Chinese Pere David deer occasionally
recorded in the wild near Loch Lomond stem from an escape from Craigend.
avenue to be researched is the collection apparently held in the
Botanic Gardens as evidenced by the following:
Friday Morning, October 3, 1851
Wednesday forenoon, as some young ladies belonging to this city
were walking in that beautiful portion of the Botanical Gardens
situated on the banks of the Kelvin, they were suddenly, to their
great terror and surprise, assailed by the large baboon, which forms
so great an object of attraction to the more youthful portion of
the visitors at the Gardens. The fierce brute, which, with some
other smaller monkeys, we believe, have been allowed to escape from
their cage through the negligence of the keepers, seized one of
the young ladies and bit her severely, and more serious consequences
were only prevented by the appearance of some other persons, at
whose approach the brute made off. We are induced to notice the
above, as we understand the animals, which are still at large, and
defying all attempts at capture by taking refuge, when such are
made, on the tops of the neighbouring trees, are likely to prove
a source of annoyance, and, as the above incident will show, even
of injury to the frequenters of the Gardens.
other animal exhibits have come to light, although details are fragmentary.
There was a fenced-off deer park in Tollcross
Park in the East End of Glasgow. This closed during the Great War
we can see from this postcard, another public park in Glasgow;
Elder Park, Govan, was home to Llamas early in the 20th century.
One of the occasional exhibitions in Glasgow toward the end of the
eighteenth century had amongst its attractions a polar bear, a lion
tiger, Punch and Judy, a learned horse, dwarfs, giants and a performing
flea. The polar bear was not caged but attached to the floor by
a chain long enough to permit it to climb into a water trough. The
keeper used to "dash a pailful of water in its face, which it
took very kindly."
lion tiger (also called a Royal tiger) was described as "a most
fierce and savage animal" and was exhibited along with several
monkeys and birds of rich plumage. One night it broke out of its
cage and attacked a monkey, dying a few later as a result of swallowing
the monkey's iron collar.
The locations of these temporary exhibitions have not been established,
although there is an unconfirmed report of an eighteenth century
"zoo" in the Merchants' City area of Glasgow.
was certainly displayed in the Merchants' City, at 14 Virginia Street,
for five weeks over Christmas, 1835, before travelling on to Edinburgh.
At the time it was described as an Indian rhino, but it may have
been Javan. This event is of particular interest because the rhino
was owned by Thomas Atkins of Liverpool, who five years later was
responsible for opening the earliest zoological
gardens in Glasgow.
recently, there is a fleeting mention of a small menagerie next
to Niven's Hall and the Tea Gardens in Bridgeton, consisting of
birds, beasts and reptiles.
Mitchell Library holds a book "Glasgow Looking Glass", which
includes a drawing of the
Fair" as it appeared on July 28th 1825. Here
we can see an excerpt which illustrates that there were a live
lion, giraffe, snake and rhinocero on view at the Fair in that
year. Looking closely we can just see a second booth showing
a lion on display, indicating a second exhibition at the same