Discover the Oldest Zoos in England
The world’s first zoo, Vienna’s Tiergarten Schönbrunn opened in 1752, 72 years before the London Zoo would open in 1828. While England’s zoological heritage may have come later, its oldest zoo continues to thrive as a center of education, research, and conservation. Don your pith helmet and muck boots, as we discover the oldest zoos in England and a surprise contender!
Discover the Oldest Zoos in England: London Zoo – 1828
The London Zoo features some beautiful historic buildings, such as the 1830s Giraffe House.
The world’s third oldest zoo, London Zoo is located in the Northern part of Regent’s Park. Established in 1828, the London Zoo was the world’s first scientific zoo. It was founded by the Zoological Society of London. Their goal was to promote the study and conservation of animals. The zoo’s first collection was quite small, but it grew rapidly over the years.
Nearly 200 years later, the London Zoo houses a diverse collection of animals from around the world, with over 600 different species in its care. The zoo features some beautiful historic structures, such as the 1830s Giraffe House and the iconic Lubetkin Penguin Pool. Unfortunately, the pool was deemed unsafe and is no longer used. The zoo has a variety of natural areas including Land of the Lions, Gorilla Kingdom, and Penguin Beach. These exhibits provide visitors with the opportunity to see animals in environments that simulate their natural habitats. The zoo continues to study and research the best methods of animal conservation.
Discover the Oldest Zoos in England: Bristol Zoo – 1836
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a prominent zoological park located in the city of Bristol, England. Established in 1836, it is the second-oldest zoo in England and the fifth-oldest zoo in the world. Bristol Zoo was founded by Henry Riley, a local physician. The zoo is home to a diverse collection of animals from around the world. Some of its notable inhabitants include gorillas, red pandas, and meerkats.
Bristol Zoo is actively involved in conservation efforts, both in captivity and in the wild. It participates in breeding programs for endangered species, conducts research, and supports various conservation projects worldwide. The zoo offers a variety of areas like Twilight World, Seal and Penguin Coasts, and Bug World. These areas provide environments that resemble the animals’ natural habitats.
Discover the Oldest Zoos in England: Belle Vue Zoo – 1836/ Manchester Zoological Garden – 1838
Opened in 1838, Manchester Zoological Gardens was a historical zoological garden located in Manchester, England. However, the Manchester Zoo faced competition from the nearby Belle Vue Zoo, which had opened in 1836. A new railway station conveniently located to Belle Vue led to the closure of the Manchester Zoological Gardens in 1842. Many of the zoo’s animals were transferred to Belle Vue. Belle Vue Zoo housed a diverse collection of animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, and various primates. Over the years, Belle Vue expanded to include not only a wide variety of animals but also an amusement park. It featured roller coasters, a circus, and a funfair. Amid changing public tastes, attendance at the amusement park and zoo declined. Belle Vue Zoo closed its doors in 1982.
Discover Paignton Zoo – 1923
Paignton Zoo, officially known as Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, is a popular zoo and conservation center located in Paignton, England. Paignton Zoo was established in 1923. It has a long history of providing a place for the public to learn about and connect with wildlife. The zoo is home to over 2,500 animals, representing more than 300 species. The zoo’s collection includes animals from various parts of the world, making it a rich and diverse experience for visitors.
Paignton Zoo is actively involved in conservation efforts and education. The zoo plays a critical role in helping protect vulnerable and endangered animals. Paignton Zoo features a wide range of exhibits and enclosures that replicate the natural habitats of the animals. Some of the areas include Tropical Trails, Desert House, and Wetland Birds. These exhibits provide visitors the opportunity to view the wildlife in environments that are reminiscent of their natural homes.
Discover the Oldest Zoos in England: Whipsnade – 1931
Whipsnade Zoo is located near the town of Whipsnade in Bedfordshire, England. It is known for its extensive collection of animals, its commitment to conservation, and its large, open enclosures. The zoo opened in 1931 and was one of the first zoos in the world to have large open enclosures instead of traditional cages. Whipsnade Zoo was established to provide more space and a better quality of life for the animals. The zoo is home to over 2,500 animals representing more than 200 species. It features an array of animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, and rhinoceroses
Whipsnade Zoo actively participates in breeding programs for endangered species, conducts research, and supports field conservation efforts. The zoo also provides educational opportunities for students ages 5-19. Whipsnade’s principal goal is to help preserve biodiversity and protect endangered species. The zoo offers a variety open enclosures, including Lion Rock, Elephant Meadow, Chimpanasium, Rhino Ridge, and Lemur Wood.
Discover the Oldest Zoos in England: Chessington Zoo – 1931
Chessington Zoo, presently known as Chessington World of Adventures Resort, is a popular theme park and zoo located in Chessington, Surrey, England. It is located on the grounds of the historic estate Chessington Hall. The resort combines thrilling rides and attractions with a zoo featuring a variety of animals. The history of Chessington Zoo dates back to 1931 when the estate was converted into a small zoo. Over the years, it has evolved into a modern theme park with a significant zoo component.
Chessington Zoo houses a diverse collection of animals, including lions, tigers, gorillas, and various species of monkeys.
Chessington is divided into themed areas, such as Land of the Tiger, Africa, and Rainforest, each offering an unforgettable experience featuring different animal species. Visitors can explore areas like Trail of the Kings, Monkey and Bird Garden, and Amazu, which provide opportunities to observe animals in environments that resemble their natural habitats. These days, Chessington is principally known as a theme park. Chessington offers numerous rides and attractions, including roller coasters and water rides.
Dudley Zoo – 1937
Located in Dudley, West Midlands, England, on the grounds of Dudley Castle, Dudley Zoo and Castle was founded in 1937 by the Third Earl of Dudley. The Earl decided to create a zoo on the castle grounds, which dates to the 11th century. The zoo is home to a variety of animals and features both native and exotic species, including lemurs, meerkats, and exotic birds. Dudley Zoo participates in breeding programs and supports conservation projects protecting endangered species and their habitats.
The Tower of London Menagerie
The Tower of London Menagerie is considered one of the earliest examples of animal collections in England. While it wasn’t a zoo in the modern sense, with a dedicated focus on scientific study and conservation, it did house a variety of exotic animals for public display. The menagerie had its origins in the early 13th century during the reign of King Henry III. It was during that time that King Henry III received three leopards as a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, which marked the beginning of the menagerie. It was established as a royal collection of animals, and it continued to grow and evolve over the centuries. The menagerie housed a variety of animals, including big cats, bears, elephants, and various exotic birds.
The Tower of London Menagerie was closed in 1835. Many of the animals were relocated to the London Zoo in Regent’s Park, which had opened in 1828. This marked a transition from keeping animals for entertainment to focusing on conservation and education.