Bristol Zoo: Rarely seen photographs to go on display at special event ahead of closure

The zoo’s history weekend will take place on May 28 and 29

Rarely seen photographs from Bristol Zoo’s 185-year history in Clifton will go on display for a special event at the end of this month.

Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton is set for closure on Saturday, September 3, 2022.

To mark the closing chapter, the team have planned The Zoo and You - a series of special celebration events, activities and attractions.

The first event is the upcoming history weekend which will take place on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29.

The main avenue of Bristol Zoo Gardens in 1900 (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

Memory Show and Tell will give visitors an opportunity to explore a collection of historical archives, attend a programme of talks, and bring along their own memories to share.

What is The Zoo and You, Memory Show and Tell event?

A collection of historical archives and rarely seen artefacts will be on display for visitors.

The collection will feature old relics, photographs, film footage, signage and records that have not been shown in public for decades.

Historic artefacts in the Bristol Zoo Gardens’ archive room (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

Visitors can also attend a programme of talks which will reawaken old memories and inform new visitors about the important role Bristol Zoo Gardens has played in the evolution of public zoos and its world-renowned conservation work.

The special history weekend will also be an opportunity for the public to share their own personal keepsakes, and favourite memories, moments and stories that span generations.

The entrance of Bristol Zoo Gardens in 1900 (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

Simon Garrett, Head of Public Engagement commented: “This year marks such a significant milestone in Bristol Zoo’s incredible story. As we move towards the closure of the Clifton site, it’s important that we mark and celebrate the 185-year history of this famous attraction, and look to the future of the new Bristol Zoo.

“Within our archive rooms, we’ve uncovered and dusted off treasures and thanks to the help of the team at Bristol Culture, we’re excited to reveal some hidden gems that shine a light on the Zoo’s history.

“We hope seeing these items will bring back fond memories for visitors, who have enjoyed many a day out at the Zoo, and look forward to reminiscing with them during our Memory Show and Tell event.”

A guide to Bristol Zoo Gardens from 1931 (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

What were some of the popular animals at Bristol Zoo Gardens over the years?

Bristol Zoo Gardens is the fifth oldest zoo in the world.

Since opening its gates to the public in 1836, it has been home to tens of thousands of animals and earned international acclaim for its conservation breeding programmes.

Over the years, generations of visitors have experienced the magic of this iconic site and been introduced to many, much-loved animals that have lived within the 12-acre landmark.

Zebi the Asian elephant arrived in 1868 and became renowned for removing and eating straw hats.

Later, Rajah replaced Zebi and gave rides to children for many years.

Rosie the elephant was also very popular, and many local people have fond memories of rides on Rosie during the 1940s and 50s.

The entrance of Bristol Zoo Gardens in 1935 with decorations for the Silver Jubilee of George V (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

Roger was a rare black rhino, and the first black rhino ever born in the UK, in 1958.

The Zoo’s more recent elephants, Wendy and Christina, were known for being taken for walks to Whiteladies Road during the 1960s.

The entrance of Bristol Zoo Gardens in 2010 (Credit: Bristol Zoological Society)

Arguably Bristol Zoo Gardens’ most famous resident was Alfred the gorilla, who lived at the Zoo from 1930 to 1948.

He was, at the time, the only gorilla in captivity in the country and was a very popular Bristol citizen.

Now his taxidermic form stands in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

Find out more about the future of Bristol Zoo gardens here.