The Zoological Gardens. The North of England Zoological Society, whose gardens are in Upton, originally began as a private "zoo" on the property known as "Oakfield" on the Caughall Road. The house and grounds were purchased in 1930 by Mr. Mottershead (the present Director) - an area of about 50 – 40 acres, now Increased to 60 - 70 acres. The opposition expressed in the Parish Council of 1st December, 1930, that "This Council, on hearing that there was a proposal to use Oakfield as a Zoological Gardens and Cafe, called a meeting and unanimously desire that you refuse permission as it is contrary to the Town Planning Scheme, besides being a serious menace to the whole neighbourhood" was overcome and the Zoo has expanded and developed, especially since 1945, though as early as 1934 it began to be replanned.
Its present development aims to provide large open enclosures which offer the animals living conditions in as natural a setting as possible. The Lion enclosure is the largest of its kind in the British Isles, and the Zoo has at least two other enclosures that can also be said to claim distinction, namely, the Polar Bear enclosure, the pool of which has a capacity of 550,000 gallons, also a Zebra house of spacious dimensions.
In 1950 it became one of the eight zoological gardens in Great Britain to be given the status of a scientific and cultural society and it is now owned and controlled by the North of England Zoological Society with Mr. Mottershead, the Secretary, as active head of the gardens. The collection, of animals has grown rapidly, and at the present time contains some very fine specimens of the Cat species, Himalayan and Malayan bears, Polar bears, elephants, zebras, giraffes (at present doing twelve months' quarantine), sea lions, wallabies and various types of the deer family, several chimpanzees who enhance a most entertaining monkey collection and many other animals. In addition there is a well laid-out reptile house and tropical aquarium.
A great deal of attention has and is being given to the Botanical side of the gardens which are even now a feature of the zoo, and several new schemes are under way in hitherto uncultivated areas that will add vastly to the pleasure of the visitors and the beauty of their (73) surroundings. The making of a canal system suitable for tours by boat is being undertaken and a big rose garden with a fountain is planned, while it is hoped at some future date to improve the tropical aquarium, originally the wine cellars of "Oakfleld."
The number of visitors has increased enormously, e.g. in 1945 there were 100,000, whereas in 1950 there were 414,000.
The species and numbers of animals already compare with the leading zoos. In January, 1951, there were:- Mammals (137 of 53 species); Birds ( 231 of 75 species; Reptiles ( 31 of 29 species); Fish ( 386 of 24 species). The chameleon, notably difficult to keep alive and well in captivity, lived three years, a unique life period in a zoo, and another unique event has been the breeding of a griffin vulture.
Among the famous personages who have visited the gardens are the Duke of Bedford, Peter Scott, "Nomad", Eric Jolly, Gwen Payne and Major Jordan, all of the B.B.C. Major Weinmann of the Ceylon Zoo has taken back with him three young fallow deer.
Outstanding events recently have included the opening of the Bear Pit on 14th July, 1950, which was broadcast. This year (1951) the zoo will be the venue for the conference of all directors of the zoological societies of Great Britain.