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United Kingdom Belle Vue Manchester (closed 1977)

Discussion in 'Zoo History' started by Jonfla, 6 Jan 2020.

  1. Jonfla

    Jonfla Member

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    Has anyone got any media to share on Belle Vue, Manchester?
    As a '50s child with parents working 7 days a week, I used to drag my Grandmother around Belle Vue at least one Saturday a month in the late 50s early 60s. There was also the annual expedition to Chester which then pre Elephant bridge, had a much smaller collection.
    The Belle Vue collection was kept in poor Victorian style enclosures, but for a small child was a place of wonderment. Great memories of Nicholas the common Hippo for ever begging for food. The march of the King Penguins. A fabulous Parrot collection in (modern for the time) aviaries the length of the Elephant and Giraffe houses.
    Chethams Manchester library have some good photographs, also in the book "At Home in the Zoo" by Gerald ILES. But for the size of the collection it is limited. So I would love to see any other media.
    I appreciate there may not be any as we didnt have cameras like now, but thought it worth a shout out.
     
  2. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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    I only visited once, in 1973, when the collection was past its best, but I did take some photos. I have scanned a few and they can be seen in the UK - Other Gallery (try a Search).
    There are more details in this thread Memories of Belle Vue Zoo
     
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  3. Jonfla

    Jonfla Member

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    Thanks, I couldnt find the "Memories" thread I assume because it starts with M not B.
     
  4. Tim Brown

    Tim Brown Well-Known Member

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    There is little evidence to suggest,as gentle lemur states, that the collection was"past its best" in 1973...in fact the with the recent addition of the Tropical River House a couple of years before,it was in its prime. I had my first job interview there in 1974,courtesy of Clive Bennett in the Reptile House/Aquarium and ,having been a regular there for ten years I had no sense that the collection was in regression. Belle Vue ceased contributing data to the IZY ,so it is difficult to prove in facts and figures - but a figure of circa 380 taxa would be little different to the figure from 15 years before.In 2001 I tracked former Director Gerald Iles down..to his Montreal flat,he would have been 92/93 at the time and physically decrepit, but mentally as sharp as a knife.Regarding Jonfla`s request for media,there is no end of it around the internet if you want to spend time digging around.
     
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  5. Jonfla

    Jonfla Member

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    Thanks Tim, Yes I've been digging out internet media for a while, and it seems to be historic stills from the '50s or cine family days out on youtube from the '70s.
    This is my favorite photo of Nicholas, born at the zoo, living in what was originally the "Elephant bath".He killed his Mother "Gracie" named after Gracie Fields.(His father was called Tony and passed of natural causes I believe.) The large cage at the back was for the Gibbons, and quite a good habitat for the '50s. Nicholas.jpg
     
  6. Tim Brown

    Tim Brown Well-Known Member

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    A decent cage for today I would say ,probably better than those "naturalistic" islands with a bare tree at either end and a rope joining them in the middle...as recently built at a well-known zoo in the East Midlands. The design weakness was that the indoor housing was in the middle of the cage.. meaning that the keeper had to enter the apes domain.
     
  7. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

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    Quite a good way of getting a keeper killed IMHO!
     
  8. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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    The evidence for my statement was what I saw on my visit. Of course I accept that as I only visited once, I cannot make a direct comparison with the zoo's heyday and so my judgement must be subjective. But at that time I had visited enough zoos in England, France and Switzerland to know a modern, well maintained zoo when I saw one: I am afraid that Belle Vue was neither a modern nor a well maintained zoo at that time.
    There certainly were some healthy, interesting animals which were decently housed and well cared for, including the bears and the giraffes and the fishes in the Aquarium. But there were also obvious problems with the maintenance of some of the older enclosures (look at the rusty piano wire in the Monkey House and the state of the fencing in the chamois enclosure in my photos). I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Tropical River House, which was the newest exhibit at the zoo, and I was disappointed - the hippo exhibit was very dirty, not an uncommon problem, but it was bad. The guidebook showed photos of pygmy hippos and great hornbills, which were conspicuous by their absence - although there were Malayan tapirs, some ibis and crowned pigeons.
    I also noted the lethargy of the gorillas, the closure of the nocturnal display and the bird of prey exhibit that held a vulture and a cassowary. I know that memory can play tricks, but I certainly do not remember seeing many other visitors although I visited on the 8th of August. I was not surprised to learn of its closure in 1977.
     
  9. Jonfla

    Jonfla Member

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    Yes you are correct Tim, but it was eventually moved to the side with a safety gate.
     
  10. Jonfla

    Jonfla Member

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    I tend to agree with you G.L. The Forte catering and hotel organisation had become owners, and were not too interested in the zoo collection. There was investment as you say in the Tropical River House (trying to keep up with an expanding Chester) but the Common Hippo habitat did not really improve on what they had before, and had removed the outdoor pool.
    It was the free flying Hornbills that started eating the smaller birds and had to be recaged.
    The new Great Ape enclosures were very poor in design, and the new outdoor elephant area was too small and faced north! The big cat outdoor areas were a vast improvement on the indoor cages, but I dont think the curator had much backing from the owners. Shame because it could have been good. I think it only lasted into the '70s because it was used to quarantine imported hoofstock for the new Safari parks being opened. It was a shock to see a dozen Giraffes suddenly on "firework island"!
     
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  11. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    They quarantined a lot of species for the newly-opening Marwell Zoo also- Giraffe, several antelope species, later camels too.