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Hotham Park Zoo, Bognor Regis

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by sooty mangabey, 15 Feb 2009.

  1. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    This zoo was, really, a pretty shabby place. It hit the headlines when some bears escaped, and were shot, and some of the conditions it which it kept animals were pretty awful. It closed in the mod 1980s, and was probably no great loss.

    And yet... this was one of the first zoos that I was able to visit regulalrly, as a child. Seeing a brush-tailed porcupine there - having read about such beasts in the books of Gerald Durrell - was massively exciting. Ditto the chance to hold a lion cub (just don't think too hard about what probably happened to those friendly lion cubs which were walked around the zoo...). I think they once had drills there, and they certainly had quite a decent collection for what was a poky little zoo in the corner of a park in one of England's less lovely seaside towns.

    I once worked with a bloke who claimed that he and the other local teenagers used to break into the zoo and, in the tunnels where there wre some really hideous tableaus of mining gnomes and such like, engage in sexual activity. Sadly, he's the only person I've ever met who had anything much to say about the zoo, and I don't think he was checking out the monkey housing on those long-ago nights (sadly). There is a passage in one of Clinton keeling's books about the zoo, but I wonder if any other people on the forum have any information about it or even any photographs.
     
  2. JamesB

    JamesB Well-Known Member

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    Haha, you just made my day! My mum and her family regularly visted hotham park, heres what i know:

    The zoo was in a area called Rainbow's End, it was home to various animals including the famous bears! I dont know when but it fell into disrepair a few years back and last year they started a restoration project and there is now a new nature pond and boating pond, there were plans to bring back the area but i think the plans fell through

    Im sorry that i dont know alot but my mothers memory isnt as good as it used to be!

    Here are some links that i dug up:

    MySpace.com - rainbows end - 29 - Male - Bognor - www.myspace.com/rainbowsendbognor
    Hotham Park Restoration

    Hope this helps :)
     
  3. Paradoxurus

    Paradoxurus Well-Known Member

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    I have guidebook from the place from the period before it became a fully fledged zoo. At the time it appears to have been more of a pets corner housing mostly domestic stock.

    The chapter in one of Clin's books is quite lengthy and detailed and includes a couple of photographs. He gathered much information from a former keeper at the place (without digging the book out I can't quite remember the exact details) who is now (or certainly was) a fellow Bartlett Society member. Off the top of my head I think his name was Gordon Brown. Clin also visited a few times so his writing includes his own personal impressions.
     
  4. Pacu

    Pacu Well-Known Member

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    This is my first post, so apologies to all if it appears in the wrong place. Hotham Park Pets Corner officially opened in May 1950 and was operated by Bognor regis Urban District Council. At that time it housed mainly domestic animals, some native wildlife and a few monkeys.

    It was sold in 1978 to the owner of Wellingborough Zoo. He introduced quite a few exotic species, definately including flamingoes, brown bears, one of which came from the Chipperfields and puma, which bred several times.

    I visited when it had just changed hands again in 1981 and remenber the bears, a donkey who shared accommodation with a zebra, bactrian camels, a beautiful black panther, a tiger and I am fairly sure, a couple of servals. I think there waere also seals. At this time it was known as 'Zootopia'

    The bears (including one called Mary who 'waved' at visitors) escaped in 1982 and not long after that in 1983/4 the site was re-named 'Rainbows End' and the animals were moved out. I don't know what the place was like apart from at the time of my visit but I do not think, in the context of small zoo in the late 1970s and 80s, that it was a bad place. The animal enclosures were not that different from others I have seen since and whilst some were certainly on the small side, I suspect that is a criticism that can be levelled at many collections at that time. I doubt that the fate of the lions cubs was any worse that that of other cubs in similar collections and I do think there was a keeper called Mr Brown who cared well for the animals.

    Interestingly Bognor Regis had an animal collection before this, an indoor arrangement on the sea-front behind a fake mountain which was owned by Billy Butlin. I know very little about it but have heard the collection included hyena, bears and penguins. It was probably like on of the C19th menageries you sometimes see pictures of.

    Hopefully this information will have been of some interest. The restoration of the park has gone ahead but is not particularly impressive.
     
  5. reptile1517

    reptile1517 Well-Known Member

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    Hotham park

    My first reply too. I am not sure you are correct when you say it was the owner of Wellingborough Zoological Gardens who purchased it. I will check however and post an update. I believe that Zoo was closed before 1978 but it was a long time ago. I have several old postcards which show various views of the Pets Corner. None which show any species but a few cages etc. I will sort them out and post them on this website.
     
  6. Pacu

    Pacu Well-Known Member

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    It is very difficult to find out very much at all about the place. It is possible that the man from Wellinborough didn't actually own it but he certainly claimed that he had 'taken it over', so perhaps he was running it for someone else. The new owner took over in summer 1978.
     
  7. Paradoxurus

    Paradoxurus Well-Known Member

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    I think Wellingborough closed in 1971 (or 1972) and that the final owner was called Stevens.
     
  8. reptile1517

    reptile1517 Well-Known Member

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    Hotham park,

    Yes, they were my thoughts that Wellingborough closed much earlier. My memories are that several zoo owners banded together and went in a convoy to "rescue" the animals from Wellingborough. I will check however and post some details. I find the history of Zoological Gardens fascinating and I have several books on the subject as well as writing a few articles myself. :)
     
    Last edited: 28 Mar 2009
  9. Pacu

    Pacu Well-Known Member

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    It looks as though Reptile 1517 is right, I have managed to get hold of a photocopy of chapter 7 of Clinton Keeling's 'Where the Elephant Walked'. It says that on 3rd July 1978 a group of local businessmen operating as Underhill Enterprises took it over.

    I was right that there is a link to someone from Wellinborough, though, as it says Mr Howard, who had previously 'been at Wellingborough Zoo, the Lambton Lion Park and a similar place in Holland ... was appointed as superintendant'. So although he wasn't the owner, presumably it is the same Mr Howard who said he was 'in charge', perhaps just meaning running the place; it was a long time ago and I thing we are all doing quite well to remember anything much!

    The book also gives a start date of 1949 but I have a guide book for what was then 'Pets Corner' giving an opening date of May 1950, although I have a feeling that may have been an official opening with ceremony etc. Which is not, of course the same thing as when visitors were first allowed in.

    I think I will try to get hold of a copy of the book. I would also be interested to read any of your articles Reptile 1517, so if there are available online, please let us know.
     
  10. reptile1517

    reptile1517 Well-Known Member

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    >>>I am putting on a photo of the "Pets Hospital" in Hotham Park. At first I wondered if this was from a model village but looking at it closely, you can see a man leaning up against a post. In view of this I would estimate the tower to be at least 15ft tall. Therefore I can only surmise it was a surgery or the like for occupants of the Children's Zoo. Any comments?<<<
     

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  11. Pacu

    Pacu Well-Known Member

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    There is a photo of it in the 'Pet's Corner' Guide book I have, which I think is from the late 1950s. You are right about the height of the building and there is a rather ugly looking Humpty Dumpty just beyond the side with two different roof heights. There is a clock tower drawn on the map in the guide book but it is shown only as a clock tower, so it may not be the same building. Thanks for posting the photo.
     
  12. reptile1517

    reptile1517 Well-Known Member

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    I have some more photos which I will post soon.
     
  13. Evie

    Evie New Member

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    Hotham Park Zoo

    Hi
    This is my first post too! so I hope it ends up in the right place! I just got some photos developed from some very old slides my dad had. There was a lot taken at this zoo and I was sure it was in Bognor so googled it and came to this site! I will try and add the pics, I think I was about 3 so will be 1963 approx...:)
     
    Last edited: 31 Oct 2009
  14. reptile1517

    reptile1517 Well-Known Member

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    If you post some photos, I should be able to tell if they are HP or not.
     
  15. Evie

    Evie New Member

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    I did try earlier but it wouldn't let me download them. I'll have another go I'm pretty sure it is though, especially when I saw somebody on here had mentioned the humpty dumpty! :)
     
  16. Evie

    Evie New Member

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    I keep trying to upload them but it just says invalid file...what am I doing wrong!
     
  17. hothamfan

    hothamfan Well-Known Member

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    My memory of Hotham Park Zoo is from the late 60s. At that age (8-9) I only really rember humpty dumpty and the pedal go-kart track and the boating-lake next door. Love the Hospital Piccy. I rember it. Here's a piccy I found from a google hunt, of a postcard "Pets Corner' Hotham Park see attached Sorry lousy quality, but its all I have
     

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  18. hothamfan

    hothamfan Well-Known Member

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    Evie, You ask... What are you doing wrong? If you're using a PC, they're picky. Maybe you have the wrong file format. It needs PNG or JPG or PDF. Or are you not going to the 'advnaced' layout? Hope I'm helping. Try again.
     
    Last edited: 4 Jun 2010
  19. hothamfan

    hothamfan Well-Known Member

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    'Pets Corner' in Hotham park

    I've trawled for some more picture of 'Pets Corner' in Hotham park
     

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    Last edited: 4 Jun 2010
  20. hothamfan

    hothamfan Well-Known Member

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    Hotham Park Zoo Badge

    More Hotham Park 'Rainbows End "Pets Corner' pics including the boating lake next door. The windmill is shown and if I rember corrcetly was at the entrance? Next tot he Go kart track, but my memory is hazy.

    Pacu wrote: There is a clock tower drawn on the map in the guide book but it is shown only as a clock tower, See my pic, that teh main clock for the house I suspect
     

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