This establishment , Leeds Zoological , opened on 9th July 1840 … it had been planned for approx 3 years and it was a competition winner named William Billington who initially drew up the plans for the gardens … Shares had been sold to the general public and unfortunately it never raised enough funds to fully implement the grand plans of Billington … By 1844 there were 2 lakes , paths , trees and flowers and a Bear Pit … On the actual day of opening all there was in the way of “Wildlife” were 2 Swans , Other Fowl , Some Monkeys and Tortoises …. Prior to the opening the Committee had approached George Wombwell to ask what animals they could buy for a £1000 … Wombwell told them that the only thing they could get would be Lions as an Elephant would be out of the question (no mention has been made that the Lions were ever purchased)… It was not until 1843 a Bear was purchased … The cost of entrance was dissuading many working class Public from entering and then the decision not to open on a Sunday (the only “free” day available to workers) also kept visitors away … A major debate was held throughout the country about keeping Sunday work free and this was to lead to the demise of many “Pleasure Gardens” … The only thing that was keeping the Gardens open were Fetes and Festivals over the years … The Zoological Gardens went into liquidation in December 1848 ….
A man named James Smith bought the gardens for £6000 he wanted to develop the land for Housing but he onsold the Gardens to Herbert Marshall who then leased the gardens to a Thomas Clapham … A train halt was negotiated with Leeds – Thirsk Railway to try and increase the visitor numbers … The Gardens were also opened on a Sunday afternoon and the name of the gardens was changed to Leeds Royal Gardens… However over the next 10 years the fortunes of the Gardens could not be turned around and in 1858 they were closed for good ..
The Bear Pit still stands today but the land was indeed utilised for housing
1st image Plan of the Zoo , 2nd Image Bear pit , 3rd Image inside Bear Pit , 4th Image advert for Leeds Royal Gardens
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