This establishment was opened on 24 th April 1905 by an Animal Dealer named Charles (Chas) Harris …. During my research I cannot work out if there were to be 2 Zoo’s in this relatively small Village or whether Charles Harris was a “frontman” for a larger organisation … As on 15th January 1904 planning was sought to turn a House and Gardens into a Zoo at Shotley Bridge and the applicants were the Consett Iron Company who had an Ironworks in the area and many of the homes built around were for the Labourers of the company …
2 days prior to the grand opening on the 22nd April 1905 a preview of the Zoo was had and the reports at the time stated that the Zoo was on 10 Acres of grounds on land purchased by Mr Harris from Richard Murray JP … The Zoo was conveniently situated next to the Shotley Bridge Station …. The Zoo consisted of both stuffed and preserved animals as well as an alive animal collection which was roughly as follows 2000 Goldfish , 4 large Python , French Frogs , Turtles , Tortoises , Birds , Baboon , African and Indian Wild Cats , Civets , 30 Mongoose , Deer , A white Camel , Jackals , Agoutis , Wallabies , Wolf , Wild Boar , Bear and Tropical Birds …
On the day of opening 10,000 visited and the price of admission was 6d …
By 12th June 1905 the visitor numbers were up to nearly 12,000 per day
Strange as it may I can find no further references to this Zoo until in 1909 it was reported that Mr Harris was the Manager at an Animal Dealers called De Vons in Bethnal Grenn Road , London … The report mentions that Mr Harris’ Zoo in Shotley Bridge closed in 1906 ?
Also on 17th March 1909 plans were passed in Shotley Bridge to Convert the Zoo into Houses.
There are other reports that a Captain William Bain was the owner of a Zoo in Shotley Bridge (Elm Park ) and that in October 1904 one of his captive Wolves escaped and caused havoc by killing many sheep in the area . The Wolf was at large until at least early 1905 at which time a body of a Wolf was discovered and declared to be that of Captain Bain … Captain Bain himself passed away in 1907 aged just 28 ….. putting 2 and 2 together it may be that Captain Bain was the owner of the Zoo and upon his death was when the Zoo “failed” … Although Adverts for the Zoo clearly state that Mr Harris was the Proprietor
Elm Park Estate where Captain Bain resided is indeed now housing … Shotley Bridge Railway Station closed in 1953
Image 1 is of Shotley Bridge Zoo and 2nd image is Shotley Bridge Railway in early 1900’s
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