Victoria Park Zoo

It was decided at an early stage that Victoria Park should have a zoological collection, and the first step was the construction of a small building known as the aviary, approved by the Parks Committee in October 1900.[1] In 1901 two bantam storks were presented to the Council and these became the first occupants of the aviary. Two monkeys soon followed,[2] and the collection continued to grow, largely as a result of gifts from sea captains, as Cardiff at this time was a busy sea port. The early donations included an ostrich, golden pheasants, an antelope, a mongoose, and two South American and one Australian owl.

Victoria Park zoo c.1918

Postcard showing Victoria Park zoo c.1918

Ostrich in Victoria Park 1903

  Ostrich in Victoria Park 1903[3]

The process of creating a formal Zoological Garden at Victoria Park began in 1902, though it was not until 1906 that the term Victoria Park Zoo came into use. In 1905 a visit was arranged from Mr Arthur Thompson, the Assistant Superintendent of the London Zoo, to help identify the animals and birds and to advise on suitable accommodation and care. As a result the Parks Superintendent and the City Engineer were instructed to present proposals for the proper housing of the animals and birds.[4] Meanwhile the Parks Committee decided that heating and repairs were to carried out in the Monkey House.[5] In February 1908 the Parks Superintendent reported that there were 58 birds and mammals kept at Victoria Park, and he proposed a new scheme for housing them in 27 "dens" at a cost of £308.[6] The scheme was approved and the work was completed in the spring of 1909.[7] In March 1911 the Parks Committee decided that a qualified Zoo Attendant should be appointed for Victoria Park,[8] and the following month it was reported that the Cardiff trawler company Neale & West was supplying fish free of cost for the Zoo.[9] Later that year the Committee approved a design for name and picture tablets of the birds and animals to be fixed outside the cages.[10]

Here is a list of animals known to be in the zoo

The Aviary, comprising two rows of "dens" appeared on the 1920 Ordnance Survey map, at the north west part of the Park, just below the circular grassed area. Copies (undated) of Parks department plans which can be viewed in the the Local Studies Department of Cardiff Central Library, show a building described as "Accommodation for Mammals" in this location. The plans include at one end a section labelled "monkeys", but this is not consistent with postcards shown on this website, in which the monkey house appeared to be self-standing. The plans also show parts of the building to be built into a grass bank.

During the First World War, while regiments were on active service, some regimental mascots were given a home in the Zoo at Victoria Park. In December 1915 the Parks Committee agreed to take charge of three goats, the mascots of the 11th Welsh Regiment (Cardiff Pals) and of the 2/5 Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The Committee also accepted, in May 1919, "Billy the Goat", the mascot of the 38th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, and also a raven, the mascot of one of the battalions of the Welsh Regiment. Conversely, owing to a shortage of food caused by the War, many of the resident animals were dispersed to other homes.[11]

In 1935 it was reported that the zoo was in a neglected condition with significantly fewer animals and birds than in its early days. The fine collection which was established up to 1914 had been largely destroyed when the River Ely flooded its banks on two occasions.[12] Some flooding evidently occurred in Victoria Park in early 1918, as it was reported that a fox had been presented to the zoo but it had since been drowned in a recent flood.[13] The Western Mail reported that Victoria Park flooded to a depth of three feet on 19th January 1918, necessitating urgent action to move the animals to safety.[14] A further episode was mentioned in Parks Committee minutes in November 1927, when the Committee considered granting gratuities to persons who had assisted in the removal of animals on the occasion of the flooding at Victoria Park.[15]

The zoological collection was disbanded in October-November 1941 when park land was required for food production. The Chief Officer reported that he had "disposed of the Birds and Animals from this Park for £4."[16] Information displayed in Victoria Park suggests that when the Zoo was closed down the animals were transferred to Bristol, but there is no record at Bristol Zoo of such a transfer.

In the 1950s a new playground was developed on the site previously occupied by the zoo.

Sources of Information

In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew. The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff. Volume 2, Chapter on Victoria Park

Other sources are:

  1. Meeting of the Parks Committee 22nd October 1900
  2. Meeting of the Parks Committee 23rd September 1901
  3. South Wales Graphic April 18th 1903 page 580
  4. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 25th March 1907
  5. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 28th October 1907
  6. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 14th February 1908
  7. Cardiff Parks Superintendent's Report Bookpdf(pdf) A handwritten book covering the period January 1908 to October 1912 inclusive, currently in the care of the Cardiff Council's Parks Service.
  8. Special Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 11th March 191
  9. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 24th April 1911
  10. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 23rd November 1911
  11. W.W. Pettigrew, Municipal Parks layout, management and administration, 1937 page 204
  12. Deplorable neglect of the Canton Zoo. Cardiff Times 19th January 1935, page 3
  13. Meeting of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee 7th February 1918
  14. Peril at the zoo. Western Mail 21st January 1918, page 3
  15. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 14th November 1927
  16. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 18th November 1941