The History of Blackpool Zoo

You are here

Blackpool Zoo and the site on which it stands has had a long and varied history. Before the zoo was built, the site was actually an airport. Later it became home for the Royal Lancashire Show before eventually becoming a zoo in 1972.

1931
Logo_Blackpool

The site of what is now Blackpool Zoo is opened as Blackpool Municipal Airport.

1931
1939
1939 Amy Johnson

The site becomes Stanley Park Aerodrome. World War II breaks out on September 3rd and the aerodrome is requisitioned as an RAF parachute training centre. After the war finishes the site would never be reopened for flying. The famous pilot, Amy Johnson, is also known to have flown from this site.

1939
1945
Logo_Blackpool

After the airport closes, Blackpool Borough Council takes over the site and the buildings become a storage facility for the council, including the illuminations and the promenade deckchairs.

1945
1953

The Royal Lancashire Show, England 's oldest county agricultural show settles on the Stanley Park Aerodrome site in this year and remains until 1972 when it moves to a new site at Ribby Hall, Wrea Green to make way for the development of a zoo.

1953
1962
Logo_Blackpool

A proposal to build zoological gardens on the Stanley Park site is first suggested when a corporation subcommittee has meetings with Mr.N.Farrar, director of Southport Zoo.

1962
1969
Blackpool Tower Zoo

The Blackpool Tower Zoo closes down; the council decide the resort should have a zoological collection. Other suggestions: horseracing track, a Formula 1 circuit, a Disney World. The latter suggestion, about to be developed but it is stopped due to pressure from other attractions in the town.

1969
1972
Johnny Morris travelling to the Official Opening of Blackpool Zoo

10 years have elapsed before the zoo finally opens on July 6th of this year, on a very wet day by Mr. Johnny Morris of T.V. Animal Magic fame. He opens the zoo riding on an elephant accompanied by the Mayor who rides in a Rolls Royce. The first zoo director is Mr Cyril Grace, manager of Dudley Zoo.

1972
1982
Logo_Blackpool

Mr. Grace retires and the zoo is taken over by the Parks and Recreation Department of Blackpool Borough Council. The director of Parks, Mr. Matthews, is made Zoo Director as well as Parks and Mr. George Edmonds, Curator under Mr. Grace is made Assistant Director.

1982
1991
Logo_Blackpool

In March of this year Mr. Matthews retires due to CCT and the Parks Department as such folds. In August the zoo officially comes under the Director of Tourism, Mr. B Morris; Mr. Read is re-designated Zoo Manager.

1991
1993
Logo_Blackpool

On the 1st April, Steven Stanley is appointed Manager of the zoo. The zoo is reorganised, giving more freedom to develop. A new entrance and larger shop are created. The giraffe leave the Zoo a couple of years after the white rhinos, to allow greater facilities for the elephants. 

1993
1996
Logo_Blackpool

Iain Valentine takes over the manager position from Mr. Stanley, who was manager at Camperdown Wildlife Centre, Dundee. The re-organisation of the zoo finally starts to pay dividends. New keeping staff is required with the animal collection growing and the involvement in European Breeding programmes.

1996
1999
Lemur Wood opens at Blackpool Zoo

The zoo acquires two more Asian elephants making a total of 4 at the zoo. These come from the Berlin State Circus, which is going into liquidation. A Lemur Wood is built on the site of the old Giant Tortoise enclosure. This facility houses 3 species of lemur; Ring-Tailed, Black and Red Ruffed.

1999
2000
Gorilla Mountain opens at Blackpool Zoo

The Award Winning Gorilla Mountain is built on the site of the old Markhor Goat enclosure giving the gorillas greater freedom to forage in a more natural setting.

2000
2002
Logo_Blackpool

The new red panda enclosure is completed in this year housing 2 animals. It is a conversion from the old meerkat enclosure.

2002
2003
Logo_Blackpool

In April ownership and development of the zoo is taken over by Grant Leisure Ltd. who own and operate Bournemouth Oceanarium and the Aquarium of the Lakes. Grant Leisure is a member of MICE Group Plc, and pledges to invest millions of pounds into the zoo over the following 10-15 years. 

2003
2005
Dinosaur Safari opens at Blackpool Zoo

As part of the agreed investment by MICE Group, a second hangar is fully redeveloped to house offices, admissions, retail areas and a Costa coffee shop. The old entrance becomes the Education Department and the unique "Dinosaur Safari" is opened.

2005
2006
Amazonia opens at Blackpool Zoo

Further investment results in the transformation of the old office / education block into a 66 place children's day nursery. Amazonia was launched: visitors can sample life in the rainforest, amidst animals including squirrel and red titi monkeys, toucans, species of parrot and water fowl...

2006
2007
The Big Cat house opens at Blackpool Zoo

The Zoo has been taken over this year by Parques Reunidos, a Spanish-based leisure organisation. Big Cat enclosures were developed we launched ‘Pride of Blackpool’. The zoo's primary aim is to conserve endangered species and ensure a future for many species that would otherwise become extinct.

2007
2008
Giraffes return to Blackpool Zoo

New developments this year are being added at a fast and furious pace! The previously rough car park now boasts a level, well-marked, tarmac surface. The magnificent Arnie Aardvark's Adventure Play Barn is also open  and due to popular demand, giraffes returned to the Zoo during the summer. Always at the top of the list of most-wanted animals, these beautiful, gentle giants undoubtedly captivate visitors and staff alike.

We became social and started our popular Facebook page and Twitter account.

2008
2009
Penguins return to Blackpool Zoo

Another favourite of the visitors made a welcome return in 2009 - penguins. The first phase of the Active Oceans area was completed with a raised pool with underwater viewing of these very entertaining birds. The species taking up residency were Magellanic penguins, native to South America and the only ones of their kind in the UK.

Blackpool Zoo's first ever lion cubs also arrived in 2009.  Born to lioness Gillian, all three cubs are female and will remain within the pride for about two years.

2009
2010
Uk’s Biggest and Best Sealion Pool opens at Blackpool Zoo

Active Oceans was completed in early 2010 with the complete refurbishment of the sealion pool, already the largest pool in Europe. The surround was naturalized and a 300 seater grandstand added. Huge glass windows allow superb viewing of the training routines performed several times a day. Unusually, too, the trainers swim with the animals during the display. A new breeding male, Max, arrived from Madrid and settled in very well.

Wallaby Walkabout opened offering close encounters with a variety of marsupials including red and grey kangaroos as well as the wallabies.

2010
2011
Children’s Farm opens at Blackpool Zoo

The fabulous new Children's Farm was successfully completed in Spring. The farm has proved very popular indeed and allows hands-on contact with familiar, and some not-so-familiar, animals and birds. New arrivals included Somali black-headed sheep, ferrets, giant rabbits, pygmy goats, apair of Shetland ponies and two female alpacas with their crias (babies).

The main café was refurbished and extended and was fittingly renamed "Lake View Cafe". A new layout and menus were introduced including a burger bar serving freshly cooked "fast" food and a carvery with home cooked main courses, fresh salads and a fantastic selection of cakes and sweets.

2011
2012
The first canine exhibit, Wolf Ridge, opens at Blackpool Zoo

New in spring was Wolf Ridge, a huge, wooded enclosure occupying a large area on the northwest corner of the park which had previously been unused. A pack of Iberian wolves arrived from Woburn Safari Park. Giant anteaters were also new arrivals, now sharing their enclosure with vicugna and mara.

2012
2013
2013 Orangutan Building

Our orang-utans went on their holidays to Chester Zoo whilst their enclosure was demolished to make a new one, 6 times the internal space. Starbucks was introduced into the main café. Playbarn and some infrastructure works were carried out. Due to the nice weather we had a record breaking year.

2013
2014
Orangutan Outlook

Following a £1million transformation, Orangutan Outlook was officially opened by the Mayor of Blackpool, Valerie Haynes along with Marketing Lancashire's Chief Executive, Ruth Connor.

2014
2014
Orangutans arrive back at Blackpool Zoo

The orang-utan development is progressing well and will be welcoming the orang-utans back from Chester Zoo in June. Win Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the Visit Lancashire Awards.

A brand new website and mobile App is developed.

2014