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Kent Life launches exhibition about the history of Maidstone Zoo

By Kent Messenger reporter

He was there almost from the start.

Now 80 years on the boy who climbed a tree to get a better look when Maidstone Zoo opened for its 1952 season, has contributed to an exhibition to mark the anniversary of its launch.

Ray Sturgeon with some of his pictures of Maidstone Zoo

Ray Sturgeon from Eccles shimmied up the tree in Cobtree Park with his friend Maurice Thorpe as Richard Dimbleby reopened the zoo for its new season - and was caught on camera by TV crews of the day.

Since then, Mr Sturgeon has been fascinated by the zoo, and has collected memorabilia and photographs.

Contributors to the exhibition gather at Kent Life for the opening

Now they, along with contributions from other local people and the Kent Messenger’s archives, have gone on show at Kent Life in Lock Lane, Sandling, which is part of the Cobtree Estate and across the road from where the zoo stood.

On Thursday, as the exhibition opened to the public at the site, Mr Sturgeon was able to see the results of a lifetime of collecting go on show.

He said: “I was pleased as punch to see it all up there.”

The exhibition, which will be on display at the site until November, includes details of Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt Drake, who owned and ran the zoo.

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