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Maidstone Zoo memory day at Cobtree Manor Park

Did you know a Maidstone park was once home to elephants, kangaroos, lions and bears?

Next month will mark the 60th anniversary of it's closure and the council is calling on anyone who remembers it to get in touch.

Maidstone Zoo guide(16699191)
Maidstone Zoo guide(16699191)

The site, in what is now known as Cobtree Manor Park, will be transformed into memory lane with different posts and pictures from the past dotted around for visitors to enjoy.

The zoo was one of Kent’s biggest original attractions of its time. Owned and run by Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, it opened in 1934 by circus owners Bertram Mills.

Vickie Harris, 77, from Maidstone wrote the book, The Story of Maidstone Zoo, which was published in 1994.
She said:“I started visiting the zoo as a small child when my father, who was a photographer, leased a paddock from Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake and took pictures of children seated on the Royal Cream Ponies.

"I will be surprised if some of these don’t surface on the memory day.

Vickie Harris on a pony(16699189)
Vickie Harris on a pony(16699189)

“As my mother used to assist her husband, I of course had to accompany them to work and was in the very privileged position of having the complete freedom of the zoo for the whole time.

"My favourites were Gert and Daisy, who were housed in the elephant house, and elephants remain my favourites to this day. The female staff used to keep an eye on me and take me into the wallaby enclosure to feed them carrots.

"Hundreds of thousands of people visited the zoo during a quarter of a century and it would be wonderful to hear from some of those, so their memories can be captured.”

For more than 25 years, it became a much-loved attraction, with stars of the day flocking to make public appearances and visitors coming far-and-wide to see exotic wild animals such as bears, elephants, kangaroos, lions and a stud of cream ponies.

At its height, the zoo covered about 10 acres and included a ‘Pets Corner’ with small animals set up for children, elephant and pony rides and a miniature railway to take visitors from the estate entrance to the zoo

60 years ago Maidstone was famous for having a Zoo at Cobtree Park

It remained open throughout the Second World War, however closed its gates in 1959 due to rising costs.

Today the park is managed by the Cobtree Manor Estate Trust, in partnership with MBC and over the last 10 years there have been major improvements to the park including a zoo-themed play area, a sculpture trail and a new visitor centre and café.

Cllr Derek Mortimer, chairman of community and housing and environment said: “We would love to hear from anyone who remembers visiting the zoo and what sticks in their mind. People I know who visited tell me they had a fantastic time there. We will use their voices, photographs or memorabilia to tell the history of the park for future generations to come.”

The special memory day will be held on Saturday, October 5.

If you have any memories you would like to share email: cobtreemanorpark@maidstone.gov.uk

Read more: all the latest news from Maidstone

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