Welsh Mountain Zoo

Camel, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Bactrian Camel, Welsh Mountain Zoo


30 December 2014

Colwyn Bay

SH 83619 78854; 53.29380°N, 3.74753°W


In the 1770s Robert Whitehead opened a steam-powered cotton-bleaching mill in Bury (then in Lancashire). The business remained in the family for several generations and Robert’s great-grandson Walter Whitehead (1840-1913) was employed there for three years as an ordinary workman. At age 19, however, he decided to study medicine in Manchester and later went on to become one of the most eminent surgeons of his time. He served as a Professor at Owens College (which later became the University of Manchester) and in 1902 was President of the British Medical Association.

In 1897 Whitehead purchased The Flagstaff, 15 hectares of land on a hillside overlooking the town of Colwyn Bay. The estate was laid out in 1898-99 by landscape architect Thomas Mawson. Various buildings, including a gatehouse which became Whitehead’s residence in his retirement, were erected at that time. There were also plans for a mansion house, designed by architect Dan Gibson, but this was never built.

Following Whitehead’s death in 1913 the estate had several owners until it was opened as a zoological garden in 1963 by naturalist Robert Jackson, who was tragically killed six years later when a tree fell on him while he was fishing. The zoo was then run by his widow and three sons. In 1983 the charity The Zoological Society of Wales (now the National Zoological Society of Wales) was created to take over the running of the zoo and in 2008 it was designated the National Zoo of Wales.

Further Reading

Welsh Mountain Zoo;
Obituary, Walter Whitehead (British Medical Journal, 23 Aug 1913)

Children's Farm, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Domestic fowl in the Children’s Farm, which opened in the zoo in 1990.

Andean Condor, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Andean Condor, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Chilean Flamingo, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Chilean Flamingo. The zoo’s flamingo pond is located on the former site of a swimming pool on the Flagstaff estate.

Snow Leopard, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Snow Leopard, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Humboldt Penguin, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Humboldt Penguin. The penguin enclosure is adjacent to the Flagstaff Cafe, named after the estate in whose grounds the zoological garden opened in 1963.

Californian Sea Lion, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Californian Sea Lion. The 300 sq m enclosure ‘Sea Lion Rock’, comprising a pool and activity area, was opened in 2006 and was originally a bowling green in the Flagstaff estate.

Red Panda, Welsh Mountain Zoo

Red Panda. The Red Pandas’ new habitat, the ‘Prytherch Himalyan Terraces’ enclosure, was opened in June 2014.

19 thoughts on “Welsh Mountain Zoo

  1. Pingback: Gwynt y Mor Wind Farm | GeoTopoi

  2. A lovely set, particularly the camel….looks a real character! I wasn’t too keen on this place until I saw the programme with Rhod Gilbert where he became a keeper. Maybe it was the spin of the director, but the zoo folk did seem to be very diligent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Iain. I spotted Whitehead’s gravestone, which I hadn’t paid any attention to before, (near the Ostrich enclosure) looking down the hillside out to the sea. So I was quite interested to research the history of the former estate.


  3. Pingback: Welsh Mountain Zoo | GeoTopoi

  4. Pingback: Captivity | GeoTopoi

  5. Pingback: Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind farm | GeoTopoi

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