3 January 2020
|Date||30 December 2014|
|Location||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.