Alton Towers Zoo

Alton Towers Zoo

Alton Towers Zoo - Big Chief Horrible Noise talks a stroll

If you've ever thought that Alton Towers would be the perfect spot for a zoo, then for one brief moment in the late 50s your dream was a reality. The Alton Towers Zoo was opened in 1959 and while little is known about the operation, it likely followed a similar model to the nearby fairground, where an area of the park was leased out and a separate admission charged for entry.

The attraction was managed by Frank Farrar, who had recently opened Southport Zoo to show off his private collection of animals. He was looking to upsize his operation and clearly thought Alton Towers might have been the place to do that, though it seems that he was operating both sites simultaneously at the turn of the 60s.

The zoo was based around the Dovecote garden by the entrance of the Towers and had an impressive array of animals. The upper tier of the garden was home to a series of aviaries for exotic birds, whilst the lower garden boasted monkeys from Africa and Asia, chimpanzees, wallabies and a pair of bear cubs. The guidebooks of the time also featured pictures of lions and elephants, though it is not at all clear if these animals actually ever made it to Alton Towers and neither are referenced in the written descriptions of the zoo.

The star of the show was no doubt Big Chief Horrible Noise, a tame leopard who was often walked around the grounds on a leash, allowing guests to get alarmingly close and personal. When not on duty at Alton Towers 'Chiefy' was also a movie star and could often be seen in attendance of society dinners and other events.

Not much is known about what exactly happened with the zoo, but it would seem safe to say things did not work out at Alton Towers and by 1963 Frank Farrar had moved south with his collection of animals to found Colchester Zoo.

But the story didn't end there... After the Alton Towers Zoo closed, the Dovecote was unused for several years before eventually becoming home to a Children's Farm around ten years later in the 1970s. This new attraction focused more heavily on domesticated animals but likely reused some of the infrastructure left behind by the zoo.

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