History in Structure

South entrance gates and flanking walls to Bristol Zoo

A Grade II Listed Building in Clifton, City of Bristol

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Latitude: 51.4627 / 51°27'45"N

Longitude: -2.6205 / 2°37'13"W

OS Eastings: 356990

OS Northings: 173935

OS Grid: ST569739

Mapcode National: GBR C2G.CH

Mapcode Global: VH88M.JHJJ

Plus Code: 9C3VF97H+3R

Entry Name: South entrance gates and flanking walls to Bristol Zoo

Listing Date: 4 March 1977

Last Amended: 4 January 2022

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1279642

English Heritage Legacy ID: 379683

ID on this website: 101279642

Location: Clifton, Bristol, BS8

County: City of Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Clifton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: Clifton Christ Church with Emmanuel

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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South entrance gates with flanking walls and railings. Built in the mid-C19.


South entrance gates with flanking walls and railings. Built in the mid-C19.

MATERIALS: limestone ashlar gate piers with cast-iron gates.

DETAILS: the south entrance gates comprise a central two-leaf gate with single pedestrian gates to either side. The gates comprise an upper and lower panel of vertically set rectangles with trefoil-shaped ends, with a bottom, middle, and top rail featuring a quatrefoil motif. Above the top rail is a decorative motif known as brattishing. The four octagonal gate piers have octagonal caps with ball finials.

Heraldic painted tile plaques have been added, probably in the mid-C20, to the central two-leaf gate, and feature a shield with two elephant heads above a bottonee cross. Below is a scroll with the biblical quotation from Job 12:7: “ASK OF THE BEASTS & THEY SHALL TEACH THEE”.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the curved flanking walls are of coursed carboniferous limestone with ashlar coping stones. The iron railings feature cylindrical verticals with brattishing above the top rail. The walls sweep up to the terminating piers that are faced in ashlar block.


Bristol Zoological Gardens opened on the 11 July 1836, becoming the second zoological garden to open in England, after London Zoo in Regents Park (1828), and the fifth in Europe; the others being Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna (1752), the Jardin des Plantes in Paris (1800), and Dublin Zoo (1831). Many more were to follow, illustrating the rapid and extensive establishment of zoological gardens, alongside other C19 cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, that were being built in England and across Europe to exhibit and study the exotic animal, plant, and cultural specimens that were being provided by empire and colonisation.

Bristol Zoological Gardens was founded by The Bristol, Clifton, and West of England Zoological Society that was formed in 1835 with the intention of creating a zoo for the purposes of both education and entertainment. The society raised the funds for their venture through the sale of shares, with many prominent Bristolians, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, William Goldney, and members of the Frys, Wills and Sturges families, being among the first shareholders. They were subsequently able to purchase 12 acres of land to the north of the suburb of Clifton on the outskirts of Bristol.

The design for Bristol Zoological Gardens was produced by Richard Forrest. A landscape designer and nurseryman, Forrest, was well-respected in his field and during his career worked on several important commissions including the gardens at Syon House, London, and Eaton Hall, Cheshire, as well as producing designs for several other zoological gardens. As with all early examples of zoological gardens, the design for Bristol was much influenced by the C18 landscaped gardens of the aristocracy, and this can be seen in Forrest’s scheme that retained many of the existing mature trees, but also including the planting of specimen trees and plants, the excavation of a lake to the centre, the creation of a Grand Terrace for promenading, as well as buildings in a characteristic pavilion style. Comparison of Forrest’s plan with George Ashmead’s map of 1853, alongside knowledge of the financial restrictions of the project, suggest that Forrest’s plans were not fully implemented. Ashmead’s map shows a simplified version of Forrest’s scheme with the animal enclosures concentrated to the north of the Grand Terrace, with most of the site being given over to gardens. This would seem to reflect both the difficulty in meeting management costs and that the botanical rather than the animal attractions were the initial draw for visitors. To increase revenue, the site was increasingly hired out for events, becoming a place not only to enjoy the plants and animals, but also a place of entertainment.

From the mid-1850s the surrounding land was developed for housing, and in 1862 the first buildings of Clifton College, located to the immediate south, were built. This development and the later Bank Holiday Act of 1871 led to an increase in visitor numbers leading to extensive changes to the zoo with a clear focus on public entertainment. The new animal enclosures added at this time, such as the elephant and giraffe house, and the polar bear enclosure that abutted its north elevation, were built in domestic styles and reflected the then architectural trend to place foreign wildlife into an English domestic setting.

In the early C20 the zoo suffered a period of stagnation, and the standard of the site declined. However, from 1925, the influence of Dr Richard Clarke, as director of the society, began to steer the zoo towards the promotion of knowledge through the quality of the botanical and animal specimens, and away from the pleasure ground aspect of the site. He proposed that 'every year a new feature should be built and shewn annually' to attract increased visitor numbers. He consequently ushered in a new profitability and animal focused philosophy, with the new buildings in modern and interesting settings. These new buildings were often designed under his guidance, with some showing the influence of Carl Hagenbeck’s zoo at Tierpark, Stellingen, near Hamburg (1906), and his ideas for the presentation of animals in their “natural” habitat, with the creation of panoramas, artificial rock formations, and the removal of cages. The Monkey Temple (1928) and the polar bear enclosure (1935) were particular examples at Bristol Zoo.

Further changes occurred throughout the C20 and C21, with a move to more hygienic enclosures with tiled surfaces, to increasingly natural environments as animal welfare and conservation became central to the zoo’s philosophy.

The south entrance is thought to have been created by 1849. Originally the central gate piers featured globe-shaped lamps on stands, and an iron overthrow with the words “ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS”. The overthrow has been removed and the globe lamps replaced with stone balls.

Reasons for Listing

The south entrance with flanking walls and railings are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural and historic interest:

* as a good example of a mid-C19 cast-iron entrance gate displaying good architectural quality in its design and craftsmanship.

Group value:

* with the other listed buildings at Bristol Zoological Gardens, as well as the listed mid-C19 buildings of Clifton College which stand opposite the gates.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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