Scarborough Marineland and Zoo operated between 1969 and 1984, and was located on the top of the hill behind the Open Air Theatre seating in Northstead Manor Gardens. The remains of its successor, Marvel’s Amusement Park (which retained many of the zoo’s rides and features, minus the animals) can still be seen today, although the site is derelict.
The following post is the third in a series, which brings together some of the shorter facts and stories about former Scarborough attractions. You can see the previous two on the links below:
So without any further ado, did you know that…
1) Scarborough Zoo was built on tennis courts
Before Scarborough Zoo was built, the site was home to a large number of tennis courts and a small cafe. By the 1960s these courts were falling into disrepair, although they were also used by local schools, to carry out cycling proficiency tests. You can see the old courts on the map below:
Above: Map of Northstead (from the author’s collection)
2) A dolphin died
Various animals made the long journey to Scarborough, to be part of the zoo. Dolphins were amongst them, and were transported all the way from the US, which must have been an arduous and stressful journey for these seafaring mammals. So much so that one died after the long expedition – from New York to Britain by plane. The surviving dolphins, named Mo, Jenky and Artie stayed in a specially adapted building during the colder months – zoo staff did not want to risk another death by flying them to warmer climes abroad.
Above: One of the zoo’s performing dolphins (source)
Today, the captivity of dolphins and other marine mammals is considered potentially detrimental. Highly social and intelligent creatures, better suited to vast expanses of ocean than cramped tanks and enforced public performances, dolphins and the like are now much less likely to be seen in smaller venues (although bigger parks such as SeaWorld still recruit them).
3) The chairlifts were made in Sheffield
Originally titled as the ‘cabin lifts’ the chair lifts were constructed in Sheffield, before the parts were transported to Scarborough and put together – rather like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The construction schedule overran, and the chairlifts ended up making a late appearance, opening on May 5th, 1972. Back then the ride was known as the Commando Cable Way.
Above: The original chair lifts (from the author’s collection)
The opening was conducted by Mrs Sheila Smith of Avoncroft Hotel, the recently selected ‘most lovable landlady in Britain’ by a BBC programme. There was a jazz band playing, and a steamer called ‘Pride of New Orleans’ was also launched on the same day.
4) There was a special North Sea Fish Tank
This contained species local to the North Yorkshire coast, including skate, cod, whiting, mackerel, crabs and lobsters. Not far from the fish tank, was a farmyard, where children were able to milk and feed goats, alongside other domesticated animals.
Above: The farmyard is shown on the left of the postcard (from the author’s collection)
5) The Zoo was officially opened on June 14th, 1969
Mayor and Mayoress Councillor and Mrs Norman Fuller conducted the ceremony at 11am, after which the zoo was opened to the public at 12am. Entry was charged at 4/6 for adults and 1/6 for children, with the venue proving to be an enormous success – 20, 000 visitors within the first two weeks!
Above: The zoo site (source)
6) The chimpanzees had a tantrum
In 1975 the UK was in the grips of a sugar shortage; a situation which did not go down well with Scarborough’s three chimpanzees, according to this article. Due to the crisis in supply, their keeper was forced to reduce the sugar content of the chimpanzees’ nightly cocoa treat.
“They didn’t take it at all kindly,” zoo owner Don Robinson said. “Smashing mugs, drenching their keeper – for a while there we were awash in cocoa.”
The chimpanzees would, during the 1970s, perform tea parties for zoo visitors – such a spectacle would be considered ethically questionable today, and perhaps the anger shown by the animals was not just a reflection of their fondness for sweet treats.
7) Visitors could go inside a Magic Mountain
The mountain was one of the zoo’s large fibreglass constructions, which also included large dinosaurs. The mountain contained models, including a town, fairground, toymaker and his toys, according to articles viewed in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library. Other quirky features of Don Robinson’s ‘mini Disneyland’ included a teddybears’ picnic, chihuahua show, and a rotating barrel ride. Dick and Dottie, the musical geese, also starred, alongside a parade of penguins.
Most of the information in this post was sourced from material held at the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library; particularly old articles from the Scarborough News and the Doris & Cyril Prescott Collection. See other links in the post for further references.