Lion was pride of short-lived Oxford Zoo

Hanno the lion at Oxford Zoo

Hanno the lion at Oxford Zoo

First published in Memory Lane

ROSIE the elephant was arguably the most famous animal at Oxford Zoo.

But there were other favourites, among them Hanno the lion.

The picture comes from Vince Floyd, of Astley Avenue, Kidlington, who lives just yards from where the zoo stood.

It was officially opened by Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell in July 1931, on the site now occupied by Thames Valley Police headquarters, just five weeks after workmen had moved in.

It became a popular weekend haunt for Oxfordshire people in the 1930s.

The site had earlier been a farmstead and the farm buildings had been converted into dens and cages for the animals. There were also large areas for grazing.

Animals were given by the London, Berlin, Bristol and Dublin zoos and many individual collectors, although some expected at the opening did not arrive because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The Oxford Times reported: “During the last few days, exhibits have been arriving almost hourly and they have settled down in a way that suggests they have been lifelong inmates.

“Yesterday, a camel, lion, jackal and two wolves had been put in their quarters and the lion was at once so at home that he enjoyed a long sleep, from which he refused to be awakened by the incessant tapping of workmen’s hammers.

“A family of baboons consists of father, mother and three sturdy youngsters, one of which was gravely grooming his grey-bearded father.”

There were also monkeys, kangaroos, llamas, bears, rabbits, guinea pigs and many birds and fish.

On the first Sunday, more than 2,000 people flocked to the zoo. Admission was sixpence for adults and three pence for children. Buses were laid on from Oxford.

The zoo made national headlines when three wolves broke through wire netting and escaped.

Two were quickly shot dead, but the third vanished and eluded a large team of keepers, police and members of the public for three days.

It was finally cornered and shot in the grounds of Harefield House, Summertown, by Oxford Mail photographer JRV (Johnny) Johnson.

The zoo had a short life. By August 1936, the organisers were advertising “your last opportunity” to see the zoo.

The following month, the whole collection was moved to Dudley Castle.

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