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Rosie rides a big draw
A new picture of Rosie, the most famous animal at Oxford Zoo, has come to light.
Crowds flocked to Kidlington in the 1930s to see the popular elephant, Hanno the lion and their fellow attractions.
This picture comes from regular Memory Lane contributor, Val Faulkner, of Raymond Road, Bicester.
Enjoying a ride are her sister Mary Drewett (in the hat) and her brother Bill, who is hidden behind the two unidentified girls in front.
The picture was taken by their aunt, Gladys Drewett, during a family visit to the zoo.
The zoo, on the site of what is now Thames Valley Police headquarters, was officially opened in July 1931.
Workmen had taken just five weeks to convert farm buildings into dens and cages.
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.
Our sister paper, 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.
As we reported (Memory Lane, February 13), the zoo attracted national headlines in 1937 when three wolves escaped.Two were quickly rounded up and killed, but the third roamed the countryside for three days, causing panic in the community, until it was shot by Oxford Mail photographer 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.
TIMES might have been hard, but no expense was spared when it came to costumes for this production.
The picture, taken in 1936, comes from Cyril Claridge, of Hockmore Street, Cowley, who is in the front row, sixth from the left. He played a shepherd.