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Hull Woolly Zoo Project

Hull’s Woolly Zoo is finally here!

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Throughout 2017 people from all over Hull have been knitting, crocheting and felting fantastic zoo creatures out of wool in response to our City of Culture year appeal for exhibit entries.

Over 200 animals have been submitted, ranging in size from Pete’s 6cm Gertrude the Goat to St Barnabas Church’s 6ft Daphne-Geraldine the Giraffe! We’ve been overwhelmed by your enthusiasm for this project, so thank you to everyone who has taken part.

The big reopening!

In 1861 the Springbank Zoological Gardens closed to the public. Now, a century and a half later, they’ve been relocated to Worship Street. January 2018 has been spent by us zookeeper-archivists making sure all of the animal enclosures are safe and secure – we wouldn’t want any escapes!

So join us at Hull History Centre between 1st February and 7th April 2018 to see Hull’s Woolly Zoo. Entry is free, although our hungry polar bear will welcome any donations towards the Centre’s outreach work.

Unlike other zoos, you might even be able to take an animal home when the exhibition ends…. We will be auctioning off exhibits who don’t have a home to go back to. You can bid on any animals with a green star on their name tags. Simply fill in an auction card stating the animal’s name and the amount you are willing to bid and submit it to our wonderful reception staff. When the exhibition closes, we will contact the highest bidders. All proceeds from the auction will go to charities supported by the History Centre.

Don’t forget to look out for related events. We will be putting on special zoo themed History Makers (Sat 3rd February) and Lunchtime Club (Tues 13 February) sessions. We will also be holding a Knit and Natter (Wednesday 7 March) as well as a Teddy Bears’ Picnic (Wednesday 28 March). Contact the History Centre for further details.

Inspiration for the woolly zoo…

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In 1840, the city of Hull was welcomed to the opening of a new and most exotic attraction... the Spring Bank Zoological Gardens! At the northern end of Spring Bank and set out in 7 acres of land, the gardens were home to lions, tigers, kangaroos, eagles, owls and monkeys. Most famously, they also housed polar bears and an elephant. Also to be seen were model replicas of the city of Naples and the Crystal Palace that once stood in Hyde Park, London.

Regular fetes were held in the gardens with refreshments and entertainment, and plays and circuses were staged by local companies.

Although hugely popular and famous throughout Yorkshire, the gardens were sadly too expensive to run. In 1861 the gates closed on the animals for the last time. The gardens had to be auctioned off and the land was sold, eventually becoming a continuation of Hutt and Peel Street.

If you walk down Spring Bank today you can still find evidence of this marvellous piece of Hull’s history. Next time you are down that way see if you can spot the elephant (clue: careful, you might step on him) or a pair of mischievous polar bears (clue: look upwards).

And next time you are in Pearson Park, remember that some of the trees from the gardens were dug up and replanted in the park. That makes them at least 177 years old!