Carved stone animals celebrate popular Wellingborough Zoo

The zoo's days were numbered when an intruder was mauled by a leopard, losing part of his arm

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 6:40 am

A set of sculptures made in the county celebrating Wellingborough Zoo have been unveiled on the site of the historic park.

The stone carvings crafted from one-tonne blocks of limestone represent animals previously kept at the zoo including an elephant, polar bear, chimp, lion and a huddle of penguins.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project is part of the Wellingborough Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), a scheme under way in the town centre to preserve its heritage and culture.

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The elephant

The project formed part of the stone carving course at Moulton College and the intention was that each animal was developed from initial design concept, clay modelling through to carving and marking their contributions with the student’s own mason’s mark.

Emma Dexter, lecturer in stonemasonry at Moulton College who worked with North Northamptonshire Council to oversee the educational project, said: “It’s a huge privilege for my students to be involved in this exciting project, acknowledging the history of Wellingborough, and experiences of those who visited Wellingborough Zoo 50 years ago.

"These sculptures are not only a reflection of the town’s past, but the fantastic achievements of our students - what a wonderful legacy.”

Wellingborough Zoo park opened in 1943 exhibiting exotic animals including monkeys, lions, panthers, a baby elephant, a giant tortoise and even penguins.

Chimps at Wellingborough Zoo

Famous resident Simba the lion was a favourite and much-loved pet of the proprietors' family, often enjoying visits to town pubs and the cinema.

By the late 1960s the zoo was under pressure from the RSPCA and matters came to a head when a man broke into the zoo and was mauled by a leopard, losing part of his arm. The zoo closed in 1970.

Work has been taking place at Croyland Gardens to improve the area, increase its use and connect the gardens with Wellingborough town centre.

Landscaping works include new paths, entrance to the park, adding additional play equipment, planting new trees and a sensory garden, plus new seating areas and a new steel arch with ‘Croyland Gardens’ on it installed at the entrance.

Carving of chimp by Andy Waite while a student at Moulton College Photo by Stonemasons Guild

Cllr Helen Howell, executive member for sport, leisure, culture & tourism at NNC, said: “It was fantastic to visit the gardens, meet pupils from Moulton College and see the new sculptures they have created. The pieces are a long-lasting tribute and truly do showcase the history of the zoo park.”

Two stone lions have also been installed at the gardens entrance and have been created by Moulton College and Weldon Stone.

Cllr Graham Lawman, executive member for highways, travel & assets, added: “Across North Northamptonshire, we have some excellent parks that are integral to our communities and Croyland Gardens is no exception. The works that have been completed add to previous borough schemes and make it a place that families will want to visit - linking the historical gardens with the town centre in a unique way. This is a wonderful green haven to enjoy as part of your day’s shopping or meeting friends”

Stonecarver Mark Mcdonnell Photo: Stonemasons Guild
Carving of penguins by a number of students at Moulton College
Visitors with a wallaby
Zebra ride