As we celebrate our centenary, we’ve been trawling through the archives and unearthing old photographs depicting just how much the Paignton Zoo site has changed over the last century. The zoo entrance is no exception to this; keep reading to see just how much it has evolved over the years.
The original entrance to Paignton Zoo, also known as the West Lodge, has stood for over 100 years on the junction where Totnes Road meets Battersway Road. In 1996, when the current zoo entrance was built, this lodge was transformed into a residential property for zoo staff. This is the earliest known photo of the entrance to Paignton Zoo, which was then called ‘Primley Zoological Gardens’.
This photo from the 1941 guidebook still displays the original cast iron archway, despite the fact that the zoo’s name had changed to ‘Devon’s Zoo and Circus’.
This depiction of the entrance will evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for many zoo enthusiasts. The main entrance changed considerably in the post-war years: the stone wall was removed to make space for a wider pavement, and a gift shop was built next to the original building. An additional structure was also added to the right of the original building, with a separate turnstile for guests exiting the zoo. This structure included a new book shop, a budgie exhibit and a wall-mounted chocolate vending machine.
In the span of the decade between these photos, the zoo entrance remained relatively unchanged, save for a refreshed colour scheme and lick of paint. Perhaps the focus was on the development of iconic exhibits, like the infamous Baboon Rock and the Subtropical House.
Despite being in the same spot as before, the early 90s entrance saw a removal of lots of the signage previously present. Thanks to a zoo rebrand, the wooden panelling was painted the new logo’s deep green shade. The gift shop was still present at the front entrance, with a new cheetah motif laying above the door.
A new purpose-built entrance was opened by John Cleese in 1996. The high windows allowed as much light as possible into the new space, and the large sloping roof was designed to accommodate offices and a library on a mezzanine level on the taller side. The gift shop moved into this new entrance, too, with views over the flamingos on the lagoon outside.
The exterior of the main entrance hasn’t changed much since the 90s, other than receiving a coat of paint. Large date palms have been planted to frame the entrance and give the zoo a naturalistic and jungle-like feel. Bike racks have been installed to encourage cycling – just one of the zoo’s schemes to increase the site’s sustainability. Inside, the front desk, reception area and gift shop have seen a thorough modernisation.
We’re celebrating our centenary year. To discover more about Paignton Zoo’s 100 year history and our plans for the year, click here.