Belle Vue Zoological Gardens

Manchester, U.K.

Closed 1977

The Disappointed Tourist: Belle Vue, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

At its height, Belle Vue included the third-largest zoo in the U.K., an amusement park, exhibition facilities and a speedway, covering 165 acres (0.67 km2) and attracting over 2 millions visitors a year. The park was the brainchild of gardener John Jennison and his wife Maria, who had previously operated an aviary, pub and a small park around their home from which they sold their produce. Jennison leased the Belle Vue public house in 1835 and then purchased adjacent land on which he eventually built an Italian Garden, mazes, music and dance halls, hothouses, an aviary, a zoo, Bob’s roller coaster and other rides and lakes complete with paddle steamers each capable of holding 100 passengers. During World War I, a munitions factory was built on the site. In 1924, the Jennison family sold Belle Vue to John Henry Iles who expanded the park still further, making it into one of the most popular attractions in Northern England. Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Johnny Cash all played at Belle Vue’s Kings Hall. The park remained profitable into the early 1960s. At this point, the park had passed into the ownership of Charles Forte and fire became an increasing problem, particularly in 1958 when many buildings were destroyed. In 1960, vandals killed 38 of the zoo’s birds and the zoo was shut down in 1977.  The amusement park continued to operate until 1980 and the site was finally cleared in 1987. The painting is based on an old uncredited photograph from Chethan’s Library published in the Manchester Evening News.

Requested by Anon.