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Days of planes and animals

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Here’s a fun blast from the past for you.

How many of the younger generation knew that there used to be a zoo near Gatwick?

These pictures were prised from the depths of the Observer archive and show some of the staff, visitors and animals from the zoo.

The 11.4-acre zoo was opened in 1973 by Terry and Sheila Thorpe and was closed in September 2002.

It was home to more than 900 birds and animals, ranging from wallabies, otters and meerkats to emus, flamingos and a monkey named Margaret.

There was even a homboldt penguin named Gus and a fawn named Bambi who, rumour has it, appeared in a film with Kirk Douglas and refused to stand still the whole time.

When the Thorpes decided to call it a day and retire to Scotland, their four-legged and feathered friends were sent to new homes all over the country.

Some went to Chessington - which was then more of a zoo than a theme park - and others were sent to Colchester, Edinburgh and Leeds Castle.

As for the zoo, most of the land was taken over by housing and some was given to the Windmill Trust, which had restored the Lowfield Heath windmill. Did you ever visit Gatwick Zoo? Do you remember Terry and Sheila? Did you have a favourite animal?

Contact Karen Dunn at the Observer.

 

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