#1 - Official Guide 1891
Guides to Belle Vue Zoological Gardens 1891-1917
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Guides to the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens from the Chetham's Library Virtual Belle Vue Collection. The Belle Vue gardens opened in 1836 as a place of genteel entertainment for the middle classes of industrial Manchester, but soon became one the most popular attractions in the north of England. The 1891 guide details the animals on view and the features of the amusement park. The 1917 guide notes the addition of new snake and ape houses, attractions such as Laughterland and a Figure of 8 Toboggan, and the Kings Hall, which hosted major concerts and sporting events through to the 1970s. The addition of a car park to the stabling for visitors who arrived with their own horse and carriage marked the passing of the years, yet the price of a cup of tea remained the same. Evening entertainments, featuring tableaux and firework displays against the backdrop of a painting erected on a 60 by 100 foot frame on the Picture Lake, were a popular feature. In the 1890s these entertainments documented military exploits from the heyday of British imperialism. In 1917 war was closer at hand. The evening entertainment of that year, commemorating the tank battle of the Ancre, was evidently a sombre affair that reflected the uncertainties of popular entertainment in the final years of the 1914-18 war. (Phil Benson)
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