Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland was located on Beach Road, Humberston about half a mile outside of Cleethorpes town, Lincolnshire, England. The zoo site was on 10 hectares of flat reclaimed land adjoining the sea. The two entrances faced the road. On the one side there was a drainage dyke and on the other an embankment road leading down to the sea. On the seaward side there was yet another large embankment.

The Zoo should not be confused with the 'Jungle Zoo' which was built on a nearby site some years after the closure of the Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland. Some sources refer to the Jungle Zoo as Cleethorpes Zoo.

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland was somewhat special in the realm of British zoos in that it was purposely built. It was the first feature on the site and there was no country house or similar attached. The location could have been a good one except that raised embankments on two of the zoo sides meant that practically the whole zoo was 'vieweable' from the outside. Although attempts were made to mask viewing by the planting of trees, these never reached the required size or bulk during the life of the zoo. The Zoo first opened circa 1965 before finally closing in in 1978.

The zoo was neatly arranged with good roads and paths. Meandering through the middle was a series of small lakes housing the waterfowl collection. More often than not this had huge numbers of visiting birds from the Tetney marshes just down the coast.

The paddocks were located around the zoo perimeter and only broken by the Pets corner, Lion enclosure and Dolphinarium. The Australian walk through safari was more of a zoo central paddock.

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland Dolphin Pool 1968

The above shows one of the pools used for Dolphins at Cleethorpes. There were two of these, both manufactured out of fibre glass. Usually the one pool would house dolphins and the other would contain Californian Sealions (which bred twice). Sometimes when the dolphins were not in residence their pool would house Grey and Common seals. The pools were far from satisfactory for holding any of these species.

All pools were located outside. There was no cover for zoo visitors watching shows.

Transport To The Zoo

Species Held By The Zoo

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland was part of the Associated Pleasure Parks group of zoos. As such the animals in the collection were part of a bigger 'plan'. Animals were moved around between zoos and could not be said to belong to any particular one.

Such moves may have been determined by the season of the year or at the whim of the zoo director based in Yorkshire. Dolphins and other species may move to one of the three regular 'winter' zoos in the center of Leeds, Glasgow or Newcastle. In some instances they may not return to the 'home' zoo but go to another collection. Other moves may be to offer something 'new' in one of the other collections. There was no breeding plan, no conservation or education. This was pure commercial zoo.

Some animals were just temporarily held and located at Cleethorpes and were never officially on show. These included 'Calypso' the Killer Whale and a couple of Beluga Whales. Other species exhibited included Hippopotamus, Black Rhinoceros, Giraffe, Dromedary and Bactrian Camels, Reindeer, Arabian Gazelle, Yak, Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Silver Leaf Monkeys, Patas Monkeys, Californian Sealions, Elephant Seal, Dingos,. There was also a well stocked range of waterfowl ponds, a tropical house and a reptile house.

There were several elephants held too. There were two longer term Asian residents residing for more than a couple of years and a number of newly imported young animals held for just a few months.


Zoo Staff

Although the majority of the staff who were hired to work in Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland were local there was a lot of staff movement. Primarily this was at the Curator level. Curators came from and to Flamingo Park Zoo, Dudley Zoo, Knaresborough Zoo, Stanley Zoo and others.

To a lesser degree the keeping staff moved also. These were more likely to be employees with experience in show presentation. For the most part the 'grass roots' staff in Cleethorpes Zoo and the other satelite zoos of the organisation were dedicated and caring animal people.

The End Of The Zoo

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland along with the other Associated Pleasure Parks collections passed through various company hands. It was at one time managed in part by the Cleethorpes council who carried out maintenance and gardening.

Irrational decisions to move certain species out of the zoo meant that the number of visitors dropped off also. The Giraffe went, then the Rhino followed closely by the Elephants. The breeding group of Red Kangaroos were to be replaced by Wallabies. The Humboldt Penguin enclosure it was thought would look better housing Mandarin Ducks....all males. The big cats were all moved out, as were the bears.

There was a name change too, to Cleethorpes Adventureland and Zoo.

All this led to a vicious circle which spelt out the inevitable end of the zoo.

After it was closed the site was briefly taken over by an entirely unrelated group who operated it as a circus type show. Even this folded, though more as a result of an argument between partners.

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Comments 19 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for your interesting hub and enjoyed it to read.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Hello, hello - Thanks for visiting. I thought it a worthwhile project to pull together, mostly from memory as very little information in cyberspace.

Sam Whitbread 6 years ago

Interesting article, Peter. Doug and Carol Petrie are full of stories about Cleethorpes as they were there in the very early days before the first dolphins arrived. Al Verlaine who ran the place along with Bernard Bale (post Scotia Holdings) owns the Jungle Zoo in the same town. For some reason I thought that these two gents reopened the zoo in 1978 (the same year that Scotia sold Flamingoland Gibb) and operated it for about three or four years after that.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Hi Sam - Yes I understand that Al and Bernard opened a corner of the zoo and ran it as a circus cum zoo. Whether it could be classed as the same place would be a matter for debate. Colleagues who worked in Cleethorpes Zoo who later visited the Verlaine/Bale operation said it was 'not the same'. I never visited it at that stage. I was aware that the Petries were there as were Ron and Carol Potter (later Knaresborough), Frank Reitz, Dick Rhodes, and others.

ShowMe Elephants 5 years ago


Do you have more information regarding the elephants of this location?

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

ShowMe Elephants - I recollect working with five or so when I was there. One has to remember that this was part of Associated Pleasure Parks/Scotia investments so animals were moving between Dudley Zoo, Flamingo Park Zoo and others at the time.

The very best source of UK zoo elephants was a document produced by John Frost of Chester Zoo. I am not sure if he is still there but they will have an address for him. He is a fount of knowledge.

Brian Robinson 4 years ago

A very dear friend of mine worked at the original Cleethorpes Zoo. If anyone has any memories or photos/postcards, I would love to send copies to him.


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 4 years ago from South East Asia Author

Who would that be Brian? I knew a few from the years before I worked there.

angela lewis 4 years ago

i swam with the dolphins and did the dolphin show at cleethorpes zoo. my picture is held by grimsby evening telegraph and i was featured in the holiday brochure,

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 4 years ago from South East Asia Author

Hi Angela, I remember you well. I hope all goes well in your life. Peter

sal barker 4 years ago

my cousin SUSAN PETT worked here and in early 70s i went with her in my summer hols Played with black bear cub Remember a llma baby dying and had dolphins pulled me round in a dinghy !! no health and safety in 70 !!

Carole Callow 3 years ago

Dear Peter,

I was at Flamingo Park late 60's early 70's, and two animal friends of mine were apparently sent to Cleethorps. One was a hand reared crested porcupine called Percy, and the other a 11/2 or 2 yr old lion called Carl. I think it was around 1972, the year I left the park. I know it was a huge time ago, but I'd love to know what became of them.

Were you the 'catman' at Flamingo park? I also remember Dick and Chris Rhodes as well as Mr. Reitz .

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia Author

I was the catman Carole and remember Dick, Chris and Frank Reitz. I don't recall Percy but I do remember Carl. I may actually remember you but perhaps you were not called Callow back then.

Carole Callow 3 years ago

Then my surname was Ormerod if that rings a bell? Originally I did riding stunts at Cowboy City and pony rides, then in charge of giant anteaters, mammal house, monkeys ,pets corner and the mobile zoo. Percy and Carl were special; Percy probably transferred as just another porcupine, but I'm glad you remember Carl. Do you know what became of him? Great to 'speak' to you after all these years, hope you are well.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia Author

Just after I posted I remembered your second name. So yes I remember you well. I never left zoos....still doing it. Presently curator of Penguins in Ski Dubai. Love my work and my point of view has changed a lot since my early days in Flamingo Park.

Sorry but I don't know what happened to Carl in the end. I am well. Hope you are too.

Isabelle Schaub 3 years ago


Does anybody have some informations about he transport of the 4 belugas in June 1965 ?

As I am informed, only one of them arrived and died soon after.

Does anybody know somethimg about it?

I am also looking for the full name of the curator at that time, Mr Reitz or so...

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia Author

Isabelle.....I recollect two Beluga and not four and the date I feel is out. Frank Reitz was curator from circa 1969 to around 1971 and not earlier. For captive UK whale history contact John Dineley through

susan shaw 2 years ago

Hi I worked with the dolphins at flamingo park back in the early 70s.I arrived with 3 dolphins and 3 sealions from southelmsal, lived on site and remember quite a few of the staff who were there at the same time.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 2 years ago from South East Asia Author

So long ago Susan Shaw. I was with the group till the early seventies and then moved on.

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