When Chasewater nearly became a zoo: An eyesore that proved a financial flop

Chasewater in 2018. I can’t really ever have envisaged this place being a zoo, can you?

One recurrent theme I get when discussing Chasewater’s recent history as a public amusement venue from the 1950s to it’s decline in the 80s and 90s is how wonderful it was. Well, there’s no doubt we’ve all got fine memories of the place – as kids we looked upon a day there as akin to visiting the seaside, and we all formed many lovely memories within the park and on the shores of the lake.

Recently here I covered the creation of the ill-fated trotting track which although popular in the early 70s, never really fulfilled it’s promise and ended it’s life in dereliction. It seems that about this time, Brownhills Urban District Council was desperate to rid itself of the white elephant that was Chasewater.

Yes, Chasewater paddling pool in the day. I remember it like this. The main reason being it was close, and free, or next to free. Love the dude with the pipe. Image generously supplied by Peter Booth. Click for a larger version.

In that trotting track article, I found reference to the park being redeveloped as a zoo, which I’d never heard before. Well, having time to archive dig, I’ve found and interesting series of articles about the proposal, which councillors were apparently only too happy to agree to.

The one here today is from the Birmingham Daily Post of Saturday 13 June 1970.

Brownhills Urban District Council that invested in it with such lofty hopes of a high class amusement park in the 1950s was losing money hand over fist – £20,000 a year according to this article, which was a massive amount for what was a tiny council. No wonder this was so warmly welcomed.

Scarborough Zoo and Mainland – students of the period’s brutalist leisure architecture ethic will see similarities to that at Chasewater and ill fated ventures like the Isle of Man’s Summerland. Image from Scarborough Stories.

Scarborough Zoo and Mainland seems to have been in existence until 1984. I’m keenly digging to find out what became of Donald Robinson’s proposals and why there was no zoo at Chasewater.

Zoo in £250,000 Chasewater plan

A £250.000 scheme to build a zoo and park on the southern shore of Chasewater at Brownhills will be considered by Aldridge-Brownhills Chasewater Committee on Monday.

The scheme has been proposed by Scarborough and Marineland Ltd. and the company wants similar facilities to those it has established at the Yorkshire resort.

Mr. Donald Robinson the company’s managing director hopes to acquire the lease of the whole of the lake’s southern shore for 40 years, and has said he is prepared to invest £250,000 in the enterprise.

The project was welcomed by council officials at Aldridge-Brownhills yesterday. They felt that it would give the lake a much-needed boost as a recreation centre.

Mr. H. G. G. Nicholls. clerk to the council, said: ‘It seems an excellent idea, almost too good to be true. The scheme is in its infancy and detailed plans have still to be submitted, but I support it in principle.’

Mr. J. Walker. the council’s parks superintendent, said that the annual cost of keeping Chasewater open to the public was £30.000, but only £10.000 was taken in admission charges each year.

He added: ‘This private scheme will not cost the council a penny, and we shall receive a share of the profits.

‘The council could not afford to establish these kinds of facilities at Chasewater. and I feel it is time we took advantage of private enterprise. The only drawback is that it will mean leasing a large expanse land, which the council may wish to use for other purposes, for a long time.’

Coun. Douglas Whitehouse, the vice-chairman of Chasewater Committee described it as ‘a very interesting project,’ and said his committee was likely to support anything which would help to boost the revenue from Chasewater.

He said: ‘The amusement park is an eyesore which has proved a financial flop. The lease for this has expired and the council has decided not to renew it.

‘The committee will back this scheme if the developers can give an assurance that they will not abandon it half-way through if business is not as brisk as expected.’

Coun. Whitehouse said that the company had invited committee members to visit Scarborough Zoo and Marineland, and this would be the next step before final approval.

I’d love to know what became of this plan, and those involved. Someone out there must recall it.

If you have any comments, please do post them here, catch me on social media or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail do com. Cheers.

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1 Response to When Chasewater nearly became a zoo: An eyesore that proved a financial flop

  1. Steven Pearson says:

    Would it have anything to do with the (then “unknown) plan for the M6 toll. I remember the idea of a theme park at Churchbridge called “Merrie England” in the early 70’s. Patrick Cormack – the then MP -was on the board. Like as if he had no idea of the future motorway plan. But he was just in it for the money. The BNRR was planned many years ago. Those in high positions knew all about it. There is/was a lot of evidence if only we had the right perspective.

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