Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, located at Belle Vue, Gorton, in Manchester, in United Kingdom, was founded in 1836 and the first elephant arrived in 1869. Belle Vue Zoological Gardens closed down in 1977.
Belle Vue Zoological Gardens was a large zoo, amusement park, exhibition hall complex and speedway stadium located in Belle Vue, Gorton, Manchester, England. The Gardens opened in 1836 and developed into one of the most popular attractions in the north of England. At its peak it occupied 165 acres (0.67 km2) and attracted over 2 million visitors each year, as many as 250,000 over the Easter weekend alone. The zoo closed in September 1977, and the amusement park closed in 1980. The land was sold off in 1982, and the site was finally cleared in 1986.
Belle Vue Zoological Gardens was the brainchild of entrepreneur John Jennison. Jennison and his wife Maria ran a small public house in Adswood, Stockport, called the Strawberry Gardens (later called Jennison's Gardens), where they also sold fruit and vegetables. He purchased a neighbouring half acre (2,000 m²) of land on which he and his wife developed an aviary, charging for admission from 1826.
Although Jennison's original emphasis was for the Gardens to be a relaxing botanical excursion with the animals being a means to support that environment, it became clear that there was enough public interest to warrant the animals becoming an attraction in their own right. The initial animal collection brought from the Strawberry Gardens had consisted mainly of domestic birds with a few exotic parrots, but by 1856 the Jennisons had added exotic animals such as kangaroos, rhinos, lions, bears and gazelles to the collection.
By 1870 Jennison had handed over the running of the Gardens to his sons, with the majority of the work being handled by eldest son George. Under his direction, in 1871 the zoo became the proud owner of its first four giraffes, and the following year a new elephant arrived, Maharajah, who became one of Belle Vue's most famous attractions.