We start our story with this postcard showing Berkhamsted St Peter’s church choir starting for the zoo. To which zoo were they going?
Back in the early part of the twentieth century the London Zoological Society had long-held ambitions to develop an outdoor zoo where animals could be given plenty of room in spacious paddocks and woods, instead of being housed in small yards, or in even smaller cages which was the norm for all city zoos at that time. Hall Farm Bedfordshire, a derelict farm, was purchased in 1926 for £480 12s 6d. (Wikipedia, Whipsnade Zoo: Early Years). The site was fenced, roads built and trees planted. It was situated thirty-three miles from London and seven miles from the nearest main-line railway station at Luton, from where a special service of omnibuses ran. The zoo covers five hundred acres, but at first only two hundred acres were developed. It lies 600-700 feet above sea level in the Chilterns, and commands extensive views over Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
On Sunday 23 May 1931, the Whipsnade Wild Animal Park as it was known then opened its doors to the public. The day after opening, over 38,000 people went through the gates. It was the first open zoo in Europe to be easily accessible to the visiting public.
Mary Casserley, Chronicle, v.XV, pp.70-77