Memories of Lambton Lion Park in County Durham

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Memories of Lambton Lion Park in County Durham

It was July, 1972 and, somewhat incredibly, the roar of lions began to be heard across the plains of County Durham.

These photos may look like they were taken on the savannah of Africa.

They were, in fact, captured not far from Chester-le-Street.

Forty-five years ago, Lambton Lion Park brought the safari experience to the North East, and thousands enjoyed family days out and school outings to view the exotic African and Asian wildlife.

Opened in the grounds of Lambton Castle, the ancestral home of Lord Lambton, the popular visitor attraction was upgraded and relaunched as Lambton Pleasure Park in 1975.

Giraffes at Lambton Lion Park, Co Durham, 1970s
Giraffes at Lambton Lion Park, Co Durham, 1970s

Spread over 200 acres, the lions were the park’s main attraction, but there were also zebras, giraffes and camels.

Asian elephants, ostriches and baboons were some of the other Lambton regulars. The park was also home to the world’s second largest land mammal, the white rhino.

At the time, there were wonderful, if possibly apocryphal, stories about baboons at large on the near-by A1, and a hippopotamus in Chester-le-Street – and it was reported that in wintertime the lions enjoyed a frolic in the snow.

Later features included the addition of a ‘Magic Castle’, children’s rides and a miniature railway.

One Chronicle reader David Thornton told us of an eventful outing with Farne First School from the west end of Newcastle in 1975.

Viscount Lambton and Lady Isabella with the lion cubs which are bound for the Lambton Lion Park, Co Durham, 1970s
Viscount Lambton and Lady Isabella with the lion cubs which are bound for the Lambton Lion Park, Co Durham, 1970s

He recalled: “Our bus drove through the lion park. When we went through the baboon enclosure, one of the baboons jumped on the skylight of the coach and smashed the window and nearly fell inside the bus.

“It hung on had a look around, squealed and jumped out. Everyone screamed and started crying in case the baboons got in and killed us!

“We had to stay put until the ‘white hunter’ came in his Land Rover. He was like someone out of the TV show Daktari.

“My future wife went in the same year. She remembers a rhino getting loose in the picnic area and everyone having to get behind the barriers until they could catch it.”


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Lambton Pleasure Park closed in 1980, and the area fell into decline, although the site was used in the 2012 period drama, The Paradise.

What are your memories of Lambton Lion Park in County Durham?

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