Lambton Lion Park

Many people still associate Bournmoor with Lambton Lion Park - at least this is the case for those old enough to remember visiting the park! The park was officially opened by Annabel Lambton and Jimmy Chipperfield in July 1972.

Above: The park opening ceremony 

Below is the first guidebook to Lambton Lion Park (1972):



The introduction to the above guidebook reads as follows:
Introducing Lambton Lion Park
Welcome to the first year of Lambton Lion Park, which is the newest great game reserve in Britain and designed to service the Tyne Tees conurbation. The site chosen is initially 212 acres on the south side of Lord Lambton's beautiful estate at Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham, close to the boundary formed by the A183 from Chester-le-Street to Sunderland. This undulating, heavily wooded estate with a romantic castle at the centre acts as a perfect backcloth against which to exhibit Africa's fauna.
It was at the beginning of 1970 that Lord Lambton, landowner and politician, first met Jimmy Chipperfield to discuss the possibility of creating a safari park on the Lambton estates. Since then has followed their partnership and also much careful planning before the first turf was cut in the building operation. Their efforts culminated in July 1972 with the opening of the Lambton Lion Park.
This new safari type zoo, evolved so successfully by Jimmy Chipperfield, gives to those who may never be able to visit Africa the opportunity of driving among and studying wild animals living in conditions not so very different from their natural habitat. In the safari park concept the human beings are the caged ones, whilst the animals roam free. This is an important innovation, and one which eminent zoologists now recognise as a likely basis for future zoo development. This type of zoo also provides almost ideal conditions for the establishment of of breeding groups and thus contributes towards the conservation of threatened species of African wild life. It also offers facilities for the study of various species and their relationships with each other in the freedoms of spacious reserves. The majority of the animals here have been collected and imported from Africa by Jimmy Chipperfield and many of them have come from his own catching camp which he establishes each year in Uganda. On arrival in Britain and before they are allowed to go to the safari parks they must spend many months at the Chipperfield's quarantine station at Plymouth.
The pictures below were taken from a 1977 guide to Lambton Pleasure Park. The introduction reads as follows: 

The New Lambton Pleasure Park (Incorporating Lambton Lion Park) saw the beginning of one of the major attractions in the North East, the opening of Lambton Lion Park on 212 acres of Lord Lambton's Estate. At this time, the park exhibited many types of exotic animals and had as its aims, conservation of wildlife, through the study of exotic animal husbandry. Providing educational facilities for schools and at the same time a venue for daily leisure activities, in beautiful surroundings with picnic areas, restaurant, licensed bar, adventure playground, etc. Due to its great popularity, it was realised by 1975 that the concept needed some modifications if we were to adequately cater for the large number of people spending their leisure time in the park, with the consequent traffic hold-ups, sometimes three miles long. To this end, the park was redesigned and renamed Lambton Pleasure Park, this allowed us to broaden the scope of our activities and accommodate more visitors, new animals are still being added as they become available and we are still having many breeding successes. We retained some of the large areas enabling the visitor to drive through and see some of the world's most exotic species roaming freely as in the wild, and we also constructed large paddock areas, containing some of the more domesticated species, so that here the visitor could leave the car and walk round seeing these animals as in a zoological garden and picnic in safety. This year the visitor will notice the new entrance over a cattle grid which we hope will enable us to acquire and maintain more of the exotic species. A further development last year was the Magic Castle and Fairy Tale Museum, to which this year we have made additions. This has been one of our most successful projects, children enjoy the fantasies of their dream world, adults marvel at the intricacies of design and animation. Another interesting feature is the Lambton Airways plane, which the visitor can board and enjoy some of the thrills of flight.
As stated in the guide books, as well as the animals, the park contained many other attractions aimed at children. Here are just a few:
  • The Miniature "Rio Grande" Railway 

  • Fairground Rides

  •  Magic Castle & Fairy Tale Museum


  • Lambton Airways

  Above: postcard from Lambton Lion Park
Above: postcard from Lambton Lion Park
Above: postcard from Lambton Lion Park

Above: postcard from Lambton Lion Park

Above: postcard from Lambton Lion Park


Below is a picture taken in 2008 of the approach to Lambton Lion Park. The old manager's office is still there and if you look closely, the approach lane-markings are still visible. The pay-booths were two small huts which were to the right of the manager's office in the middle of the approach lanes.



Above: the old entry booth into the Park. The sign to the right reads "Manager's Office"



Lambton Lion Park - A Selection of Souvenirs