Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Lambton Lion Park (NZ298518)

Those of a certain age will remember the North-East’s contribution to the 60s and 70s fad of UK-based safari parks, namely, ‘Lambton Lion Park’. Situated between Chester-le-Street and Bournmoor, it existed for eight short years during 1972-1980.

This odd tourist attraction came about on the whim of the then Lord Lambton, who no doubt fancied squeezing a little bit more money out of his substantial County Durham estate. Jimmy Chipperfield (of circus fame) was consulted in 1970, and two years later African beasts were roaming the banks of the River Wear whilst astonished locals looked on from their cars. The site was officially opened by Lucinda Lambton in July 1972.

The venture was a huge success and in 1975 the decision was taken to upgrade the site – the set-up eventually being relaunched as ‘Lambton Pleasure Park’. New features included the addition of a ‘Magic Castle’, children’s rides and a miniature railway, among other things.

Given its early success, I’m not altogether sure why the park closed in 1980, though there are whispers on the internet about problems with escaping animals and general lack of funds.

After its closure, there was little in the way of public access to the site and the estate fell into general decline. However, it is currently undergoing redevelopment, and has even been used as the setting for the BBC’s period drama, The Paradise, during 2012.

Some great pics here.


  1. I had that exact image of the lion but as an a4 photo, found it in the loft a few years ago but I think I may have binned it. I used to love Lambton Lion Park, it was great for the North East to have such a brilliant place to go for the whole family

  2. I remember school trips would have to take my chilldren there somehow edinburgh zoo and flamingoland dont hold the magic of baboons jumping on cars or giraffes right up close enough to nearly touch

  3. I lived on Lord Lambton's estate....Harraton tce from '78 to '82..... Think it's been knocked down? Lovely old building....with outside loo and a tree growing through the floor boards in the livingroom!! What is the old place used days? Last I heard it was a garden centre?

  4. Closed after a scandal involving Lord Lambton, drugs and a couple of prostitutes.

  5. Would make a great film.

  6. our car broke down and we got towed by a safari zebra landrover