I was being shown around Southend Central Museums back collection with the aim of making some work around it when Roger Payne the Naturalist said, “have you seen the Kursaal Zoo animal skulls?” Well that threw me, as I didn’t even know that the Kursaal had a zoo, so he then explained that the Kursaal was the first theme park in the world beating Coney Island in America. Opening in 1893 with the Kursaal main dome entrance opening in 1901.
The park had fair ground rides, amusements and displays that were open to both day-trippers and locals, with this in mind the owners would refresh to rides and amusements to keep people coming back. In 1916 they opened the zoo, Mr C J Morehouse arranged with Mr Tyrritt Drake to show over one hundred animals that consumed 70.00lbs of meat.
The zoo had the first lady lion tamer and was open to the public until the outbreak of the Second World War. The owners then were worried that if a bomb landed on the zoo the animals escaping would create mayhem so the decision was taken to put the animals down, the skulls of the bear, lion and Leopard are still in the museums collection showing the bullet hole in the centre of their heads where they were shot….
Roger payne and John Skinner from Southend Central Museum. refencing the letter to the right. Then I was allowed to take this photo of the Leopard, Bear and Lions skull.