The Isle of Wight Zoo
Sandown Zoo !??… yeah, yeah – your all thinking it was a scheme to get us a free day out !. Well.. yes, the Tigers and Lions where gorgeous.. and the lil black monkey was a cutie – but.. its only when you start to look around at the outer perimeter of the building, do you start to understand..
Ya see, what is now a Zoo – once was a rather large Coastal Fort.
We need to head back to April 1861, Work had just begun on the Coastal Defence of Sandown Bay. After three long years of hard back breaking stone work (Granite), and at a cost of £ 73,876 – the Fort was completed.
It was one of many of the sea defences that Lord Palmerston built along the island coast in a bid to halt any French invasion. (the French had already invaded the island once before – see St Catherines history page)
18 guns where positioned behind iron shields, built into the wall on pivot turntables.. with a further 10 guns being mounted along the top of the inner wall. Look closely and you can still see the gun mounts even today !.
It could hold over 60 men quite comfortably in the Barracks, with room for 4 officers. The fort had quite an armament for its time, 28 guns in total.
Over the years quite a lot of the original fort building-work has been demolished, although the main frontage still exists. Infact quite a lot of the granite was taken away, and used in other construction projects around the island. I wonder if we might just bump into parts of the Forts building works on other investigations !?….
As you can probably guess, a long serving fort such as this has gained quite a reputation for its paranormal tales. Ghosts are regularly reported by staff and visitors. The ghost of a young soldier haunts the gun mounts, a freak accident on a training exercise resulted in him being cut in half by the cannon he was working with. (Read more about the resident ghosts in the Ghost Encounter section)
During the second world war, fuel was pumped through an underwater network of pipes into France to keep the allied vehicles on the move. The operation was given the codename ‘Pluto’ or ‘PipeLine Under The Ocean’. Although never seeing active duty, the fort was a busy place for many years. In 1943 the fort frontage even played host to the engines for the PLUTO network. Over 70 miles of pipeline was laid along the seabed from the Fort to Cherbourg in France !.
The Fort was finally sold off in 1960, becoming a small island zoo. Jack Corney took it over in 1976, and has been a family business ever since. Although the Zoo specializes in Big Cats and Lemurs, it has large collection of other animal species, including Monkeys and Reptiles.
The Zoo is very sensitive to all the animals needs, infact the 2 key points of the Zoo (which it strongly believes in) – are the Preservation and Education of the public, to the plight of the Big Cats.
It has successfully led a breeding programme for many years, insuring that many of the animals we take for granted are not wiped out to the point of extinction. (Please visit the Zoo’s website for more information on this !)
The Zoo is quite an example of modern living, wrapped up in old history !.
We are very grateful to the management at Sandown Zoo, for the kindness and understanding they have shown us.
Visit the Zoo on the web at: www.isleofwightzoo.com