A to Z of Leeds: The Sunday controversy of a city zoo and gardens

We all know Leeds is a great city, right?

Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 1:36 pm
The Bear Pit in 1968.
The Bear Pit in 1968.

There are many reasons for this bold claim, from the people who've called this place home, to the history of the region, the developments underway and the talent and creativity we see on a daily basis. Here, we go through the alphabet to give you some reasons to be proud.


The opening of the gardens on Cardigan Road in July 1840 , which cost 6d to visit, sparked controversy because they opened on a Sunday.

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Traditionalists argued Sunday should be a day of rest and that the gardens should remain closed. However, the editor of the radical Leeds Times, Dr Samuel Smiles, took the opposing view that Sunday was an ideal time for the working classes to visit them, there being little other opportunity during the week.

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This then was part of a wider discussion about civil and religious liberty which was being had at the time.

Eventually, a compromise was agreed and the gardens opened from 4pm to sunset on Sundays.

The gardens were full of exotic plants and flowers, designed by Edward Davies, who included two ponds and a fountain. with animals on show including swans, an eagle, a racoon and several monkeys.

Balloon rides were even held here. However, the life of the gardens was shortlived and in December 1848, having not attracted the numbers it needed, it was forced to close.

By 1890, the land was sold for building, with expensive mansions built. The only part remaining is the Bear Pit on Cardigan Road.



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Laura Collins