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Places > Whipsnade

1220: The list of incumbents goes back to 1220 but the original church has been entirely rebuilt. The tower built in brick in the late 16th century incorporates a re-used west door of c.1480. The old bell frame was probably contemporary with the tower and one of the bells was dated 1630.

1719: The body of the church was rebuilt in the classical style at the expense of Thomas Vaux.

1798: Whipsnade Enclosure Act.

1858: Methodist Chapel built.

1860: Major church restoration took place with a new brick chancel and apse added, the church was re-seated and repaired.

1872: The village school built.

1897: The part of Whipsnade known as Ballington Boom was transferred to the newly formed parish of Markyate in Hertfordshire.

1926: The Village Hall built.

1931: Whipsnade Park Zoo was built by The London Zoological Society as a need was felt to find a place to keep and study wild animals . The property, 500 acres of derelict farmland, was purchased in 1926. The Society chose Whipsnade partly because of its superb natural position and partly because it was easily accessible from London and the large towns of Luton, Dunstable, Aylesbury and Watford. The Zoo opened on Whit Saturday on the 23rd May. The first day of opening was chaotic as the roads leading to the Zoo were totally inadequate to deal with the volume of traffic they were called upon to carry,  for everyone had failed to foresee the Zoo's immense popularity. As a result by midday every approach to the Zoo was crammed with a solid block of traffic and the police force had to turn out in large numbers to deal with the situation. The entrance prices were five pence for adults and two pence for children. On the Whit Monday the attendance was 26,946.

1931: Whipsnade Tree Cathedral was founded by E.K. Blyth in memory of those who died in the First World War.  It was inspired by the construction of Liverpool Cathedral and covers nine acres. Deciduous and evergreen trees and shrub species line the grass avenue to create the chancel, nave, transepts, chapels and cloisters.

1933: The White Lion on the Downs was created to serve as a landmark to the Zoo. Its measurements are nose to tail 483 feet, front legs 103 feet, back legs 145 feet, the tail is 13 feet wide. During the war it had to be camouflaged and this was done partly with green paint and partly by means of turf and wire netting.

1934: The Elephant House built at Whipsnade Park Zoo. In the same year an employee of the Zoo unwisely entered the lion enclosure for a dare and was attacked and killed by the lions.

1939: With the outbreak of the war Whipsnade Zoo became an evacuation centre for many animals from London Zoo. During the winter of 1939-40 the Zoo was closed but reopened the following spring and remained open for the rest of the war. In 1941 attendance figures reached nearly a quarter of a million.

1944: The Methodist Chapel was sold in February for 135. The Chapel had closed in 1938 when membership had dropped to two.

1949-50: The church tower was restored under the direction of Professor Albert Richardson.

1993: In December a fire devastated the restaurant and function room at Whipsnade Zoo.

2005: The last remaining population of white clawed crayfish in Bedfordshire were saved from extinction by moving 50 to a safe location at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. Their new homes were the chimp and lemur moats where they were isolated from other water bodies so that there was no threat from the plague carrying signal crayfish. (Leighton Buzzard Observer, 13th September)

2005: The White Lion given a bright new look as 800 metres of white rope lights installed, illuminating the lion in the dark. (Leighton Buzzard Observer, 13th December)

Sources :

  • Newspaper articles in The Local Studies Library at Bedford Central Library.
  • Victoria County History of Bedfordshire 3 Vols. 1912.
  • PICKFORD, Christopher  Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century Vol.79 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society. 2000.
  • HUXLEY, E.  Whipsnade : captive breeding for survival.  1981.
  • PENDER, L.  Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.  1991.
  • STREET, P.  Whipsnade.  1953.

Page last updated: 4th February 2014