Suffield Road, SE17

The Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens grew out of a menagerie started by Edward Cross in 1831 – he had previously exhibited at Exeter Change in the Strand.

The gardens were designed by Henry Phillips and highly praised – they were compared favourably with the Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens. The land of the zoo had previously been the 19-acre Lorrimore Common.

Cages for lions, tigers and other animals were enclosed within a glasshouse, 300 feet in circumference.

The gardens covered roughly the area between Suffield Road on the north, Lorrimore Road to the south, Penrose Street and Borrett Road on the east, and Chapter Road/Delverton Road to the west.

Edward Cross retired in 1844 and, under the new management of William Tyler, fell under hard times. He sold the animals in 1855 in order to keep the enterprise afloat but in 1856 seven people were killed in a stampede during a sermon by a local Baptist minister. The resulting backlash bankrupted the Gardens.

The entire site was sold to St Thomas’s Hospital in 1862 which used the Surrey Gardens as a temporary site for nine years. The former music hall there had 300 beds, while the giraffe house became the cholera ward. The whole site was sold for housing in 1877 causing the creation of Suffield Road.

Suffield Road became a street of Victorian houses but the area to its west was bombed during the Blitz.

In the 1950s, plans for the Alberta Estate were drawn up. In preparation for the demolition, the name Suffield Road went and it became part of Berryfield Road in 1959. In 1964, the whole street went under the bulldozer.

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