Friday, 23 March 2018

Monkey Hill at London: Monkey Temple at Bristol Zoo

There has been a great deal of recent interest in my article on Monkey Hill at London Zoo. In its postwar state it housed, for a time, Rhesus Macaques. Tuberculosis was blamed for the large number of deaths*. It was demolished in 1955.

Demolition of Monkey Hill
London Zoo
Children's Newspaper
2 April 1955

There were, though, other zoos in which groups of Rhesus Macaques were kept, apparently successfully. I can—just—remember going to Bristol Zoo at the age of three and seeing the Monkey Temple. I went there again around Easter 1963 and took this photograph. Bristol opened the Monkey Temple in 1928. It was apparently inspired by the Cold Lairs, an abandoned city inhabited by monkeys, in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Monkey Temple, Bristol Zoo. My photograph from 1963

The years passed and such exhibits were—and still are—condemned by social and architectural historians with a political axe to grind as ‘colonial’, ’unnaturalistic’ or even ‘exotic’. 

I was highly amused when on my first visit to an Indian temple—in India—to see Rhesus Macaques disporting themselves on its walls and roof just as they did in Bristol. Far from being a colonial view of their natural habitat, that was their natural habitat!

The Monkey Temple in Bristol is now apparently used to house an exhibit on plants.

Postcard: Monkey Temple, Bristol (Clifton) Zoo