The Hartlepool department store which had its own zoo with anteaters, raccoons and wallabies

Lynn Street in a bygone era.
Lynn Street in a bygone era.

Movies, or maybe a trip to the zoo that was inside a store? It was a choice the people of Hartlepool had available to them decades ago.

The Lynn Street Robinsons had attractions such as anteaters and baby kangaroos.

It was a short-lived endeavor and author Graeme Harper tells us more in the second of his series of articles for the Hartlepool Mail.

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Lynn Street in a bygone era.

There were many attractions in town for the people of Hartlepool on Saturday July 14, 1928.

Moviegoers could enjoy WC Fields’ latest film ‘Running Wild’ or see Mary Pickford in ‘Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall’.

For the curious, Yvonne Astra – “the enchantress with the magic crystal” – was ready to read minds at the Palace Theater in the city. While at the Empire there was Horace Goldin “The Royal Illusionist”, with his “50 tricks in 50 minutes”.

Saturday shoppers were reportedly tempted by a sale at the popular Robinsons department store on Lynn Street. And while you’re there, why not come visit their newly opened zoo.

A Northern Daily Mail advert for Robinsons Zoo.

Robinsons had opened in the town in 1875, and by early 1928 patrons could watch the animals for a nominal fee.

The promotion read: “”There is a wonderful treat for children (although adults too will be interested) – a real living zoo at Robinsons – real wildlife, monkeys, kangaroos, fighting anteaters, here in our Colosseum section. Entrance 2d.’

In August, another ad brought more news: “let the kids have an interesting half hour visiting our zoo this week.” They will find intense amusement in the antics of monkeys, strange South American Coatimundis, baby kangaroos and birds.

The monkeys were rhesus macaques called Jenny and Babs and were mother and offspring.

Another advertisement for the zoo.

As for the ‘Fighting Anteaters’ – the males of the species are aggressive towards each other during the mating season, but otherwise live a quiet solitary life being mostly nocturnal.

Kangaroos require a lot of space and are not easy to keep in captivity – certainly not in a large store. It is likely that they were in fact wallabies. Coatimundis are South African mammals that look a bit like raccoons.

In October 1928, only a few months after its opening, the closing of the zoo was announced.

“Let the little people take a farewell visit to our famous live animal collection,” the ad read.

Another of the events at Robinsons. Here is a Northern Daily Mail advertisement from December 1947 for the arrival of Santa Claus.

The reasons for the closure are not known, but it would be safe to assume that successfully maintaining a healthy collection of exotic animals in a store would not be

After all, anteaters eat ants, and large amounts of their favorite food would not be readily available. The assorted creatures would also have emitted a

collective aroma that might have made the Robinson’s shopping experience a bit difficult.

In the end, there probably weren’t enough interested customers willing to pay 2d.

Robinsons was sold to Debenhams in 1964 and the Hartlepool building was demolished around 1970.

Another archive view of Lynn Street.

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