Adelaide Zoo

Open doors and graveside visits: Adelaide Zoo celebrates the Minchin family

It’s the news that will have local historians in a tizz. After celebrating its 141st birthday last week, Adelaide Zoo today opened the doors of Minchin House, the original Directors’ home and announced it has renewed the license on the grave of Richard E. Minchin, the first Director of Adelaide Zoo at nearby North Road Cemetery.

“Adelaide Zoo’s past is part of what shapes us as an organisation today – it’s vital that we honour that history,” said Elaine Bensted, CE of Zoos SA.

“The zoo has been connecting people with nature for 141 years. We wanted to invite our members and Life Members to tour Minchin House, the former home of the zoo’s first Directors.

“We also wanted to acknowledge our connection to the role that the Minchin family played in the formation of Adelaide Zoo. We were therefore happy to renew the license on the grave of Richard E Minchin, his son Alfred Corker Minchin and their families at the historic North Road Cemetery.

“The way that accredited zoos operate and prioritise the welfare of animals is just one of the big differences between the zoo back then and now. However, while things have changed for the better, it’s still important to acknowledge how it all started and who brought this wonderful institution to fruition,” finished Elaine.

Jeff Lugg, General Manager of Operations at Zoos SA who conducted two tours of Minchin House on Wednesday said, “It’s exciting to be able to share some of the history of the Minchin family and the house they lived in from 1888 to 1938.

“All of our visitors will see Minchin House from the outside but very few have been inside.  It was a real privilege to open the doors today to 40 or so people and tell them more about the founders of the zoo,” finished Jeff.

Meanwhile, Andrew Boucaut, Cemetery Manager of North Road Cemetery was delighted to learn that Zoos SA had agreed to take on the license of the Minchin grave.

“As licenses expire at North Road Cemetery we write to people and connected organisations to see if they’re interested in renewing. I wrote to Elaine Bensted, CE of Zoos SA to see if the zoo wanted to renew and the Board decided that because the Minchins were so significantly linked to Adelaide Zoo that they would. The license has been extended for 50 years.

“If people would like to see the grave they can enter via D’Erlanger Avenue and head to Path Four, North,” finished Andrew.

Adelaide Zoo is run by conservation charity Zoos SA. It houses over 2,500 animals and over 500 species. As well as daily visitors and school groups, over 50,000 annual members and 4,767 life members support Zoos SA’s efforts to save species from conservation.

For more details, visit www.adelaidezoo.com.au
For more details about North Road Cemetery, visit www.anglicancemeteries.com/

Minchin family and Minchin House facts:
Richard E Minchin (1831 – 1893), the first director of the zoo, originally became involved in the South Australian Acclimatization Society which lobbied to have a section of the Botanic Garden set aside as a zoological garden. This met with success in 1882 with land allocated near Albert Bridge, its present location. The Zoo opened in May 1883 and RE Minchin was appointed as the zoo’s first Director. He moved into the Director’s House five years later.

Alfred Corker Minchin (1857-1934), was the son of R E Minchin. Alfred gained further zoological knowledge at the Melbourne Zoo.  Alfred Minchin became director of the Adelaide Zoological Gardens on the death of his father until his own death in 1934 – 40 years. A tall and imposing man, Alfred Minchin further developed the zoo, travelling to many places around the world and in Australia to add to the collection. The lemurs are said to have been his favourite animals.

Minchin House is now used as an administration building and sits in the centre of zoo close to the Siamangs and White-cheeked Gibbons. The house built in 1888 and its ornate gardens are planted to represent earth, wind, fire and water and are often the backdrops to visitors’ photographs.

Composer, lyricist and comedian Tim Minchin is descended from Richard E Minchin.