Reginald Stuart Goddard
Born on August 27th, 1890, in Ongar, Essex, Reginald Stuart Goddard ‘s journey from a young boy in rural England to the founder of Chessington Zoo is a captivating tale of passion, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit. Reginald, son of Arthur and Dorothea Goddard, attended school in Ongar before marrying Doris Ena Layborn in 1915. The couple went on to have three children.
Before establishing Chessington Zoo in July 1931, Reginald’s life took a distinctive turn during the First World War. He served for two years in the Royal Naval Air Service. Graduating as a Flight sub-lieutenant in Roehampton on July 17th, 1917. Later, he qualified as a balloon pilot. Showcasing his skills as a capable officer at the 15th Balloon Base Tipnor from March 31st, 1918.
The Air Ministry awarded Reginald both a Victory Medal and a British War Medal for his service. Post-war, he transitioned into the role of managing director of the family’s slate and slab firm. His entrepreneurial spirit shined as he opened a chain of billiard halls around London. Including one that was reportedly leased to a pet store. Housing an unusual pet collection, sparking his interest in animals.
The turning point came when Reginald, driving past the site, spotted a house and land for sale. Recognizing the potential to house his collection of exotic animals, he promptly made an offer. On July 28th, 1931, Chessington Zoo opened to the public, showcasing Reginald’s private collection of exotic species.
Reginald Stuart Goddard ‘s life journey reached its end on Christmas Day 1946, at the age of 56. They interred him close to the zoo, in the Cemetery at Saint Mary Churchyard, Surrey. His legacy endures in the thriving Chessington World of Adventures. A testament to his vision, dedication, and the enduring allure of the world he created.