Although it has often been adapted and renovated over the years, the Blackburn Pavilion is one of the few 19th century animal houses at London Zoo to remain in use today.

Designed by Charles Brown Trollope, the Blackburn Pavilion was built in 1882-83 to replace the world’s first Reptile House Zoo’s that was built in 1849. The red-brick exterior was constructed in a classical style that was popular in garden pavilions at the time. Inside, it featured three ponds in the floor of the lofty hall, the largest of which was used to house crocodiles. 

The historic building was originally heated by hot-water pipes running under the floor, which were intended to direct heat to the reptile enclosures. Small animals such as frogs and toads were kept in the cooler entrance porch. 

Zoo history

The original building was eventually superseded by a new London Zoo Reptile House in 1926. It was adapted to house birds in 1927-8, with the help of David Seth-Smith, the Zoo’s curator of mammals and birds. Seth-Smith also helped popularise London Zoo in his role as the ‘Zoo Man’ on the BBC Children’s Hour programmes. 

In 2008, the pavilion underwent a £2.5 million restoration to provide better conditions for bird life than ever, with a range of climate-controlled habitats. The revitalised building was renamed the Blackburn Pavilion as a thank you to the Blackburn family, supporters of the Zoo who helped secure its future during the 1990s.

Tim Hunkin clock

Today London Zoo’s Blackburn Pavilion is home to more than 50 different birds, with a walkthrough Mediterranean habitat at the heart of the main hall. Be sure to take a moment to pause and enjoy the beautiful birdsong.

In front of the Blackburn Pavilion, it’s hard to miss one of the Zoo’s most striking landmarks: the clock and automaton designed by engineer, artist, cartoonist and writer Tim Hunkin. On the hour, and every half-hour, it springs into life! 

Journey through our history

  • Snowdon Aviary construction
    Now reimagined as Monkey Valley

    Snowdon Aviary

    The Snowdon Aviary made history as Britain’s first walk-through aviary, designed to enclose as much open space as possible, stretching up to 24m tall.

  • Historic photo of flamingos at Mappin Terraces at London Zoo
    Built over 100 years ago

    Mappin Terraces and Pavilion

    At the time of their creation in 1913, they represented an innovative step to provide more naturalistic settings for animals at the Zoo. Over the years, the terraces have been home to goats, bears, penguins, ibex and snow leopards

  • Sketch of London Zoo East Tunnel
    War world II history

    East Tunnel

    One of the oldest surviving features at the Zoo, this tunnel was was served as an air raid shelter for employees and local people during World War II.

  • Black and white photo of giraffes at Decimus Burton's Giraffe House
    England's first giraffes

    Giraffe house history

    When giraffes arrived at London Zoo in 1836, they caused a public sensation. Our giraffes were the first to be seen by the public in England, and made Londoners instantly form a connection with the natural world.

  • Penguins at Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo designed by Berthold Lubetkin
    Pioneering Berthold Lubetkin design

    Lubetkin penguin pool

    Our Lubetkin Penguin pool at London Zoo is iconic. The sweeping spiral ramps kick-started a new era for British architecture, and inspired an enduring love of penguins in the British public.

  • A view of London Zoo by James Hakewill from 1835 and featuring the Raven's Cage and the Llama House. In the background a bear is being fed by visitors. The Raven's Cage has since been relocated.
    A monument of our history

    Ravens' Cage

    Designed by London Zoo’s original architect, Decimus Burton, this ornate ironwork aviary dates back to our earliest days.

  • Winnie the bear at London Zoo which inspired Winnie the Pooh
    The real story behind Winnie the Pooh

    Winnie the Pooh origins

    Winnie was one of our most famous residents, a black bear taken in when her mother was killed by a hunter and she has an enduring influence on pop culture today.

  • Outside Tiny Giants building
    Taking inspiration from nature

    Sustainability at Tiny Giants

    Opened by Queen Elizabeth I and Prince Philip, we built our Tiny Giants building to be as sustainable as possible.

  • Our history