Mappin Terraces 

Looking up at our four rugged imitation mountains, you might well think that they were built as part of our Australian Outback exhibit. In fact, this area of the Zoo, originally known as the Mappin Terraces, was built between 1913 and 1914 – long before our wallabies and emus took up residence!

The London Zoo Mappin Terraces were the brainchild of ZSL secretary Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell and architect John James Joass. Their ambitious design for a three-tiered quadrant of animal enclosures backed by hills was influenced by European zoo architecture. This included the work of Carl Hagenbeck who founded Hamburg’s Tierpark Hagenbeck. Hagenbeck pioneered the use of enclosures without bars, which provided panoramic views of the animals.

Mappin Terraces construction 

Built out of reinforced concrete, the four artificial peaks (known as the Goat Hills) rise to a maximum height of around 21m. Hollow inside, they provided a useful space to store the large water tanks that were required for the Zoo’s old Aquarium. The hills may look rather unnatural and blocky today, but at the time of their creation, they represented a genuine attempt to provide more naturalistic settings for animals at the Zoo. They were innovative both in concept and construction, making use of concrete engineering techniques recently invented in America.

The original Mappin Terraces included paddocks for deer, enclosures for bears and a pond for waterfowl. Over the years, the terraces have also been home to goats, pigs, penguins, ibex, snow leopards and even, briefly, people! In 2005, eight volunteers posed on display for four days, as part of our first “Human Zoo”. The experiment aimed to get people thinking about our animal nature, and human impacts on the rest of the natural world.

Giant in our history

Jumbo at riding steps, probably March 1882. Jumbo was London Zoo's first African elephant.
Uncovering Jumbo's life

Jumbo the elephant

The remarkable life story of Jumbo the elephant - the animal superstar who is said to have inspired the movie Dumbo.

View from Mappin Pavilion to Mappin Terraces, a venue at London Zoo
Outback Mountain with an emu

Mappin Pavilion 

The Mappin Café pavilion looking out over the terraces was also designed by John James Joass, in an elegant Italianate style. A tea house was always part of his plans for the area, but the advent of World War I interrupted building work, and the pavilion was only completed between 1920 and 1927.

Both the terraces and the pavilion were initially named after businessman John Newton Mappin, funder of the project, who unfortunately passed away before it was completed. In more recent times, the terraces have gone by the name of Bear Mountain. 

The Mappin Terraces and Mappin Café today

Both the Mappin Terraces and Mappin Café are now Grade II-listed buildings, but remain in use to this day. In 2008, the terraces were renovated and transformed into today’s Outback habitat for red-necked wallabies and emus. 

Although the pavilion building is no longer used as a café, having been superseded by our spacious Terrace Restaurant, the London Zoo pavilion building is available to hire as a unique space for events, conferences and celebrations – with a view quite unlike any other in London!

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.

  • 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.

  • A portrait of the gorilla 'Meng'. London Zoo, June 1939.
    One of Britain’s first modernist buildings

    Round house

    Designed for gorillas by Berthold Lubetkin, the building was home to our first gorillas Mok and Moina.

  • The London Zoo aquarium photographed in July 1981
    World's first public aquarium

    The Aquarium

    We were home to the world’s first public aquarium. We popularised the name “Aquarium” and pioneered the first environments to provide the correct living conditions for salt-water animals.

  • Zookeeper with a toucan bird
    Home to more than 50 different birds

    Blackburn Pavilion

    Blackburn Pavilion originally housed crocodiles, and is one of the only Victorian animal houses at the Zoo to remain in use today.

  • Air raid shelter at London Zoo
    How animals were looked after during the war

    The Zoo during World War Two

    War broke out on 3rd September 1939. At 11.00am London Zoo was closed by order of the Government, as were all other public places where people gathered in large numbers.

  • 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.

  • 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