Chester Zoo is a zoological garden at Upton-by-Chester, in Cheshire, England. It was opened in 1931 by George Mottershead and his family, who used as a basis some animals reported to have come from an earlier zoo in Shavington. It is one of the UK's largest zoos at 111 acres (45 ha). The zoo has a total land holding of approximately 400 acres (160 ha).
Chester Zoo is currently operated by the North of England Zoological Society, a registered charity founded in 1934. The zoo receives no government funding. It is the most-visited wildlife attraction in Britain with more than 1.3 million visitors in 2007. In the same year Forbes described it as one of the best fifteen zoos in the world.
The Mottershead family's market garden business was based in Shavington near Crewe. George Mottershead collected animals such as lizards and insects that arrived with exotic plants imported by the business. A visit to Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester as a boy in 1903 fuelled his developing interest in creating a zoo of his own.
Mottershead was wounded in World War I and spent several years in a wheelchair. Despite this, his collection of animals grew and he began to search for a suitable home for his zoo. He chose Oakfield House in Upton, a suburb of Chester, which he purchased for £3,500 in 1930. The house had 9 acres (3.6 ha) of gardens and provided easy access to the railways and to Manchester and Liverpool. There were local objections, but Mottershead prevailed, and Chester Zoo opened to the public on 10 June 1931. The first animals were displayed in pens in the courtyard.