Our Zoo

From Sunday 18 October at 19:30

About the show

The true story of Chester Zoo

When George Mottershead, an ex-serviceman still struggling to come to terms with the effects of the Great War, finds a monkey locked up in a quarantine cage, it sparks an idea that becomes a life-long mission. He dreams of building Britain’s first zoo without bars.

Unable to see a creature in distress, he soon starts buying up unwanted animals. But George lives with his parents Lucy and Albert Mottershead, his loyal wife Lizzie and his daughters Mew and June. The family home is bursting at the seams. Something has to change…

George soon spies a large rambling estate in the countryside. In a poor state of repair, the house and land are up for auction. It’s the perfect spot for his zoo. But how to raise the funds?

From struggling to win over the hostile locals, to coaxing two bears off a hillside, and working out the best way to transport a dozen penguins, Our Zoo follows the ups and downs faced by the Mottershead family as they try to get George’s idea off the ground.

Funny and tender, Our Zoo shows how with dogged determination and a little recklessness, anything is possible.


Our Zoo

Albert Mottershead

Played by Peter Wight

Albert is George's loving father.

He is less rash than his son, but can share George's bravery and assertiveness when the time calls for it, which can put him at odds with his wife, Lucy.

Albert's hard work is crucial to George's dreams becoming reality.

Our Zoo

George Mottershead

Played by Lee Ingleby

George Mottershead's dream is to build the first British zoo without bars. His strong connection with animals is deeply seeded in his experiences recuperating from a war wound that had confined him to traction for two years.

While troubled at times by the horrors he witnessed, George is a remarkable man. His drive, determination, bravery and enormous love of animals make the impossible seem achievable.

Our Zoo

Lizzie Mottershead

Played by Liz White

George's wife Lizzie is a fiercely strong, independent woman, and her support and guidance are crucial to getting the zoo off the ground.

Her brave step into the unknown with George gives Lizzie an unexpected freedom that most 1930s housewives didn't experience.

Lizzie uses her skills as a bookkeeper to lend a rigour and professionalism to George's vision, making them an extraordinary team.

Our Zoo

June Mottershead

Played by Honor Kneafsey

June might be the youngest member of the Mottershead family but her contribution to the zoo is pivotal.

She is imaginative, smart and worldly beyond her years. June’s unwavering dedication to all the animals that her father brings home is often what brings the family together.

She is George’s biggest believer, no matter what, and is a constant source of energy and encouragement.

Our Zoo

Billy Atkinson

Played by Ralf Little

Billy is Lizzie's mischievous brother. He's a ‘jack the lad’ type who is often seen selling the latest fads from around the world on the street corner.

Billy and Lizzie have a fractious relationship due to Billy's past indiscretions. Although he claims to be a changed man, it's going to take more than words to convince his sister that it’s for the better, so he puts his back into the zoo to prove it – with mixed results.

Our Zoo

Lucy Mottershead

Played by Anne Reid

A proud shopkeeper, Lucy is a pillar of her community. But her world is turned upside down when her husband Albert sells their shop to help fund the zoo and they are forced to live with George and his family in the country.

Lucy is unconvinced by George's plan and her attitude towards the zoo is hostile at times. It's only Lucy's deep commitment to her family and her gradual attachment to the animals that slowly win her around.

Our Zoo

Muriel 'Mew' Mottershead

Played by Amelia Clarkson

Mew is an adventurous city girl and, much like her grandmother Lucy, is appalled at the thought of living in a zoo.

At first Mew feels lonely in this strange place, but she finds a surprising idol in next-door neighbour, Lady Katherine, a worldly woman of the kind Mew aspires to be. And it isn’t long before Mew’s rebellious nature quickly piques the interest of local post boy, Archie Radler.

Slowly Mew will discover that Oakfield offers the chance of a different kind of life – one she never imagined she wanted.

Get it on...

BBC First is available in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.