Researchers have found that there were parking attendants to collected money from visitors (Picture: SWNS)
Archives have revealed there is some truth behind an urban myth of a fake car park attendant swindling unwitting zoo visitors out of a fortune.
The story goes that the fraudster got away with it for so long because Bristol Zoo thought he was working for the council, and the local authority thought he was working for the zoo.
After 20 years of scamming he took his fortune and vanished abroad to retire somewhere hot on the beach.
Bristol Zoo has said that the story is not true, but researchers now think they know where the story came from.
For years community campaign group Downs for People have objected to the zoo using the nearby Downs as an extra car park.
Members have uncovered old meeting minutes showing discussions about people collecting money from visitors who parked on the Downs, but no one really knows where the money went.
The myth says the parking attendant collected a fortune and then vanished abroad (Picture: SWNS)
Downs for People found evidence there were unofficial parking attendants before a parking system was put in place (Picture: SWNS)
Spokesperson for the group, Susan Carter, told Bristol Live: ‘There is truth behind the myth of Bristol’s phantom zoo parking attendant.
‘The failure to provide properly for zoo visitors arriving by car goes back a century, to the 1920s.
‘For almost thirty years, from 1958 until the mid-1980s, and quite likely for 30 years before that, people were able to make their living as parking attendants, collecting “voluntary” donations from motorists parking on rough ground outside the zoo.
‘It is unlikely that anyone made a fortune, and from 1958 onwards attendants were authorised either by the Downs Committee or, from 1983, the zoo (probably – that is when confusion may have arisen).
‘It is not clear when the system of voluntary donations ended: attendants only started wearing uniforms in 1988, when a system of parking stickers was introduced.’
Bristol zoo is planning to move from its historical locaion (Picture: SWNS)
Downs for People found the name of one of the attendants, Mr S W Barrett, who supervised parking from 1978.
The organisation is trying to trace him or his family to find out more about his time there.
They found this new information while doing research in preparation to take the Downs Committee and Bristol City Council to court.
The two bodies signed a 20-year lease to the zoo which allows them to provide parking for visitors on the Downs.
But Downs for People believe the space should be kept for residents to use recreationally.
However, now it seems the space will no longer be in dispute as the zoo plans to move to the other side of Bristol in a few years.
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