Sheffield Botanical Gardens Bear Pit – Sheffield, England - Atlas Obscura

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Sheffield Botanical Gardens Bear Pit

In the 19th century, this pit housed a fully grown black bear for the entertainment of visitors. Today there is a sculpture in tribute to the poor creature. 


This bear pit is the finest surviving example in the United Kingdom, and its superb condition of the structure is thanks to the many years it was used as Yorkshire’s biggest compost pit.

This is a Grade II listed structure and was built in 1836 to home Bruin, a black bear whose sole entertainment was a tree placed in the middle of the pit for him to climb, according to research by local historian Alison Hunter.

Sadly for Bruin, he didn’t much like climbing and, as a result, wasn’t very popular. The local newspaper the Sheffield Mercury called him a “disappointment,” adding that he was “exceedingly loath to climb, and in what effort he did make, his admirers thought him indolent, unapt, and unwieldy.” By 1839, newspaper reports were complaining of the “filth” and “stench” of the bear pit.

There are two small dens on either side of the main entrance to the pit which originally housed the bears, and in January 2005 a mild steel sculpture of a bear (2.4 m tall) was installed. This is to remind people of the former use of this structure. The bear was originally a pale silver grey color, but the sculptor allowed the metal to rust naturally, creating a realistic grizzly-brown color.

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