The Bear Pit is the finest surviving example in the UK. The superb condition of the structure is due 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 a black bear. In 1839 the attempt to combine zoological exhibits was stopped because of the noise and stench. In 1855 Sir Henry Hunloke presented 2 brown bears to the Gardens although little is known about how long they remained there. Local legend relates that a child was killed after falling into the pit around 1870.
The Grade II listed Bear Pit was fully repaired during the restoration of the Gardens. The old railings (of a somewhat dour municipal character) have been replaced with more elegant ones, matching the railings which surround most of the Gardens. Grilles have been re-instated and can be pulled across the entrance to the Pit, and also across the 2 side dens (which once housed the 2 bears). The grilles can be locked, thereby keeping things either in or out.
In January 2005 a mild steel sculpture of a bear (2.4m tall) was installed, to remind people of the former use of this structure. The bear was originally a pale silver grey colour, but the sculptor allowed the metal to rust naturally. The bear is an interesting and very realistic grizzly-brown colour.