Whole new beginning as Lancaster attraction spreads its wings

Photo Neil Cross
The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster
Siobhan Cunliffe, Matthew Hill, Emma Clear and Beth Nortley
Photo Neil Cross The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster Siobhan Cunliffe, Matthew Hill, Emma Clear and Beth Nortley

Drogo the blue tongued skink, an Eastern bearded dragon named Saphira and more than 15 different species of butterfly from around the world are all settling in at the new look Butterfly House in Lancaster.

The unique Edwardian glasshouse, formerly a palmhouse, which faces The Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park, has been closed over the winter to allow restoration work to take place. The work has involved repainting and restoring windows, allowing much more light into the building, as well as a complete rethink of the layout and planting within.

Photo Neil Cross
The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster
Siobhan Cunliffe, with Saphira the bearded dragon

Photo Neil Cross The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster Siobhan Cunliffe, with Saphira the bearded dragon

Beth Nortley, manager at The Butterfly House, said the work had provided a much better environment for the resident butterflies, plants, lizards, fish, tortoises and moths living there, while zookeeper Emma Clear said visitors now have a much better view of all the different species.

Beth said: “It was a bit tired, and hadn’t had a lot of attention for a while.

“It was really dark and quite a lot of the plant life died. So we had a bit of a blank canvas and it gave the zookeepers the opportunity to put in new animals and relocate others.

“It’s now much more natural and much more tropical.” Zookeeper Emma Clear, 28, has worked at the Butterfly House for 10 months. She said: “It’s just lovely now.

Photo Neil Cross
The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster
Matthew Hill, with a Pardes Iphidamas

Photo Neil Cross The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster Matthew Hill, with a Pardes Iphidamas

“And it’s getting much busier as we head into summer.

“The sun is now shining through the windows. We’ve moved our reptiles around, so people have a much better view of them.”

Zookeeper Siobhan Cunliffe, 23, who joined the team in March, said: “We’ve had some really great feedback since we re-opened. It’s really great to hear that people appreciate the work that has gone into it.”

Matthew Hill, from Lancaster City Council’s Williamson Park team, has been responsible for arranging the planting, with some new species you wouldn’t normally see in local gardens.

Photo Neil Cross
The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster

Photo Neil Cross The newly refurbished Butterfly House, Williamson Park, Lancaster

He said: “We’ve had to nearly fully restock it.

“Over the next few years it’s going to develop. It was a bit stressful for the plants, but they’re really responding to it now.

“As well as the butterflies, we have exotic plants that you don’t see everyday in the gardens.

“There’s been an opportunity here to do something pretty special.

“There’s passion flowers, citrus, peace lillies, ginger, shrimp plant, lantana. There’s been such a blank canvas here.”

As well as general visitors, The Butterfly House receives more than 100 school visits per year and also birthday parties.

Emma said: “If we’re doing school group sessions, there’s lots we can point out.

“We’ve been able to choose our own plants, including citrus and climbing plants which we know the butterflies love.

“There are around 15 different species of butterflies. We get a chrysallis delivery every two weeks, and the species change everytime.

“The butterflies live for around two weeks and we feed them with rotten fruit and nectar.

“We try and replicate what they have in the wild.

“When they die, people come and collect them for art projects.”

The butterflies come from all over the world including south America, Asia and Africa.

Beth added: “We have a lot of repeat visitors, and the response continues to be great. People are excited to see what it will look like in a few years.”