1960s-70s Dealers in Reptiles in U.K.

The 1960s saw a marked increase in the number of reptile dealers in Britain, but that was nothing like the explosion in the later decades of the 20th century as interest in keeping and breeding increased enormously while moving down market at the same time.

In the 1960s, new dealers arose. Some were trying to turn a deep interest into a full-time occupation. Others, like some established dealers in birds, simply expanded as the saw an emerging markets. Many survived for a very short time; some for longer.

It is difficult to assess the extent of the trade at that time because local pet shops, a few of which might buy in a few reptiles from a wholesaler from time to time, tended not to advertise nationally. The weekly Cage Birds would see an expansion in advertisements for reptiles while the monthly Aquarist tended to have generic ones, just indicating that a dealer was around. There was no real point in advertising stock in the Aquarist; the lead time to publication was too long and a list was completely out of date by the time an issue appeared in the shops.

There is though no doubt that the importation of reptiles and amphibians increased massively in the 1960s. Small birds for the foreign bird fancier were already arriving in huge numbers and gradually the numbers of reptiles also increased. However, interest was still fairly limited and dealers found it very easy to overload the market. That restriction by limited demand did not apply to reptiles that could be sold as cute pets: there was mass importation of terrapins from the U.S.A.; baby Spectacled Caymans from South America, via the U.S.A. and the trade in tortoises continued unabated. Tyseley Pet Stores (see below) hit the headlines in 1967 following the arrival of 15,000 tortoises at London docks from Morocco.

Amongst the bird and mammal and reptile dealers Cage Birds would contain advertisements from the likes of Tyseley Pet Stores in Birmingham (selling everything from elephants downwards in size), Ravensden in Bedforshire, Fitzgibbon of Romford, Essex and David Taylor of Clay Cross, Derbyshire. Bleak Hall Bird Farm moved to Luton in 1964 and began to stock reptiles as well as birds. Palmers of Camden Town rarely advertised but the business was in full flow at the time. Wilsons of Glasgow, once a huge ‘pet’ business advertised occasionally.

September 1964

September 1964

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I once visited David Taylor’s Newmarket Aviaries at Clay Cross (he had no reptiles then). He imported huge numbers of common and not so common birds and mammals. I walked along a row of aviaries, each about the size of a room and each containing a large dead bush. As I approached, the bush exploded with life as hundreds of Indian Silverbills took both fright and flight. Another ‘aviary’ was bursting to the seams with one of the species of Palm Squirrel from India. As you will see from his advertisements, he even offered ‘easy’ payment terms to spread the cost of buying from him. I see that he died in 2011, having retired from his business in 2008.

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The following are some of the advertisers in the Aquarist in the 1960s, in addition to the very occasional appearance of South Western Aquarists (George Boyce); he did not need to advertise.

David Barker of Chatteris, Cambridgeshire
O’Neill Blackburn with stock from ’S Africa, Europe, Far East etc’

September 1964:
Conrad A Dowding, Pet Shop, Lewes, Sussex

June 1967
Brixham Biological Supplies

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February 1968
J&D Naturalists, Liverpool

J&D Aqu Sept 64

May 1968
David G Brownlees, Newcastle upon Tyne ‘Specialist in the supply of specimens from Ceylon, Mexico and the American South West’

September 1969
Zoological Supplies, Bradford
Anglian Aquatics, Barton, Cambridge

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The trend continued in the early 1970s

January 1972
B&B Reptile Supplies

February 72
Robert Baltrock at Saffron Walden

March 1972
Southern Zoological Centre, Ilfracombe

November 1972
Robert Baltrock at Herpetological Centre, Pontypool

January 1974
King Cobra Reptiles, Manchester

John Greatwood (JG Reptiles) at Streatham was operating from the early 1970s

June 1975
Derek G Porter Herpetologist West Derby Liverpool
Pet Farm, Attlebridge, Norwich

1976
Xenopus Ltd

Bio-Pet – Leeds and then Sunbury, Middx

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