A pair of ‘lovebirds’ exchanged a set of unique rings at their ZSL London Zoo wedding on Saturday 9 October; one-off bands, recycled out of the metal mesh that once covered the Zoo’s historic Snowdon Aviary.
ZSL’s designers forged two rings in the Zoo’s on-site workshop for long-time ZSL supporters Matt Robbins and Alison Russell’s special day, repurposing the 56-year-old aluminium - salvaged from the Grade II listed building before its restoration began earlier this year - to form the unusual bands for the wedding.
London’s zoo has been a firm fixture in the couple’s five-year relationship, being the location for countless dates over the years – giving the gesture special significance.
The animal-loving pair had originally planned to marry at the Zoo, surrounded by more than 20,000 animals, in October 2020, but pandemic restrictions meant the couple had to push the big day back a year.
In the meantime, this summer, more than 3800sqm of mesh was removed during stage one of the historic structure’s transformation into a new home for the Zoo’s troop of Eastern black and white colobus monkeys - prompting staff to make the unique gesture.
“When we heard that ZSL supporters Matt and Alison had rearranged their wedding date, we saved some of the mesh removed in July as part of the restoration to make these special rings for the couple,” said Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer at ZSL London Zoo.
“It seemed fitting for these two lovebirds, especially since the Aviary itself was a romantic gesture from its very inception: legend has it that Lord Snowdon, when designing the Aviary in the 1960s, placed a secret tribute to his wife, Princess Margaret, into the design - when viewed from above, the walkway formed the shape of an ‘M’ for ‘Margaret’.
“It's been a romantic spot for generations of couples ever since,” added Kathryn.
The rings also had the seal of approval from ring-tailed lemur Spike, Bactrian camels Noemie and Genghis and Ande the llama, who the couple visited during their special day.
Newlywed Matt Robbins said: “Whenever we visited London Zoo we’d see the Aviary rising high above the treeline as we approached the entrance – it always felt like it marked our arrival to what is such a special place for us.
“As animal lovers, we’ve always been supporters of the incredible wildlife conservation taking place at the Zoo and we couldn’t think of anywhere more fitting to celebrate our marriage.”
Conceived by Lord Snowdon and realised by architect Cedric Price with structural engineer Frank Newby, the Snowdon Aviary was pioneering in its use of aluminium and tension for support and was Britain’s first walk-through aviary when the exhibit opened in 1965.
One of the Zoo’s most recognisable buildings, the Aviary celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, after far surpassing its intended 30-year lifespan.
The iconic structure will reopen as Monkey Valley in summer 2022, when its famous peaked silhouette will be fully restored to the London skyline, taking the same size and form as the original.
Alison Russell added: “We can’t wait to visit the new Monkey Valley when it opens, especially knowing that we’re carrying a part of its history with us.”
Thanks to a grant of over £4million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund - alongside assistance from other dedicated ZSL supporters - the newly developed Monkey Valley will allow generations of future visitors and schoolchildren to get even closer to the amazing animals at ZSL London Zoo.
Find out more about Monkey Valley