Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Towers at Alton - and a question!

These days, Alton Towers is primarily about big rides, but it hasn't always been that way. Once the Park was a family estate belonging to the Earls of Shrewsbury, the first of whom fought alongside Henry V in the 15th Century.

In the early days, the house was called Alton Lodge and was mainly a summer residence, but when Charles became 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, he decided to extend both house and grounds. Work began in 1800 and continued until 1852. It was during this time that the gorge was developed into a wonderful stately home garden, with hand dug lakes and pools, sourced by water diverted in from a spring two miles away. Alongside this went the planting of trees, with 5,000 conifers, and 8,000 deciduous trees being planted around the estate.

The major work on the house began in 1811, comissioned by Charles, but continued after his death by his nephew John. Unfortunately, when John died in 1852, family members began to battle over the right of ownership of the estate and the costs incurred were to prove near fatal, with the eventual winner having to sell off much of the contents of the Towers and then open the grounds to the public in order to pay the bills. incurred

Eventually, in 1924, the Towers were sold to a group of local businessmen. The estate continued to be open to the public and attracted many visitors, but between 1941 and 51, it was requisitioned by the army as a cadet training centre, during which time the house continued to fall into disrepair. When it was eventually returned to its owners, the house was gutted, leaving only the shell.

It was from this foundation that John Broome built the beginnings of the leisure park. Conceived in 1980, developed in stages, and changing hands more than once over the following 30 years, it eventually became the popular theme park it is today.

So, here's my question. Is Alton Towers a wonderful success as a popular theme park, or is it a tragic example of history lost?


  1. I'll be interested to hear what people have to say about this. We don't have anything with near the history over here.

  2. What a beautiful castle, a lovely treasure to be sure, yet a testimony to greed. Sad that family will do that to one another. I would look at it as a wonderful tribute to times past and a warning that material things really don't bring contentment. Nice details in your story.

  3. I am not really into theme parks, but this post has been a revelation as it is a place I have avoided. What I would like to say is that this is a fascinating blog I have discovered thanks to your comment on Jenny's page. Interesting Peak, Lakes and photography posts... right up my street, well you know I mean.

  4. That's a good question. I'm about history first and then fun, so I'd say that if it were a historic site rather than a theme park I would have gone sooner.

  5. Now this is a post that I can really sink my teeth into! I love reading about historic places, but a theme park?? How gauche! Hahaha! I don't know what some people are thinking sometimes!!

  6. I'd say it is a bit of both. As a theme park it is certainly a great success and perhaps the whole place may have disappeared without its financial help. I think local hotels & B&Bs would miss having it there so it helps the local economy too. Having said that and on a personal level I find the history of the house, estate and family far more interesting than the theme park which seems ephemeral in the scheme of things. Well, that made me think hard on a Monday morning! A very interesting post:)