England

England's lost theme parks

The Scenic Railway in 1951 Image copyright Dreamland-Margate
Image caption The Scenic Railway was built in 1920 and was a big crowd puller in the decades that followed

White-knuckle rides, rare animals and international stars have always drawn crowds to tourist attractions up and down the country, but as time has passed many have closed.

BBC News speaks to those who worked at and visited some of England's former crowd pullers in their golden age.

American Adventure Theme Park, Derbyshire: Closed 2007.

Image copyright Glen Fairweather
Image caption The theme park was opened in 1985 by boxer Henry Cooper

"The American Adventure was quite unique compared to the other UK theme parks, it always felt like a bit of America in the heart of England," said visitor Matthew Wells.

The adrenaline junkie tourist attraction boasted a number of white-knuckle rides including the Runaway Train, Skycoaster and the park's signature rollercoaster, The Missile, he said.

It was opened as Britannia Park in June 1985 by boxer Henry Cooper, but was renamed The American Adventure in June 1987.

Mr Wells said one of the most memorable rides was the Nightmare Niagara log flume which was renovated in the early 1990s to include a third drop which claimed to be "the world's largest triple drop log flume".

Image copyright Matthew Wells
Image caption The American Adventure featured many themed performances including the Wild West Show

"As a child it seemed huge. It was the steepness of the drop and the height which meant it was always daunting when approaching the final bend.

"I always loved it even if I was soaked afterwards."

Mr Wells said he remembers the Sooty Show which featured presenter Matthew Corbett on a television screen with Sooty on the stage.

"Several jokes were made that Sooty could do whatever he wanted because Matthew was behind the screen. Then all of a sudden, a hand appeared from beside the TV proving Matthew was really there.

Image copyright Matthew Wells
Image caption Matthew Wells, who visited the park regularly, stands at the former park entrance

"At the time and the age I was, it really felt like I was a part of the show."

It closed in 2007, after financial problems and falling attendance.

All the equipment has since been removed but the lake remains, surrounded by grassland.

Cornwall Coliseum: Closed early 2000s.

Image copyright John Neave
Image caption The Cornwall Coliseum attracted big stars such as Sir Cliff Richard, Tina Turner and Sir Paul McCartney

"There was no venue like it," said Richard Godfrey, 44, who worked at the Cornwall Coliseum between 1987 and 1993.

"What everybody loved about it, was there was something for everybody, from the pool, kids' play area, you could take part in water sports, enjoy the beach, eat and drink and during the evenings there were concerts and a nightclub."

The Cornwall Coliseum hosted acts like Sir Cliff Richard, Status Quo and The Who, and Mr Godfrey, who still lives nearby in St Austell, said he can remember bumping into celebrities trying to find their way around.

"I got to see some big artists while I was working there, including T'Pau, Bryan Adams, Marillion and Sir Paul McCartney, who was probably the biggest artist the site had ever seen."

Image copyright Dave Tonkin
Image caption The amusement park closed in the early 2000s although there are plans for it to be developed

Barrie Honeyman worked in a number of roles including as stage and production manager from 1981 until it closed in the early 2000s.

"It was the best years of my life," he said. "It was hard work and you were there all the hours God made.

"One weekend my wife walked in with a roast dinner and said 'you work and live here so you can eat here' - we're still together."

Mr Honeyman, 71, who is originally from Bristol, said his fondest memory was when Tina Turner visited for the second time in the 1980s.

"She finished her encore and came over in her high heels to make her way down the rickety stairs when she tripped. I was at the bottom of the steps and I caught her. She didn't say thank you but I was just glad she was OK."

Image caption Barrie Honeyman said he caught Tina Turner when she tripped at the Cornwall Coliseum in the 1980s

There was a phased closure of the venue during the early 2000s, and in 2011 a firm was granted permission to redevelop Carlyon Bay and the site of the Cornwall Coliseum, although building work is yet to begin.

Returning to the site, Mr Honeyman said: "It makes me feel very sad as the best years of my life were spent working here."

Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester: Closed 1977.

Image copyright Manchester Archives
Image caption Belle Vue Zoological Gardens featured many fairground rides in the 1900s

The Zoological Gardens at Belle Vue was "definitely" Manchester's version of Disneyland, according to visitor Frank Rhodes.

He was born and grew up opposite the attraction which, in its heyday, attracted two million visitors a year and a record 180,000 on one bank holiday.

It all started in 1836 when local gardener John Jenison opened a small aviary and gardens on the site. The attraction grew to include a zoo, circus, funfair, boating lake, speedway, boxing, wrestling and beauty pageants.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The zoo featured many animals some visitors had not seen before such as bears, giraffes and elephants

"When I was about seven years old I can remember standing at the front to get the best view of the speedway," said Mr Rhodes.

"You only make that mistake once, as the pebbles fly up and hit your face."

The 65-year-old said he watched the elephants and wrestlers exercising in the park opposite Belle Vue.

Image copyright Frank Rhodes
Image caption Frank Rhodes next to the stone that commemorates where the park used to stand

Children would also often sneak into the park without paying.

"You could enter the pub, through the toilets and out the back door which would lead to Belle Vue."

Mr Rhodes said the zoo closed in 1977 but exhibitions continued for a few years after.

He passes the site, which is now housing, car showrooms and a cinema, several times a week. A stone has been placed there to commemorate the park.

Dreamland Theme Park, Kent: Closed 2003.

Image copyright Ian Mansfield
Image caption Dreamland in Margate was one of the country's oldest amusement parks

"The park was the heart of Margate. Everyone came and the park was always busy," said former employee and visitor John Cripps.

When he was 18, he worked in a bar in the park called The Galleon Tavern and he remembers it being "packed with holiday-makers, the atmosphere was just fantastic".

"Lots of people enjoyed the park, the screams from the scenic railway, the smell of doughnuts, candy floss, and burgers cooking all around, and kids and adults alike just soaking up a happy day."

Dreamland was one of the country's oldest amusement parks; at one time, the 16-acre site held a zoo, miniature railway, cinema, cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and a 2,000-capacity ballroom.

Mr Cripps, 58, said many of the rides "could be seen from miles away" such as the big wheel, which was once Europe's largest.

The park closed in 2003, but Thanet District Council and The Dreamland Trust plan to reopen the site as a heritage theme park.

Image copyright Ian Mansfield
Image caption The big wheel was once one of the largest in Europe
Image copyright courtesy of The Dreamland Trust
Image caption John Cripps worked and visited the theme park when it was open and is now involved in the redevelopment

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