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The 'Other' Side To The Alton Towers Theme Park

When we visited Alton Towers last week, I wanted to take the time to explore the 'other' side of the towers. Obviously, we all know the adrenaline pumping, thrill seeking side - but as anyone who visits knows, Alton Towers has a true 'jewel' you can't miss as you enter the park - the Towers themselves.
 
Work began on the Towers as we now know them, in 1800 - originally known as Alton Lodge, it was a summer residence for the Earl of Shrewsbury's family. The 15th Earl, took more of a vested interest in the Alton property and began major renovations and expansions which took place until the year of 1852. One of his crowning achievements was the formal gardens - the area was a dry valley before he worked his magic, hand digging lakes and pools and diverting water from a spring over two miles away to achieve the gardens you now see today. Between 1806 and 1807, over 5000 conifers and 8000 different trees were planted in the grounds, many are still standing tall today.


More major work began on the home in 1806 and it was christened Alton Abbey (although it has no formal claim to actually being an abbey) and a monument commerating the life of the 15th Earl was erected in the gardens in 1827. The inscription reads "He Made The Desert Smile" which is incredibly fitting, considering the paradise he had created in the once dry valley to the east.
 
In the early 1980's, the Alton Towers we know today began to take shape - the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury who was Charles Henry Talbot, began developing the estate as a tourist attraction (but not quite as we know it today). Firework displays, fetes, local gatherings and exhibitions were held on the grounds, and while he wasn't working on developing the estates fun-filled reputation he was also working on creating the first motor car to travel 100 miles per hour.
 

The Towers began to fall into disrepair due to the divorce of the Earl and his wife, and in 1924 they were sold to a group of locals who converted some of the space into cafes, restrooms and other recreational spaces for the thousands who still visited the grounds as a tourist attraction in those times. During World War II, the home was used as a training base for cadets, but they continued in their state of neglect well after the war, after having the interiors were removed to be sold. Now, the whole home was abandoned save for the chapel.


In 1980, the park was well on its path to become the theme park we know and love today as it was developed into much more of a leisure park for the family. The Corkscrew Rollercoaster was constructed, and it took its first steps into fulfilling the dreams of adrenaline junkies up and down the country - The Corkscrew Rollercoaster is now the centrepiece at the entrance to the park.

In March 2007, it was bought by Merlin Entertainments, and Alton Towers was firmly cemented as a fun-filled family destination.


These days, you can explore the same areas I did to take these photographs outside the HEX attraction. Being pregnant, I was waiting for Mike and my Mother in law to finish their ride - but I was anything but bored. The small gardens enclosed in the remnants of the Towers themselves are well tended, and you can find some true treasures if you explore some of the conveniently open doors. I slipped into one, and found the chapel - it took my breath away as I had no idea it was less than 100 meters from an attraction. I urge you to have a wander if you ever get the chance, and put some thought into the history behind the centrepiece of the park.. The one constructed of stone, not steel. Thank you to the Alton Towers Almanac who have a very in-depth explanation of the history behind The Towers, available to read here.

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