Chessington World Of Adventures
Location: Chessington, UK
Chessington Lodge is a country mansion with considerable history. Originally built in 1348, the mansion became a Cavalier stronghold during the English Civil War (1642-1660) and was burned to the ground by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentary forces. It was later rebuilt and named Burnt Stub Mansion.
The Burt Stub site was to be used as an inn for several more decades before the farmstead was rebuilt on a larger scale and the estate became owned by the Vere Barker family. Early in the 20th Century, the site was once again severely damaged by fire. It was reconditioned and sold by then owner Sir Francis Barker, who put the estate on the market.
Reginald Goddard, a successful entrepreneur, and a previous flight lieutenant in the Great War, happened to be driving past the house and saw this as the perfect location to house and showcase his collection of exotic animals. Goddard immediately put an offer in, and Chessington Zoo was born. Goddard didn't stop there. With his eye for business, the zoo soon became famous for different types of entertainment. These included a circus, funfair, and a miniature railway. The site received over 200,000 visitors during its' first season alone.
With Britain entering World War Two, the Government imposed restrictions preventing large crowds forming at entertainment venues during wartime. As a result, the zoo was temporary closed. After the war, Chessington Zoo finally became a registered company, but sadly, shortly afterwards, Goddard died in 1946.
After Goddard's death in 1946, Chessington remained a popular attraction for many decades, but like many tourist attractions, investment was in great need. The attraction was then purchased in 1978 by the Pearson Publishing Group, whom later went on to purchase Madamme Tussauds. Thus "The Tussauds Group" was formed.
With special effects expert and "imagineer" John Wardly now working with Tussauds, a plan was formed into transforming the declining zoo into Britain's first theme park to compliment the zoo. Roller coasters and amusement parks were already developing across the country, but nobody had yet brought the magic of being in another world, as Disney had already created in the United States.
A selection of heavily themed rides were drawn up and by 1987. A Runaway Mine Train, Dragon River log flume, Safari Skyway monorail, Fifth Element dark ride and Chessington Railroad, all manufacturered in Germany by Heinrich Mack GmbH, were ready. The new rides replaced the existing fairground and a pay-per-entry system was put in place. Chessington was no longer just a zoo, this was "Chessington World of Adventures."
With the new attractions opening at the same time as the M25 motorway located close to the park, the results were a huge success. Further major investment was plunged into the park to the tune of £10million. A new area of the park was developed in time for the 1990 season, Transyvania,. This area was for a signature ride, a roller coaster. With John Wardley's imagination and Arrow Dynamics' engineering, A suspended Swinging Coaster, Vampire was created, supported by the indoor water ride of Professor Burp's Bubbleworks
Investment continued throughout the 1990's, adding several more heavily themed attractions, including Ramesis Revenge, A Huss Top-Spin, and Samurai, Mondial Top-Scan.
In the early 2000's, with Tussauds now also owning the nearby Thorpe Park, a slow transition was made. Chessington became focused on families and less intense attractions, while Thorpe focused on the thrill-seekers. As a result, Samurai was moved down the road and Thorpe's Ferris Wheel was installed in its place. The only remaining attractions with taller height restrictions are Ramesis Revenge and Rattlesnake,, A Maurer Söhne steel Wild-Mouse coaster.
The mid-00's period was fairly quiet for investment with Thorpe Park rapidly expanding. In 2007, The Tussaud's Group was taken over by Merlin Entertainments Ltd with the intent on turning Chessington World of Adventures into a family resort. Investment started to increase again within both the zoo and theme park, and recentl,y a safari-themed hotel with 150 rooms stands proudly next to the park's entrance.
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