Location: Birmingham, England, UK
Drayton Manor Family Theme Park is one of the oldest theme parks still open in the UK. Although the parks history only stretches back to around 50 years ago, the manor itself has quite an interesting tale. The magnificent house was built around 1790, by the first Robert Peel. His son was later the Prime minister of England and hosted many visits from the royal family - Including visits from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The second Robert Peel took charge of his father’s house and improved the estate by adding large gardens and breeding many animals. The Manor became an impressive site and was one of the greatest homes in the UK. But its luck changed soon after. Over the next few centuries, the manor fell into great despair and most of the house was demolished. But even to this day the clock tower still remains on its original site.
It wasn’t until 1949 when the estate was bought off of the Peel family by George Bryan and his family. He and his wife Vera began the long task of bringing their dream to life of turning their estate into a Family Theme Park. On 16th October 1949, their dream became reality. The park was opened to the public as an inland pleasure resort. At the time it consisted of 1 restaurant, 1 tea room, 3 hand operated rides, 6 rowing boats and some pedal cars. Drayton manor attracted many visitors in the first few years but needed something new. So in 1957, they opened ‘Pets Corner’. This was later expanded into a zoo in the early 1960s and proved a big hit.
But Drayton Manor still had many unsolved problems and faced a long road ahead. Competition was difficult. With neighbouring parks like Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, they needed to build something new. Something big that was a one of a kind. Alton Towers and Drayton Manor were very alike. Both slowly turning themselves into known theme parks by adding more and more fairground rides. But in 1980, Drayton Manor's luck once again turned against them. It was when Alton Towers added their two inversion coaster, Corkscrew. Drayton Manor continued to install quality rides but it wasn’t until the 1990s that Drayton Manor took an unexpected turn.
The early 90s saw the introduction of Drayton Manors comeback. With the new cars on the dodgems and the installation of Pirate Adventure, the park proved it had not sank. Pirate Adventure forced the birth of a new themed area and now houses many other Pirate themed rides and restaurants. These upgrades did all good for the park so they continued to bring up new rides. In 1993, Splash Canyon, an Intamin rapids ride was installed. But even with this, visitors didn’t see what was to come next.
In 1994, the two ride deal with Intamin allowed a new coaster to be installed for only £4 million. This coaster was Shockwave - Europe’s first and only stand-up roller coaster. The four-inversion ride was a huge success and still after 10 years after opening, it is still one of the best rides in the UK. The following year, Drayton Manors attendance saw an increase of 30% but the park still wanted more.
In 1999, Drayton Manor caught Alton Towers off guard with Storm Force 10 – The UK’s first backwards drop log flume which is also very heavily themed around a storm as you ride in a mock lifeboat. This bought light to the lakeside area, which became fisherman’s wharf - Drayton Manors newest themed area. Then again in 2000, they caught Alton Towers out with Apocalypse. This was the worlds first stand up tower drop and proved to be much better than Alton Towers’ Hex.
Drayton Manor continues to install high quality rides to the day and lets hope it doesn’t stop here. The past few years have seen many new, thrill packed flat rides including Maelstrom, a pendulum based ride, and Cyclone, an enterprise. So who knows what is install for us next?
So if you put the fame, money, land, rides and perfect setting together, what do you get? The UK’s best non-Tussauds theme park – Drayton Manor Park.
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