Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach
|Location||Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England|
|Owner||Pleasure & Leisure Corporation PLC|
|Operating season||For the 2013 season: weekends from 23 March|
|Total||27 major rides|
|Roller coasters||Roller Coaster, Big Apple Coaster, Family Star|
|Water rides||Log Flume|
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach is a historic free entry pleasure park located in the seaside resort town of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on the English east coast. The park first opened in 1909 and has been operating ever since.
The largest and most popular ride at the park is the Roller Coaster which was built there in 1932. There are also around thirty other large rides at the park, as well as children's entertainment, amusement arcades, catering facilities, sweet shops and ice cream parlours.
The Pleasure Beach maintains its position in the UK's top ten free entry amusement parks by regularly adding new attractions and rides.
The first amusement ride to be built in Great Yarmouth arrived in 1887. It was a classic American LaMarcus Thompson Switchback Railway and was erected on the sands adjacent to Euston Road. The ride was so successful that the operators received the entire annual ground rent on the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1887. This ride was dismantled toward the end of the nineteenth century and relocated to Honley Pleasure Beach in Huddersfield.
In 1909 Charles B. Cochran persuaded the local council to lease him an area of sand dunes so that he could develop an amusement site. The council agreed to this, and leased him an area of sand dunes on the south denes beach of just 600 feet long and 120 feet wide. The entire rent for the year was £650.
The first ride constructed there was a scenic railway designed by William Napier. This ride was typical of scenic railways in that it was largely clad in plaster styled as mountainous terrain. The ride featured two lift hill sections. The only other ride constructed at the site was a haunted attraction called the Katzen Jammer Castle. The River Caves were added the following year. And in 1911, the Katzen Jammer Castle was replaced by the Joy Wheel. The park kept operating at this modest level until the outbreak of World War I.
When the park opened again in April 1919, a fire destroyed the scenic railway; leaving the park without a major attraction. The scenic was quickly rebuilt though by its operators and the ride was re-opened in August of the same year. During the 20s the park was steadily expanded and in 1925 a huge water-chute by Messrs. Morgan & Company was erected at the site. This water-chute was at the park until 1928 when it was dismantled. Also in 1928, the scenic railway came to the end of its lease and was removed. It was purchased by Aberdeen Beach Amusement Park and re-sited there in 1929. Other rides of the 20s included a Creasta Run (a slide ride), Jack and Jill (a toboggan-style slide ride) and Noah's Ark.
In 1928 the famous Pat Collins, of the historic British fairground family, took control of the park after his offer to the local council of £3,500 per-year for the site was accepted. He and son John Collins' first acquisition for the park was a replacement for the Napier Scenic Railway. This took the form of a Figure 8 roller coaster which was present at the Pleasure Beach from 1929 to 1931.
The Scenic Railway
In 1929 Pat Collins attended the Paris Colonial Exposition, where the largest attraction was the Scenic Railway. It had been designed by German Herr Erich Heidrich of Hamburg especially for the Exposition, and was operated by showman Hugo Hans. At the close of the Exposition, Pat Collins bought the ride and had the components shipped to England. They arrived in February 1932 and a team of German workmen began constructing the ride on the sands of the Pleasure Beach site. The ride opened to visitors in April 1932.
Like other scenic railways of the time, the Scenic was clad in mountainous-styled plaster which hung from the sides of the wooden structure. Other scenic features like castles were constructed around parts of the ride. The ride came with five trains. Each of which had three cars with five bench seats per car. These cars were made entirely of wood, and each train had a 'brakeman' riding aboard to control the speed of the train. New trains were built in the early 1960s and these are still in operation today. A brakeman still rides the train as there are no brakes on the track.
The ride was completely re-clad in the late 1960s with steel sheet replacing the old plaster. The ride was painted in a mountainous landscape with rolling hills and valleys.
The ride continues to be the most popular attraction at the Pleasure Beach, with its popularity largely due to its uniqueness. It is the only operational scenic railway roller coaster in the UK, and one of only less than ten roller coasters in the world to feature a brakeman travelling on the train. The continued dedicated maintenance work by the Pleasure Beach has ensured that the ride remains in good condition, with work carried out every winter to renew timber. Re-cladding has taken place again since 2002, and the ride celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.
The Botton Brothers Era
Pat Collins' lease of the site ran out in 1952 and was renewed by his son John Collins. However due to John Collins' commitments to Battersea Fun Fair the operation of the park was taken over by the Botton Brothers in 1954.
Brothers Albert and Jim Botton had had an amusement park upbringing thanks to their father's company J. Botton & Sons. They had operated travelling fairs and static rides around the south-east of England since 1923. The Botton Bros started to improve the Pleasure Beach immediately and new rides and attractions were added annually.
Some of the rides that were at the Pleasure Beach during this time included Dodgems, Go-Kart Track, SDC Showboat, Cakewalk, Skywheel, Lakin Swirl, Superloop, Rock-O-Plane and the massive Water Chute. Also, in 1982 the structure that now sits inside the Roller Coaster was built as a walk-through attraction.
Albert Botton died in 1975 and the park was passed on to Jimmy Jones who had married Albert and Lottie's daughter Jane Botton. Jimmy Jones was Managing Director throughout the rest of the 1970s and 1980s.
Current operation and future
In 1992 the Botton Brothers' companies were amalgamated into one company called Pleasure & Leisure Corporation PLC and the lease of the Pleasure Beach site was purchased at the end of 1993. At this time, Jimmy Jones ceded the role of Managing Director of the site to his son Albert Jones.
The Pleasure Beach has continued to expand, adding the Pleasure Beach Gardens in 1996. The Gardens are advertised as a place to relax away from the noise and excitement of the main park. The Gardens include Sara's Tearooms, a themed miniature golf course, Refreshment Kiosk and the world's first Segway Race Track.
The Pleasure Beach now has around thirty large rides with newer ones coming to the park every other year or so. The selection is varied; from children's rides and attractions to teenage and adult thrill rides. Some of these have been at the park for decades and form part of its heritage, the most obvious being the Scenic Railway, but also the Carousel (1954), and the Snails & Fairytails (1966). These are complemented by thrill rides like Evolution and Sky Drop. In 2008 the Pleasure Beach became one of only a handful of parks in the UK to have a large ferris wheel, called The Yarmouth Wheel. This was a semi-permanent ride, first erected in April 2008 for that season and again in April 2009 for that season.
Pleasure & Leisure Corporation PLC, trading as Pleasure & Leisure Property Corporation PLC were one of two applicants to reach the final stage in bidding for the large casino licence which was granted to Great Yarmouth Borough Council in 2007. Pleasure & Leisure Corporation's proposal bid of a complex called 'The Edge', which will comprise a cinema, bowling alley and hotel as well as the casino itself, was accepted Great Yarmouth Borough Council on 27 April 2012. They plan to build an entertainment complex on land already owned by PLPC directly adjacent to the south of the current Pleasure Beach site
Current large rides and attractions
For the 2013 season, the main rides and attractions at the Pleasure Beach are:
|Segway Grand Prix||2008||Billed as the world's first Segway Racetrack; riders take control of their own Segway on a small custom built course and race against each other.|
|Log Flume||1989||A large water ride in which riders travel around a water course in 'logs'; climbing up drops and then splashing back down into the course, soaking the riders. The largest drop is 11 metres in height.|
|4-D Cinema||2010||An enclosed attraction for 18 people which shows a 3-D film and combines it with physical effects to generate a sense of presence.|
|Disk'O||2004||A Zamperla Disk'O where 24 riders sit facing outwards on a large disk which then rotates and moves along a curved track.|
|YoYo||2000||A small children's swing ride with seats suspended from arms which rotate around a central point.|
|Gallopers||1954||Manufactured by Savages of King's Lynn in 1901, this carousel has 30 horses and 2 chariots.|
|Mulan (Caterpillar)||1991||A Mack Raupenbahn with 20 cars capable of carrying 40 riders around the undulating track as the cover comes over.|
|Pirate Ship||2001||A Zamperla Pirate Ship.|
|Dodgems||1972||A 30 car dodgem track with modern cars.|
|Fun House||c1980||An enclosed dark walk-through show with moving floors.|
|Haunted Hotel||c1990||An enclosed dark ride with 2-person cars travelling through a themed haunted hotel.|
|Twister||1999||A classical twister ride, seating 2 per car in the 16 cars.|
|Family Star||2013||A Fabbri spinning roller coaster ride.|
|Formula 1||1991||A small children's ride in which a train of different vehicles moves around a small circuit with a hump-back bridge.|
|Big Apple Coaster||1998||A small steel coaster with caterpillar shaped train which seats 24 riders.|
|Evolution||2006||A Fabbri Evolution ride.|
|Sky Drop||2004||A Zamperla 22 metre high drop tower ride in which riders in the 16 seat gondola ascend and rapidly descend the tower.|
|Bonanza||1989||A small children's ride in which riders sit on horse shaped cars which move along a track whilst nodding up and down.|
|Monorail||1987||The Monorail has 8 cars which seat 4 persons each and covers most of the southern end of the park.|
|Snails||1966||A fantasy themed, partially enclosed ride where riders sit in 'Snails' which move along a track through a variety of scenes.|
|Scenic Railway||1932||The largest ride at the park is this wooden scenic railway built in 1928 and relocated to the park in 1932.|
|Drag Cars||1992||Small children's ride in which up to 2 persons sit in a small motorized car which travels around a circuit.|
|Raft Ride||2008||This ride has 10 2-person seats which rotate and move up and down independently when a small button is pressed by the rider.|
|Go Karts||2001||There are 5 electric karts which are driven around the oval track. This ride is not covered by the wristband offer.|
|Snake Tube Slides||1990||Three fully enclosed slides of different drop designs.|
|Safari Train||1995||A small animal-themed train that can carry 14 children passengers and travels around a small oval track.|
|Cups & Saucers||1993||A small classic cups & saucers ride for children.|
There are also On-Ride photo kiosks for the Scenic Railway, Log Flume and Snails rides.