|The London Dungeon|
|Established||September 15, 1974|
|Location||Bankside, London SE1, England, United Kingdom|
|Public transit access||Waterloo tube station
London Waterloo station
Waterloo East station
The London Dungeon is a London tourist attraction which recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style aimed at younger audiences. It uses a mixture of live actors, special effects and rides.
Opening in 1974, it was initially designed as a museum of macabre history, but the Dungeon has evolved to become an actor-led, interactive experience. The Dungeon is operated by Merlin Entertainments. In 2013, the London Dungeon moved from its premises on Tooley Street to a new location near County Hall and the London Eye.
The London Dungeon features 18 shows, 20 actors and 3 rides. Visitors are taken on a journey through 1000 years of London’s history where they meet actors performing as some of London’s most infamous characters, including Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. The Dungeon’s shows are staged on theatrical sets with special effects. The show incorporates events such as the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot, and includes characters such as "The Torturer", "The Plague Doctor", and "The Judge". Guests are encouraged to participate in the shows. The experience also includes a "drop ride to doom", a free-fall ride staged as a public hanging.
The London Dungeon was founded in 1974 by Annabel Geddes. It was initially designed as a museum of macabre history depicting gory scenes. Early characters included Boudicca, Mary Tudor and Thomas Beckett and had scenes from the Norman Conquest. Over the years the Dungeon has changed into an actor-led, interactive experience with both humorous and light horror elements. London’s first ever indoor water ride was installed at the venue in 1997. Kunick Leisure Group owned The Dungeons company during the 1980s, before it was bought by Vardon in 1992. In 1999 Vardon became the Merlin Entertainments Group following a management buyout led by Nick Varney.
On 31 January 2013, the London Dungeon closed its doors after 39 years at Tooley Street, London Bridge. The attraction moved to London’s County Hall on the South Bank, next to the London Eye in March 2013.
The New London Dungeon has radically removed much of the gore, horror and shock for which the original Dungeon became famous. This is in order to focus more on the family market and capitalise further on its prime new location for attracting tourists.
Tooley Street tour
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2014)|
The original London Dungeon opened in 1975 as a gory horror museum that showcased historical events. The museum was a free flow attraction and featured models and animatronics to showcase its scenes. 1997 saw the arrival of "Judgment Day : Sentenced to Death" which saw visitors tried in a courtroom, where they would be sentenced to death for their crimes and some tended to death. They would then board boats and sail down the Thames, passing various scenes and exhibits. They would then pass through Traitors gate, where they would be raised via a vertical lift system to meet a firing squad, who would shoot at the boat before it plummeted backwards. This marked the audience interaction that the Dungeon's became renowned for and a change from horror museum to actor led interactive experience. Remnants of old exhibits would line the walkways and added to the atmosphere of the attraction as it evolved.
2000 saw the introduction of the "Great fire of London" segment that recreated burning streets of London in the 17th century and a spinning tunnel that led to the exit. The original Dungeon also featured a 'Blood and Guts cafè. Other exhibits also evolved to be much more audience interactive. These included the Torture chamber which changed from using model demonstrations to audience members with mock torture devices. "Bedlam" was placed between the Court and boat ride and simulated chaos in Bethlem hospital with dark walkways and strobe lights, with loud noise and actors roaming the passageway.
2003 saw the arrival of the "Great Plague" which showcased the plague epidemic of 1666 in London with the use of grand sets, plague ridden actors and gory models. 2004 saw changes made to the original boat ride, with the vertical lift being replaced with a traditional lift hill and the replacement of the firing squad with an executioner. "Traitor: Boat ride to hell" removed much of the original scenery and was a much darker experience, aiming to be scarier overall. The layout remained the same however.
The "Labyrinth of The Lost" was introduced in 2005, which acted as an Introductory segment to the Dungeon. The mirror maze was designed to disorientate guests and was set in the crypt of All Hallows' Church. 2006 saw the arrival of Sweeney Todd, which was one of the scariest introductions to the Dungeon's. The attraction used darkness and animatronic chairs with built in speakers and special effects to simulate a 'close shave' before the chairs were flung backwards. A similar show was incorporated in to the Blackpool Tower Dungeon with the Skipool Smugglers.
2007 saw a £1.5 million investment with the opening of 'Extremis : Drop ride to Doom' which recreated Newgate gallows. Guests were raised 20 ft to meet an animatronic Judge, Priest and Hangman before a free fall drop in total darkness. The ride received positive reviews, completing the ride experience and atmosphere. The ride replaced the Blood and Guts cafè. 2008 saw changes to the Jack the Ripper segment which was longer and considerably drawn out in comparison to the other Dungeon shows that had evolved around it. These included new gorier murder victims and an encounter in a recreation of the Ten Bells Pub. In 2009 came 'Surgery : Blood and Guts' which focused on gore and anatomy. "Bloody Mary : Killer Queen" opened in 2010. It replaced part of the original "Great Fire" segment and recreated a public burning of a "Heretic" who would be a randomly selected audience member. The heretic would then be set alight using simple but highly impressive visual effects before the room was plunged in to darkness and the 'heretic' would be replaced with a charred corpse. The digital advert used to advertise it was eventually banned (it showed a normal Mary turning into a zombie-like creature).
Vengeance 5D opened in 2011 and was the biggest investment in the Dungeon up to that point. The ride was the UK's first 5D ride and was set in 50 Berkley square, simulating a sèance with Florence Cooke, as well as further supernatural events. The ride received a substantial marketing campaign and received much media attention. However it received mixed reviews and generated considerable downtime. The ride was constructed in areas of the original Jack the Ripper section, which was drastically shortened. 2012 saw alterations to the queue line with the 'Rat Walk', which featured live rodents situated along the walkways.
The last Tooley street tour took place on 31 January 2013 and was as follows :- The Crypt The Labyrinth of the Lost The Great Plague The Great Fire of London Surgery : Blood and Guts The Torture Chamber The Courtroom Bedlam Traitor : Boat Ride to Hell Sweeney Todd Vengeance 5D Jack the Ripper Bloody Mary : Killer Queen Extremis : Drop Ride to Doom
Bloody Mary, Vengeance, The Great fire, Bedlam and The Crypt were not relocated to County Hall. County Hall features many of the original attractions from the Tooley street Dungeon, in new forms or with alterations. The original location remains and will be developed by Northern Rail. Many of the original scenes remained upon closure and props were auctioned off in a public car boot sale.
The London Dungeon is one of eight Dungeons throughout Europe. The Amsterdam Dungeon, Berlin Dungeon, The Blackpool Tower Dungeon, The Castle Dungeon at Warwick Castle, The Edinburgh Dungeon, Hamburg Dungeon, and the York Dungeon are also part of the Dungeons Group, owned by Merlin Entertainments.
The dungeon has been the subject of mixed reviews by visitors and travel writers. Rick Steves described it as "just a highly advertised, overpriced haunted house" and an "amateurish attraction". The "Rough Guide to Britain" describes it as best enjoyed by "young teenagers and the credulous".
The County Hall dungeon has been the subject of mixed reviews. Whilst many have complimented the set design, larger sets and acting, others have reacted negatively to the new versions of the Tooley Street rides, long queueing times and large group sizes, as well as the new location being unable to match the atmosphere of the original Dungeon. However reviews have overall been positive.
Use in popular culture
- Johnstone, Sarah; Masters, Tom (2004). London. Lonely Planet. p. 164. ISBN 1-74104-091-4.
- Steves, Rick; Openshaw, Gene (2008). Rick Steve's London 2009. Avalon Travel. p. 78. ISBN 1-59880-117-1.
- Andrews, Robert; Teller, Matthew (2004). The Rough Guide to Britain. Rough Guides. p. 134. ISBN 1-84353-301-4.