Alton Towers has long been an interesting subject for aerial photographers. Let’s take to the skies and to the past to look at some of the best examples over the years.
We’re all used to seeing aerial photos of the modern theme park, but over at Britain from Above they have shared some amazing aerial pictures from Historic England, taking a look at the park from above throughout the early 20th Century, long before the modern amusement park existed.
This extremely rare image from 1921 was taken when the estate was still in the hands of the Earls of Shrewsbury. At this time the formal kitchen gardens were laid out in the area that today houses The World of David Walliams and The Alton Towers Dungeon, though at this time only a small section of the Garden is still in use as the house was already largely deserted.
On the back of the mansion you can see some of the remaining greenhouses, although one of these had already been removed at this time.
In the distance beyond the lakes, the stable building (today the Mutiny Bay Courtyard) is overgrown with vines. Behind the stables is a paddock located where Magic HQ stands today.
By 1927 the estate had switched ownership to the private company that opened the original leisure park.
The kitchen gardens have now been cleared and the remaining greenhouses demolished.
Other prominent features include the meadow towards the bottom of the images, where X-Sector has now been built as well as the dense woodland in the top right corner, some of which has since been cleared during the 70s to make way for the Corkscrew and surrounding area, now Dark Forest.
Source: Britain from Above
It is well known that, during the Second World War, Alton Towers was requisitioned by the Army as a Officer Training Camp. Only a small portion of the actual house was used by the army, who instead opted to build barracks on the lawns and over the former kitchen gardens.
The house was not handed back to its civilian owners until six years after the end of the War, and it is often quoted that the state the house had fallen into over those twelve years left little choice but to demolish the house interiors.
These damaged images give a tantalizing glimpse into the state of the park in 1949, four years after the army had finished using it. The barracks behind the towers by this time were already in a derelict state, no doubt as building materials were repurposed for the mammoth post-war rebuilding effort.
The Gardens, on the other hand, were in a fairly reasonable state, due to a skeleton crew of gardeners who were allowed to continue working over the war years. This meant the Gardens able to reopen to the public in 1952.
Towards the top of the image there also seems to be the remains of a parade ground at the foot of what would be Towers Street today.
1951 was the year when Alton Towers was handed back to its owners, so these images give us an insight into the park they received. The majority of the barracks have now been demolished leaving a level area that would eventually become home to the Funfair. It seems that one of the remaining war buildings was retained and became part of the park infrastructure.
In the first image you can see the original buildings in the woods, roughly where the Skyride station sits today. These are potentially old farm buildings which are often seen in the back of Victorian drawings of the Towers. After the war they may also have been the site of the Pavilion Tea Rooms.
The second image show a large circular structure in what is now X Sector. Incidentally, this site today corresponds very closely to the pit of Oblivion.
Source: Britain from Above