During the 80s, it had become clear that John Broome was on to a winner with his idea of bringing a modern-style amusement park to Alton Towers. Year after year the park expanded, but it was clear there was a constant demand for new coasters to support the ever-popular Corkscrew and Black Hole.
In 1981, to support park expansion, a large area of woodland behind Talbot Street had been cleared to make way for a pair of extra coach parks, but as the years passed the park realised this area might be better used for further attraction space.
The first sign of this expansion came with the installation of the 4 Man Bob, which was built over one corner of Coach Park No. 2 for the 1985 season. The compact coaster was installed on a plot directly behind the Talbot Theatre, which housed the Fantastic Fountains, but much bigger things were to come.
In 1988, Coach Park No. 3, which was located in between Adventure Land 4-11 and the Flag Tower, became home to first the Alton Beast and, around a month later, the Alton Mouse. And so the legend of Coaster Corner was born, with the area now home to three coasters, not to mention the nearby Mini Apple. Over the summer of 1988, the two coasters were opened by Eddie the Eagle and Kylie Minogue respectively.
But all was not well in this newly formed corner of the park. Whilst the park had received temporary planning permission for the Alton Beast, when similar permission was sought for the Alton Mouse a few months later, this was refused. It is not known the exact reason for the refusal, but the noise generated from the area and the close proximity to Alton Village is often sited as a cause of friction between the park and the local community. It is certainly likely that the new coasters could be both seen and heard from parts of the village, especially the bright orange track of the mouse.
Either way, the following year permission was sought again for both coasters and this time it was refused on both counts and resulted in an enforcement notice against the park, signalling that Coaster Corner would be a short-lived venture.
The area limped on until Tussauds took over the park, but the end was already in sight for Coaster Corner. First to go was the 4 Man Bob, which departed the park in 1990, one of the first rides removed by the new management. At this time the coaster still had a manual braking system, which simply did not fit with the new direction for the park.
The Bob was briefly replaced by the Tri-Star in 1991, but at the end of that season all the remaining rides were cleared from the area. The Beast found a new home in Thunder Valley, whilst the Tri-Star moved next door to Festival park for a single season before departing the park. The Alton Mouse was also removed from the park altogether, making its way to the USA at the end of 1991.
And so after a brief few years of activity, Coaster Corner was no more and the area disappeared behind the scenes. The site of the 4 Man Bob was later incorporated into the Tussauds Studio North complex, whilst the rest of the area has had various uses over the intervening years, but most notably has been used as the park's boneyard, where old rides have been sent to await sale or scrapping. Notable recent residents have included Submission and the Twirling Toadstool.
The Future of Coaster Corner
Coaster Corner has now been a backstage area of the park for over 30 years, but we got the first inkling that Merlin were interested in bringing it back into public usage in the last Long Term Development plan, which was published in 2012. In this document the park identified an opportunity to build one of their next major rides to the west of what was then Cloud Cuckoo Land, by relocating the existing servicing areas as well as the waste and recycling centre, which are now located here.
It was not until 2022 that Merlin acted on this intention. Local residents have now been invited to a consultation about the emerging proposals for a new indoor ride, which the park are proposing building on the former site of the Alton Mouse. Whilst the Mouse is mentioned by name, it is widely expected that the site in question will include a wider part of Coaster Corner, including the former site of the Alton Beast, which covers a much larger area.
We will soon get the first glimpse at what the park have planned for this area, be that an indoor coaster, an immersive dark ride or some other type of indoor attraction. Whatever they are planning, however, they will have carefully considered what they are able to do on the site to avoid the issues faced by Coaster Corner back in the 1980s.
The most notable considerations they will need to take into account is the height of any building and the amount of noise generated by the attraction. The site is surprisingly close to Alton Village, located at the top of a wooded slope on Farley Lane, opposite the old Alton Station. It is also much closer to the edge of the woodland than the nearby Dark Forest, with little in the way of tree coverage between it and the village.
Coaster Corner is also located in the most historic area of the park. It's not only a stone's throw from the listed Flag Tower, but also surrounded on two sides by the scheduled monument that contains the remains of Bunbury Hillfort. Any construction on the site will therefore need to take into account these historic remains, and the local planning authority will no doubt be keen that no development overtly disturbs these historic sites.
Whatever plans Merlin Magic Making have for the site, it is not long before the public get the opportunity to discover what might be in store for this corner of the park and the surrounding expansion pad, which would mark the first completely new land to be added to Alton Towers in 30 years.