The Life & Times
In 1986, guests took their first steps down Towers Street, the park's new purpose built entrance. The street was filled with all the shops, food and amenities that guests could possibly want to start or end their day, but in one unassuming corner there was also a star in the making. One of the windows of Toyfair was home to a certain Henry the Hound Dog, an animatronic cowboy, who would perform for guests throughout the day.
From these humble beginnings, the park's mascot was born and by the following season, Henry had escaped from his glass box and could now be found roaming the park, alongside the long standing Cuddly Bear mascots. Taking inspiration from the Earls of Shrewbury's heraldic coat of arms, the new and improved Henry was now a Talbot Hound, a breed that is often used in decoration around the estate, such as in Hex. Indeed, as the walkabout version of Henry was developed as a unique character, his animatronic counterpart was eventually renamed Hank the Hound Dog to differentiate the two.
Throughout his years in the park Henry was prolific, starring in countless shows as well as appearing all around the park for meet and greets with guests. As you might expect of a park mascot, he also had a huge range of merchandise associated with him. Whether you were looking for a lunchbox, pencil case or jigsaw; or were wanting to cuddle him, wear him or dry yourself on him - there was some merch for you. Henry was also a literary star, appearing in at least three different series of books and comics.
Henry had a costume for any occasion and donned a multitude of custom made outfits during his time in the park, but his default 'uniform' for many years was a solitary yellow Alton Towers T-shirt. In 1993, however, Henry finally developed a sense of modesty and put some trousers on, rocking a set of red dungarees. But alas, Henry's newfound trousers could not save him from the chopping block, and at the end of 1993 he retired from the park.
No reason was ever officially given for Henry's departure, though it was certainly a last minute decision as the entertainment team had already prepped the hound for the 1994 season. His absence, however, allowed other characters to take centre stage; most notably Peter Rabbit, when he arrived at the park in 1994. The departure of Henry also allowed for the star of Baby Bear to rise, who became a prominent mascot in the launch of the park's first two hotels.
Friends & Family
Over the years various members of Henry's extended family also appeared, particularly during the park's parades, where his uncle, Captain Hawkins, would pilot the Armarda Pirates float, whilst Henry Jr. would lead on the Bandstand float. Most notably, Henry had a 'very close friend' called Henrietta, who was once the queen of the highwire in a travelling circus and met Henry when she escaped from her troop near Alton Towers.
As well as the Hound family, Henry had a host of other friends who appeared in the park over the years, including The Count and the Bugs, who would also often appear in Henry's comicbook adventures, as well as Bunbury the wizard, who arrived with The Land of Make Believe.
Henrietta departed from the park at the end of 1992, a year before Henry and the rest of his family in 1993. The rest of the mascots continued to appear in The Land Of Make Believe, though they were gradually retired over the course of the 1990s.
Kids who wanted to become friends with Henry were invited to join his Fun Club from 1987, which entitled members to free entry to the park. Upon joining, new members received a welcome gift and could also expect a card from Henry on their birthday. They also received regular copies of the Fun Club's magazine, The Wonderful Times, which was filled with news and features about the park, as well as regular comics, featuring Henry and his friends.
In later years the club was sponsored by Ki Ora, at which point it gained a float in the Grand Parade, featuring a giant Jack in the Box along with walkabout versions of the drink's crow mascots. Members also had the chance to win a spot on the Fun Club Float on days when they were visiting the park.
After Henry left the Towers in 1993 the Fun Club continued without a mascot until 1999, after which it was replaced by a Season Pass.
Shows and Parades
During his time at the park Henry was undoubtedly the star of the park's entertainment offerings and appeared in a multitude of shows in all the venues across the park.
Festival Park Dome
Henry's first foray onto the stage was at the park's live music venue in 1988. Starting with Henry's Celebration, for many years Henry Hound compered all the shows at the Festival Park Dome. He also proved to be surprisingly agile, taking part in some of the shows more energetic dance routines. His final show at the dome was Henry Hound's Super Sounds in 1992.
One of Henry's most prominent roles was starring in the park's parades. From 1988 with Henry's Birthday Parade, celebrating the park's 60th birthday, through to 1993's Grand Parade, each day a multitude of colourful floats and entertainers would make their way along a route around the boating lakes.
The parade was made up of between six and eight floats, most of which were based on attractions around the park. Over the years the floats would change to represent new attractions, though a few favourites appeared throughout the parade's run, including the Armarda Pirates float as well as Rapid Rider Henry, who was perpetually escaping from the jaws of a whale.
Henry's most hair-raising antics took place in the Big Top, where he donned his skates as part of the park's ice shows. In the winter of 1988, Henry took part in his first Ice Spectacular during the park's Christmas Festival. Each year thereafter, Henry and his friends would find themselves caught up in a festive story each winter.
It wasn't until 1992 when Henry got to skate during the main season, when Captain Henry's Gold debuted as arguably the most ambitious show the park produced on ice. During the show Henry not only got to pilot a galleon as it glided across the ice, but also dived to the bottom of the sea inside a hound-sized diving suit.
For many year's a starring role in the Talbot Theatre eluded Henry, while the Fantastic Fountains wowed guests during the 80s. However, in his final year, Henry finally got to tread the boards, when he took part in the park's new Magic Show in The Land of Make Believe in 1993.
Just when we thought we'd seen the last of Henry, everyone's favourite hound returned to the resort for a much welcome comeback in 2005. Whilst he may have been less prolific the second time round, he still found time to take a starring role in the new Towers Street Carnival, as well as meeting and greeting guests during both the main and winter seasons.
After just three years treading his old beat down on Towers Street, Henry was last seen in 2007. The management at the time were not big fans of the Hound and so the popular character was re-retired to allow the entertainment team to focus on the plethora of new offerings that came with Mutiny Bay in 2008.