by Phil Gould
: Added June 2011
Nickelodeon Land has just opened its gates to welcome the next generation of thrill seekers to Pleasure Beach Blackpool. The £10 million development is a mixture of adult and children’s attractions featuring new and re-themed rides. Here Phil Gould takes a look back at its forerunners and an area of the Pleasure Beach that is often overlooked by historians - the children’s amusement park.
In the early years of the 20th century you would have struggled to find much to amuse children at Blackpool’s newly created Pleasure Beach. At that time the focus was solely on encouraging adults to spend their time, and money, at the developing attraction. But that all started to change in the 1920s. If you look at photos from that period you might still struggle to spot children among the adult crowds. This was because the park sought to provide separate areas of amusement for babies and youngsters away from the large attractions on the main park.

In 1924 a children’s playground opened on the old site of the Canadian Toboggan Slide. There were swings, slides, a see saw and a paddling pool. All under the watchful supervision of park employed nannies. This meant that mum and dad could go off to enjoy the Noah’s Ark, Scenic Railway and Flying Machine, knowing that their youngsters were in safe hands.         

Three years later saw the creation of a specific children’s amusement park at the Pleasure Beach when the curiously named Bingle and Bob opened up for business next to the Park’s Jack and Jill Slide (on land currently occupied by Valhalla). The idea was to provide scaled down versions of rides that adults already enjoyed. Attractions consisted of miniature Ferris Wheel, Brownie Coaster and merry- go-round. The Fairy Whip also made its debut and was designed, like its big brother in the main park, by W F Mangels.

Bingle and Bob was restricted in size because of existing adult attractions. So in the following decade Joseph Emberton was asked to design a larger children’s amusement park on the south side of the park as part of Leonard Thompson’s plan to turn the whole of the Pleasure Beach into a Modernist streamlined amusement park.

But before we look at that development there is another attraction on the main Pleasure Beach that was to became a stalwart of the Children’s Amusement Park in later decades. The Grotto opened on the site of the current Alice in Wonderland ride  in 1932. This dark ride was rebuilt in the Children’s Amusement Park in the shadow of the Rollercoaster, when the Disney themed dark ride arrived in 1961. Over the years it has operated under a number of names including Grotto La Paz, The Fairy Grotto and, finally, Magic Mountain.

The indoor train ride travelled past a number of tableaux, which changed over the years. But in their time riders have been able to marvel at the delights of The Wizard's Kitchen, The Penguin's Playground, The Bottom of the Sea and The Depths of Equatorial Africa. Along with a Sleeping Beauty tableau and smiling animals playing musical instruments and dancing.

This ride remained open until last year. I understand that the train was sold to Pleasureland in Southport.

Crowds at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the early 20th Century - but how many children can you see? Picture: From the book Riding on Rainbows.

Crowds (of adults) queuing for the Jack and Jill Slide, adjacent to which was the park's first children's amusement park. Picture: From the book Riding on Rainbows.


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