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Abandoned: What happened to the UK's American Adventure theme park?

American Adventure

Do you remember the American Adventure theme park?

After a controversial legal battle, the Britannia Park theme park finally opened in 1985 on the site of a former opencast mine in Derbyshire. It shut within twelve weeks, and with no private sector rescuer stepping up Derbyshire County Council was forced to buy back the park for £2.5 million with the aid of a bank loan. It would eventually reopen two years later as the American Adventure, which aimed to transport guests to the American West.

The American Adventure boasted a variety of rides, as well as shows featuring cowboys and Native Americans. It became one of the most popular theme parks in the country, hosting attractions such as the towering Missile roller coaster.

The success didn't last. The park suffered a period of decline from the mid-1990s onwards, with visitor numbers dwindling. In 2005, most of the major rides were closed and replaced by kids' rides. At the end of the 2006 season, the owners gave up the ghost. In January 2007 it was announced that the American Adventure was closed for good.

Many of the park's rides were auctioned off, with the Missile reemerging as Wipeout at Pleasurewood Hills. The remainder of the park was abandoned and left to rot.

The American Adventure in 2009

The first group of beautiful images comes from Mark Tighe, and were taken in January 2009:

American Adventure Jan 2009 (1)

The Motion Master Theatre was still in place at this time:

American Adventure Jan 2009 (2)

American Adventure Jan 2009 (3)

American Adventure Jan 2009 (4)

Pier 49 also jutted out over the park's lake:

American Adventure Jan 2009 (5)

American Adventure Jan 2009 (6)

The next set of images comes from Ashley Burton, and were taken in August 2009:

The Rocky Mountain Rapids were gone, but a lonely raft remained:

American Adventure August 2009 (1)

Arson attacks took their toll:

American Adventure August 2009 (2)

But some signage remained in place:

American Adventure August 2009 (3)

These next set of images comes from Matt Francis, and were also taken in August 2009.

Want to make a complaint? Guest Relations may not be able to help...

American Adventure 2009 (1)

Pier 49 was still standing:

American Adventure 2009 (2)

American Adventure 2009 (3)

The rear of the park's entrance doesn't look too inviting:

American Adventure 2009 (4)

This final, haunting image is courtesy of Liam Samuel Brooks, and was also taken in 2009. It shows a post-demolition Motion Master Theatre:

American Adventure July 2009

All images released under Creative Commons license.

What's left today?

The answer, sadly, is almost nothing. Even Pier 49 has been razed to the ground.

The future

The American Adventure site is now controlled by Derbyshire County Council, and is dubbed "Shipley Lakeside". Most of the park's structures have been demolished, leaving only ride footprints here and there. A major project to convert the park into housing, offices and leisure facilities has been put forward but is yet to be completed.

There are 80 comments.

Why do they always say they are going to make former theme park sites into housing?! It's so sad :( can't they just build a new attraction there and really make the most of the land. I know there is a housing shortage, infact myself have been struggling to move out and find a place for a while now, but I would rather these home-grown british theme parks stay open and remain magical, entertaining, atmospheric places to escape to for a great day out, than the land to be sold to property developers. I hope I am not alone in this thought. We need these types of places in life to just get away from all that stressful real-life stuff! :D
P.S That last photo is so sad and a real shame that they had to demolish the theatre. I never got the chance to go to this back, but I'm sure in it's heyday it was a grand place. :)

They said at the time of closing that it would NEVER become a housing development site but guess what? Thats the plans now - extend it into Shipley Park would be an even better idea. I used to do all my training runs around there and through its grounds to Ilkeston road - it would be so much more appreciated as part of the park.

It would not be good to extend into Shipley Park if you are a resident in the park like some of us!!!!!

*never got a chance to go to this park

Was sad it ever shut.
but few things that baffle me. When the mine shut they deemed the area could only be used for lesiure etc because of the extent of the mining, it would have caused subsidence etc in houses.. so how can they now get away with it now?

After so many years the ground settles and so subsidence tends to be more stable.

i lived in the area, and i can tell you that when they closed the original main entrance it was because of subsidence, they closed it for 2 years while they repaired it but never re-opened the grand entrance in the end, cutting off the top of the park for staff and storage facilities, the balance was broken and the writing was on the wall.

But the main point is the area is still dangerously vulnerable to subsidence, so i would never want to put houses on the site.

the joke is they tried to save the park with a hotel but the local authorities wouldn't let them build it because they didn't want to damage the local economy, but now it's closed the plans are for housing and a new shopping and hotel complex double standards anyone?

Even in a full structural survey on a house you may be about to buy, certain facts will be omitted. The existence of old mines, tunnels etc under the house will only be declared if there is an extant unsealed shaft within 10 metres of the property. This is despite the facts that accurate maps of the workings do exist, and subsidence is likely to continue for many, many years after the closing of the mines. None of that info is publicly available, however,since the authorities are still bound by law to compensate anyone suffering subsidence as a result of the pits. Only the largest of tunnels to and from the old coalface will still be there in theory, since they were the only bits so heavily reinforced. 'fire damp' often accumulates in any cavity (hence the miners taking a caged canary into the mines each shift!) which creates a risk of explosion even to this day. It is this gas that's being extracted for use as a domestic gas supply from the tunnels under Gedling Colliery, which closed many, many years ago now. The roads around it, and the old Calverton Colliery, to name but two, still subside regularly enough to legally require warning signs for drivers, and the roads are potholed, cracked and hilly as a result.
Shipley was different if not unique, in that it had an opencast mine taking coal from near the surface, and an older mine located right next to it, mining the coal from deep underground (the headstocks etc still exist, just after the road closure on Pit Lane).
The whole situation is a mess. I for one will not be running to purchase anything built on that land.

Went to American adventure with school when I was about 13, was planning to take my daughter before realising it had shut down. Very sad to see these places shutting. Went to morcambe too with school and that later shut down :-( maybe I'm a bad omen lol

I remember going to the American Adventure as a youngster with my sisters. I have vague memories of the rapids and the wild west shows they used to put on with stunts being performed.

Its a shame to see what has become of the park.

This site is just up the road from me and back in the 90's was the place to be and we were always there! The log flume and missile were my faves, and we always stopped to watch the bears play at the entrance of the park and the cowboy shoot outs!

I even remember a "Fast Forward (magazine) roadshow" here with really big names of the time and they were abandoning backstage to go on all the rides!! And the junior krypton factor assault course was here too!

Such a shame it all came to an end; but they stopped upgrading the rides and Alton Towers isn't that far from us with a much better selection, it was never going to last too long.. Such a shame, a lot of childhood/teenage memories here

Another theme park gone. I went there once when I was about 12. Now I have to travel round the six flags, Disney and universal parks in America which are ever expanding

I live near here and have to say there are plenty of other places to build houses. It boarders a great country park and is a great place to go walking (with or without a dog). It would be a shame to do nothing with the place but would rather see the country park extended than the housing estate creep closer and closer to shipley park.
Ow and not that I would do this but there are some gaps in the fence for those that like to go exploring (again with or without a dog)

We went there in the mid 90's, the best ride there was The Missile.
Shame they have to tear these places down, would have made a great returned to nature project.

I worked a season at the American adventure in the joke shop at the bottom of the first main set of concrete steps, I really enjoyed my time there.
It's extremely sad to have seen it go, it was brilliant to have a theme park so close instead of the journey further afield to bigger ones ie Alton towers
Hope they build some kind of leisure / entertainment things on the site and not more housing

After living in Ilkeston for 20/25 years this was a well known theme park for me.. I remember going here as a child and though being a teenager.. Unfortunately it lost out to Alton towers big adrenaline rides. It really saddens me every time we go by on put bikes and show our son what was once there.. We don't need anymore housing as there is sooo much already.. Really is a shame..

I used to go here all the time as a kid. It was one of those places where kids could be kids and so could the adults. It's so sad. I was talking to my sister not too long ago about our times here and neither of us knew what had happened. We need more magical places like this that takes you on a journey. We have brilliant theme parks, yes, but do they hold up to the American Adventure? I'm not so sure.

I used to go here all the time as a kid. It was one of those places where kids could be kids and so could the adults. It's so sad. I was talking to my sister not too long ago about our times here and neither of us knew what had happened. We need more magical places like this that takes you on a journey. We have brilliant theme parks, yes, but do they hold up to the American Adventure? I'm not so sure.

I used to love going here in the summer holidays. We'd be there every few days. It had very thing a kid wanted back then. We loved it.
Was gutted when I heard it had closed, as someday had always thoughts of taking my own kids there, even though we have now moved away from the area.
I remember I went on the missile 13 times in a row with my cousin on one of our trips.
Sadly missed x

Me,my sister,mum and dad would always go here in the 80's/early 90's and it was always a fantastic day. My dad would take my sister on the missile while mum would take me on the buffalo stampede which is now at drayton manor as took my 2yr old on in the summer. We would always eat our picnic watching some of the shows and its so sad that i cant repeat these memories with my daughter. My parents are divorced now and i would have loved to go back and have those memories again!

This theme park has so many memories for me, from going there on school trips to annual summer visits with the grandparents. Unfortunately I believe the downfall of this park was due to falling behind demand, whilst all of the other parks such as drayton manor and alton towers were investing in exciting new rides, american adventure chose not to change nor expand and eventually tried to tailor the park towards a very young audience which took away appeal from the teenagers and adults without children. So sad to see this park go and its just a shame a larger theme park didn't step in to purchase it and create a franchise to its larger park to make the brand more countrywide accessible, after all it was in prime location in the centre of the east midlands. This site will more than likely become a new housing estate as generally councils get what they want despite opposition, this however is such a shame as the area could become so much and once again pull in the public from far and wide.

I went to the American Adventure A couple of times.
One visit was part of a fun day by Fast Forward magazine.
Lots of guests around the park. My friend and I went on The Runaway Train with ex CBBC presenter Andy Crane and Liz Kershaw ex Radio One DJ. My favourite rides were the rapids and the log films. One attraction that was quite a challenge was a tower you climbed up on ropes spider style.
My friend and I kept slipping back down through the rope very funny. Once we had reached the top what a view then we started our journey down the snake side back to the ground.

I went to the American Adventure A couple of times.
One visit was part of a fun day by Fast Forward magazine.
Lots of guests around the park. My friend and I went on The Runaway Train with ex CBBC presenter Andy Crane and Liz Kershaw ex Radio One DJ. My favourite rides were the rapids and the log films. One attraction that was quite a challenge was a tower you climbed up on ropes spider style.
My friend and I kept slipping back down through the rope very funny. Once we had reached the top what a view then we started our journey down the snake side back to the ground.

Went for a walk around the site at the end of last year! Still have the American Adventure Entrance sign up but apart from that it's mostly gone. A real ahem as loved the park when I was younger and to leave the sight alone like it is now is a real shame. Such a nice area just needs some TLC and can be once again.

I worked at American adventure for 4 years and have the best times there, it was shame to see the place die a slow death due to lack of visitors or funding to update it with new rides. It employed a lot of people around the area. So It would be great to see another sort of attraction there rather than more housing, as we need more local job opportunists x

I agree

"Cowboys and Native Americans"

My goodness, seriously?!?!??!?!

Such a shame this was a great place to go. Needs to be a attraction again not houses.

I went to American Adventure every birthday from about 5 to 15years old and absolutely loved it! I took about 10 friends and all my family joined me and we had some fantastic memories! It was always so exciting knowing the next year we would be bigger and go on bigger rides like the missile! It upsets me knowing I cant repeat these memories with my son!

This place is a sitting duck for a mountain bike park, about time the council got there finger out and started building it, it could be bigger than Cannock Chase and Marin Trail, could be Coed y Brennin style.

C'mon DCC do it..!

Great idea!

Over the years, I visited this theme park MANY times and absoloutely loved it!
I have so many childood memories of the American Adventure and its a massive shame that it was demolished.
With UK coal ripping up and devastating a large section of Shipley country park one end, its a massive shame that the other will be made into a housing development, when it could easily be turned into a beautiful nature reserve. x

This was a great place to work back in the 90s, I worked on rides mainly motion master, Yankee cliper (pirate ship) and pioneer play land ect. I did two seasons there and loved every minute. I remember it changed names from American adventure to adventure world. I hope they don't build houses on the land, they should maybe reopen another park but aim at kids there's a gulivers land near me and it's always busy.

I worked at the American Adventure in the late 80s 1 summer before getting a real job and it was great. I remember American independance day was amazing, Yanks all around they loved the place and it was scorching hot so was so busy and full of people having fun.
The late Buzz Aldrin opened the latest ride during this year too and people flocked to see him so it wasnt all bad. Its a shame that the big boys take over and smaller ventures suffer. A great location and really was great fun :)

Me & my school mates spent every summer holiday at the park & had the best time ever, shame it ever closed, lots of fab memories were created there !!
Gone but never forgotten, thanku for the best summer holidays xxx

Such a shame we went here from the moment it opened every year many times too and it was always busy had many happy memories here as a child and as a teenager :-((

I spent every summer there with either my brother and sister or my school friends. Some wonderful memories and we loved the fact it was just a short bus ride from where we lived in Wollaton. I even had my first kiss while going up the log flume lol. It was such a shame when it closed, and it's really sad to see what's happened to it.

I spent every summer there with either my brother and sister or my school friends. Some wonderful memories and we loved the fact it was just a short bus ride from where we lived in Wollaton. I even had my first kiss while going up the log flume lol. It was such a shame when it closed, and it's really sad to see what's happened to it.

Such a shame this had to be closed down we could do with another theme park being built there it would benefit for the kids then maybe we wouldn't have a these kids causing problems as there is no where for them to go

Fond memories of sitting on The Missile and going round 5 times without getting off! Was pretty dizzy by the end of it! The log flume was way better than the one at Alton Towers too.

I worked here for two seasons with the catering team, mostly in the blue fin restaurant. It was my first job in the food industry or anywhere, and a real eye opener. Fond memories include swapping fish n chips for goodies from Pizza Hut and fudge kitchen at the end of the shift. Only leftover/unsold stuff destined for landfill but still pleasingly naughty! I had a massive crush on one of the Pizza Hut girls lol. Also enjoyed occasionally getting to run one of the hotdog, donut or candy floss shacks near the fort and buffalo coaster. A really good staff team that were kings of gossip :) Did someone really get told not to come back because they kept getting holes in one on the golf thing near the missile and winning cars? Bet that's why they couldn't afford new rides... One sad memory tho, there were always Canada geese round the lake and once the park was empty of customers, they used to re-supply us with milk floats. A truly sad memory having to try to get up the courage to put a terminally squished goose out of its misery with a large rock. Thankfully someone else stepped up. Being my first job it helped to mold me and my working outlook and I will always love the American Adventure Theme Park in my memories. As for future plans, they can put houses anywhere, this area is stunning, please make it something for everyone to enjoy.

So many childhood memories. This was my favourite place to go as a kid. I spent most of my birthdays here. My family had season tickets a couple of years too, so me and my friends would use them and go there once a week, almost!

It was so unique. It had something different to offer. Lazy Lil's Saloon, the horse shows, the cowboy shootouts. Not to mention some great rides. And who could ever forget the iconic Wagon Wheel and the Buffalo?!

It's nice, yet depressing, to cycle past now and again and reminisce. It's so sad that it had to come to an end. It was a part of my life, growing up. I will never forget the place.

All valid comments! but the employment opportunities this place created for a town that formerly thrived on mining,textiles and steelworks. All of them gone! How many small, former mining towns could once boast to having a theme park, ski slope, cinema (The oldest in Europe), bowling alley, nightclubs (Christies/MFN)swimming baths, tennis courts, museum, Country Park, Nature Reserve, College, I could go on! Ilkeston used to be a great place to grow up/live. Now all that's really left is Tesco and an Asda on the way!

Used to live this place. They used to do vouchers in the summer for 5 people in for £5 each, used to be there every few days in the summer holidays.

Best ride I remember there was the Canyon Trip or something similar where the Iron Wolf looper ride was. Basically it was a magic carpet that split apart.

If I ever win the Euro millions, I'll bring it back!

Used to live this place. They used to do vouchers in the summer for 5 people in for £5 each, used to be there every few days in the summer holidays.

Best ride I remember there was the Canyon Trip or something similar where the Iron Wolf looper ride was. Basically it was a magic carpet that split apart.

If I ever win the Euro millions, I'll bring it back!

*love not live

I worked there for 3 yrs from leaving school,it was just the best job ever, like a day out with friends every day but you got paid for it, definitely 3 of the best yrs of my life xx

I used to go here quiet a bit when I was a kid and was always a fantastic day out. The locality helped too as we weren't very far from it. I know people used to call it the poor mans Alton Towers, but it had its good points. I think their log flume was the best log flume going and it was always great to watch the live action shows. A well and truly missed theme park.

Living in Nottingham there were always heavily discounted vouchers available for The American Adventure. Ended up going week in week out during the summers of the 90's. Then took my daughter in the late 90's early 00's, we loved it. It was empty towards the end so you could get on everything over and over again. It's a real shame it's gone & I really wish they'd do something with the site.

Come on investors....it would be great to take it back to its former glory - I'm sure it would do a roaring trade!!!!

I used to go there all the time and still remember it well. Had so much fun there with my friends. I would like to see maybe a sundown play adventure there or a wheelgate park there somthing for the family. Would bring more people to the area and boost local business too. There is nothing for our children now locally, sad really.

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