It's a quiet news day, so I thought I'd provide you with an update on progress on Tales from the Towers, the new book that I'm currently writing about Alton Towers.
The book is now about 60 percent complete, although there are a number of steps that will need to be completed before it can be published. It will tell the story of how a barren patch of land with a hunting lodge on it was transformed into one of Europe's most impressive estates, and subsequently into Britain's most popular theme park.
During my research, I've uncovered a huge amount of interesting information about Alton Towers, all of which will form part of the book. This includes:
- First hand accounts of visits to the estate from the 1830s onwards, including a stunning account of the Great Sale of 1857, which saw the many treasures housed in the mansion itself sold off at auction.
- The Grand Fetes - the amazing events that attracted upwards of 30,000 visitors in a single day to Alton Towers in the late nineteenth century. You'll wish you were there!
- The destruction of the mansion - how the interior of Alton Towers was stripped bare following the Second World War - and how those responsible claimed credit for its subsequent restoration.
- The first rides - information on the fairground that operated at the estate in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Mirror Days - the "Grand Fetes of the 1970s", where wellie flinging and beauty contests were on the agenda.
- How entrepreneur John Broome led the transformation of Alton Towers into a theme park, and how his empire came crashing down when he bought the derelict Battersea Power Station in London and tried to convert it into a second theme park.
- Broome's greatest hits - including the famous Corkscrew and Black Hole roller coasters.
- Plans for the "sister park" that never was at Trentham Gardens, just 20 minutes drive from the Towers.
- Proposals for the theme park that Tussauds planned to build at Woburn Abbey before buying Alton Towers in 1990.
- How designer John Wardley created "Secret Weapons" Nemesis, Oblivion and Air, as well as classic attractions such as the Haunted House, after Tussauds took over.
- The rivals that hoped to topple Alton Towers from its perch as the most popular theme park in the UK, including the doomed Britannia Park and never-built mega park Wonderworld.
- The many crazy marketing initiatives undertaken by the park over the years, including a bizarre proposal to artificially control the weather.
- Waking up the neighbours - the clashes with local residents that have limited the park's ability to install new rides.
- Bizarre merchandise - the strange items that have been sold by the park over the years, including the legendary Nemesis Cola and Oblivion condoms.
- Creating the magic - what it's like to work at Alton Towers, including dressing up as a costumed character and seeing celebrities such as Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and - ahem - Jordan.
- The rides that never were - plans for vertical launch coasters, interactive aquariums, hot air balloons, pipeline roller coasters and - of course - the infamous cross-valley wooden coaster. Plus, details of Alton Towers Village, the first hotel complex planned for the park that never became a reality.
- When things go wrong - details of accidents and mishaps that have taken place over the past three decades.
- The future of Alton Towers - how operator Merlin plans to expand and improve the resort over the coming decade.
All things being well, the aim is still to release Tales from the Towers in paperback and digital formats (including Kindle) within the next few months, ahead of Christmas. Stay tuned for more updates!