Pleasureland Theme Park
Pleasureland Theme Park in Southport was closed suddenly in September 2006 after the untimely death of its manager, Geoffrey Thompson, OBE. Still, generations of Brits have fond memories of the park; so many so that author Stephen Copnall has written a book about Pleasureland Theme Park Southport called Pleasureland Memories: A History of Southport’s Amusement Park.
Pleasureland Theme Park Southport History
The park opened during the 1920s and took its place among other shies, stalls and rides on Southport’s southern lake. The park fought resistance from the wealthy elite of Southport to rival Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach.
More recently, the park included rides and attractions for all ages, like TRAUMAtizer, a suspended roller coaster, and the Lucozade Space Shot. One reason the closure of Pleasureland Theme Park in Southport was such a shock to the system is that it was so large and popular, with over 100 rides and attractions.
Sure, there were a few scary rides that only the bravest souls would consider attempting, but there were also a number of rides that attracted the entire family, like the Cyclone coaster, Ghost Train, and Chewit’s Log Chute, where patrons could cool off on a hot day.
Pleasureland Theme Park in Southport was at the peak of its popularity in 2006, when it narrowly escaped a fire that destroyed many businesses and structures. No sooner had all of Southport breathed a sigh of relief that Pleasureland Theme Park survived the Southport fire, when the death of Geoffrey Thompson meant the end of Pleasureland.
Geoffrey Thompson, OBE
At the time of his death, Geoffrey Thompson had been managing director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach for 28 years. The amusement park industry was in his blood, as his grandfather, William George Bean, was the founder of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and he was the only son of father Leonard Thompson and mother Lilian Doris Thompson OBE, who died within days of her son’s death.
Thompson was educated at Cambridge and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. After managing Blackpool Pleasure Beach for 13 years, he became managing director of Pleasureland Theme Park in Southport in 1976, a position he held until his death.
Thompson set Pleasureland up with some of the hottest, most thrilling amusements ever. Thompson was singlehandedly responsible for attractions like Steeplechase, the Water Chute, the Revolution, and the Pepsi Max Big One – the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world at its time.
Thompson was a true visionary, founding Europarks, Chairing the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, serving on the board of the English Tourist Board, and acting as president of the International Association of Amusement Parks. His efforts were recognized in 1997 when he received the Outstanding Contribution to English Tourism Award at the England for Excellence Ceremony. He was honored attain in 1998 with the Order of the British Empire in recognition for his substantial contributions to the world of tourism in the U.K.
Pleasureland Theme Park in Southport Closure
Today, Pleasureland Theme Park is in ruins. Some of the attractions are still standing, but much of the park has been reduced to a heap of scrap metal and firewood. When the theme park closed, workers were given a letter notifying them that the decision to close Pleasureland was a difficult one.
Workers were entitled to 12 weeks notice, but the park closed before 12 weeks elapsed. In response to the closure, many residents of Southport wrote that they felt the park had been overpriced and that they wished attractions and rides had been individually priced rather than using the free admission model where riders had to buy bracelets to go on the attractions.