Great Yarmouth was established as a seaside holiday resort between 1800 and 1860 but it was not until 1909 that a young C.B. Cochran, later to become a world famous impresario, was finally able to persuade the local council to grant a lease for a proposed seafront amusement centre. The original Pleasure Beach consisted of a scenic railway and little else. In 1911 another popular attraction arrived, The Joy wheel, and the park attracted large crowds until 1914 when it closed for the war years.
After the war, in April 1919, a fire devastated the Scenic Railway but this was repaired and re-opened by August 1919. In 1923 the council relaxed its restrictions on seafront development and the Pleasure Beach was restored and extended.
The Scenic Railway finally came to the end of its lease in 1929 and a massive water chute was installed to replace it. The same year the Colonial Exhibition was held in Paris and when it ended the Pleasure Beach purchased the huge Scenic Railway that had been built especially for the exhibition by Herr Erich Heidrich, a famous German expert in this field. The ride was dismantled, shipped to Great Yarmouth and re-erected by the German team over the next couple of years.
The new Scenic Railway opened in summer 1932 and has been the lynch pin of the Pleasure Beach ever since. It is capable of handling 2,500 passengers per hour and the costly and dedicated maintenance down the years has been repaid with an admirable safety record.
1954 saw the arrival of Botton Brothers at the Pleasure Beach. The two brothers, Albert and Jim, grew up in a fairground environment with the family firm J. Botton & Sons, who had operated a travelling fair around London and the south of England since 1923. 1954 also saw the arrival of the famous 'Savages of Kings Lynn 3-abreast Gallopers'. This 36 horse set holds pride of place at the entrance to the park and has become the endearing trademark whilst other bigger and more costly rides have enjoyed their time in the limelight and moved on.
Botton Bros. was formed in 1942, and soon expanded to own rides at many fairgrounds around London and by 1953 had taken over the operation of the big rides at Bertram Mills Olympia Circus. This continued until 1966 but meanwhile Albert had moved to Great Yarmouth to take over the Pleasure Beach. Albert and his wife, Lottie, immediately commenced improving the Pleasure Beach and started by asphalting the whole site, which had previously been duckboards, lay directly on the sands. New rides and better facilities came regularly every year.
Albert Botton died in 1975 and his position as managing director was taken by Jimmy Jones who had married Albert & Lottie's daughter, Jane, in 1960. He too had the traditional, showman's background having worked in his parent's funfair in Bristol from an early age. Jimmy helped the Botton family at Olympia before moving to Great Yarmouth to run an arcade at the Pleasure Beach.
Under Jimmy Jones, with the support of his family, the Pleasure Beach grew to how you see it today. In October 1992 the various Botton Bros., companies were brought together and a new company was formed, Pleasure & Leisure Corporation PLC to which all the business was transferred. The company purchased the freehold of the Pleasure Beach site in November 1993 and at this stage Jimmy Jones relinquished the role of Managing Director to his son Albert and took the position of Chairman. The company continues to grow and in 1996 added a further 3 acres to the northern end of the site by taking on the Nelson Gardens complex, now re-named the Pleasure Beach Gardens, which provides a quieter area
The Pleasure Beach maintains its position as one of the leading visitor attractions in the country. New rides are still regularly introduced, and the company is committed to ongoing change and development to ensure that the Pleasure Beach will remain the star attraction of the East Coast tourism industry.
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