The lost theme park near Alton Towers that will now become a housing estate

The American Adventure theme park, c 1996. Buffalo Stampede ride.
-Credit: (Image: Matthew Wells |

A long-lost 'Wild West' theme park, once a popular summer destination for many children from Yorkshire, is fondly remembered by many.

The now-defunct American Adventure theme park, located just a few miles from the ever-popular Alton Towers in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was a hit during the '80s and '90s.

Known for its exciting rides, the park emerged from the failure of another short-lived themed park.

The Big Wheel at The American Adventure theme park

In June 1985, Britannia Park theme park opened as a 'showcase of Britain'. Despite the grandeur of its initial launch, which included an impressive Concorde flypast and a grand opening by boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper, the park declared bankruptcy just two months later.

Derbyshire County Council bought the land previously occupied by Britannia Park in 1986 and sold it to Granada. Around the same time, Granada also acquired the Camelot theme park and launched the now-defunct Granada Studios theme park in Manchester in 1988.

READ MORE: The little-known theme park that is 'just as fun as Disneyland'

Unlike Granada's other theme parks, American Adventure featured an Old West theme.

Despite competition from nearby attractions like Alton Towers, American Adventure initially enjoyed popularity with its rollercoasters, thrill rides, and even its own town - Silver City, complete with a saloon - Lazy Lil's - that staged spectacular shootouts, reports the Manchester Evening News.

The park boasted unforgettable attractions such as the Runaway Train, The Missile, and the Rocky Mountain Rapids. In 1989, the Wild West theme was expanded to include other aspects of North American culture and history according to reports.

This expansion included a space-themed area, featuring The Missile roller coaster. This ride was officially opened by Apollo 11 lunar-module pilot Buzz Aldrin and was voted the best roller coaster in the UK at that time.

Other notable attractions included the Water Rapids and Nightmare Niagara log flume, which had the highest drop of any in the country. There was also the enormous Flying Island which was launched by pop heart-throbs Boyzone.

A 200ft roller coaster ride without tracks called The Skycoaster was also a must for thrill-seekers.

It was the largest ride of its type in the world outside of the US and would propel its passengers, attached by a harness, at speeds of up to 80mph just a few feet from the ground before launching them skyward.

From 1996, the American Adventure theme park faced a decline, and in 1997, Granada offloaded it to Ventureworld.

Despite attempts to revive its fortunes, the park shut down in 2006, with the announcement in 2007 that it would remain closed and its attractions were to be auctioned off.

An extensive auction featuring over 1,300 lots ensued, selling everything from rides to costumes. The site then languished as an empty eyesore for years.

The land that once buzzed with the excitement of the American Adventure is now being transformed into a housing development. In 2018, a petition to bring back the beloved park received more than 10,000 signatures, as reported by the Derby Telegraph, but to no avail.

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