The End of Belle Vue
Belle Vue, as a forerunner of the Theme Park concept, was many things to many people. I get messages from people who had a connection to the park through speedway, brass bands, wrestling, boxing, or stock cars. I also hear from steam train enthusiasts, fairground ride experts and people who publish web sites about elephants. So when Belle Vue closed, it affected people in a lot of different ways and what people miss about it very much depends on whether it evokes nostalgia for childhood days out, a date at the Top Ten Club or the spray of cinders as Peter Craven skidded around the final bend on his way to another victory.
It could be argued that the fatal blow was struck when the zoo was closed. As I have said elsewhere on this site, by the 1970s zoos like the one at Chester had set a new standard for the accommodation and display of animals that Belle Vue couldn't match. A zoo that shared a site with a rowdy amusement park no longer matched up to the prevailing public views on animal welfare. The enthusiasm and dedication of the zoo staff wasn't reflected in the ambitions of the park's owners and the necessary investments simply weren't supported. The collection was sold off and some of the animals didn't survive the trauma of this change. Robert Nicholls gave me these photographs of the zoo taken following is closure in September of 1977.
Phil Blinkhorn, who has written a number of excellent articles for this web site based on his experiences at Belle Vue, talks about the swift decline that occurred once the zoo closed. In many cases potential customers for the conference facilities had simply assumed that the closure of the zoo meant the closure of the whole park.
For some Belle Vue enthusiasts though the best feature of the park had actually been lost 6 years earlier. The iconic wooden roller coaster, the Bobs, had dominated the park since its designer Fred Church and his associates, the Travers Engineering Company from America, had built it in 1928. It was the ride that everyone wanted to take and the one that set a standard for decades. In 1970, the following advertisement marked its demise as a Belle Vue attraction.
But things got worse for its fans because there were no takers and in 1971 it was demolished.
The park remained open until 1981, when ironically I returned to live in the UK for a year and I took my 3 year-old daughter to the Belle Vue Christmas Circus in the Kings Hall. I had been to it every year as a a child and I wanted her to have the same experience. I wasn't aware at the time that it was to be the last.
Soon after the Circus left town for the last time, the demolition of the remaining structures went ahead.
Below you can see the demolition of the stadium.
The images were generously donated by Ken Appleton
Phillip Liser was the Arcades Manager at Belle Vue and he took this picture standing on the site of the demolished Elizabethan Ballroom looking towards the main entrance at Hyde Road in 1981. He believes it may be one of the last photographs taken before the end.
The site today is dominated by a multiplex cinema, a hotel, a car auction site and a housing estate.