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Alton Towers

Now Alton Towers is perhaps Britain's best known theme park. It is based north of the town of Alton in Staffordshire, on the site of an old mansion by the same name.

It is notable for its extreme rides, including Nemesis, a rollercoaster in which people hang with their legs dangling down (or up as the case may be), and the Black Hole, a rather conventional rollercoaster if it wasn't for the twist of being in complete darkness.

Equally extreme as an example of the Mixed Style of Humphrey Repton's gardens, Alton Towers' garden was begun, ca. 1814 by the eccentric 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, of whom J. C. Loudon, (who was consulted on design features of which there were many) relates that he consulted every artist, only to avoid 'whatever an artist might recommend'. Loudon's published criticism remains history's wittiest pan of preposterous garden design since Alexander Pope.

Alton Towers grew into a collection of gardens: a Swiss Cottage, a Stonehenge, a Dutch garden, a Pagoda Fountain, said to be based on the To Ho pagoda in Canton, Lysicrates' Choragic Monument from Athens (a feature in English gardens since the 1760s), domed glasshouses (originally gilded), even a fairly large Matterhorn as a backing to one of England's earliest Alpine gardens.

At Alton Towers were introduced the first garden gnomes, in punishment for which the rides and slides of the modern Theme Park add to the eccentricity of a nobleman's fancy whose parkland, 'the work of a morbid imagination, joined to the command of unlimited resourses' (according to Loudon) is now also occupied by a hundred acres of 'sensational rides and attractions'.

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