Welcome to the history of Chessington, the most comprehensive guide anywhere for the year by year changes across the park.
For the past 15 years Theme UK has by many ways tried to ensure that the history of Chessington has been preserved for all to see. With the Internet’s premier Chessington site keeping track of the parks progress year by year with rare pictures, maps and information all provided we are now taking it one step further!
This year sees Chessington celebrate 85 years of being a Zoo and we are moving our history guide forward to include even more information, new pictures and details continue to bring the history to life!
Use the menu above to see year by year changes at the park, including the beginning of Chessington as a zoo, the best and worst from the park along with a full theme park year by year key events. From here you can look at retired rides including Samurai, Rodeo and the recently closed Safari Skyway.
Chessington has seen some up and downs
Over the past years Chessington has gone over many changes since its opening in 1987, but the question on the minds of everyone looking at the park, is, is the parks new family come first outlook working?
Before its looked at, here’s a quick look at what I feel were the best and worst years for the park, for the different visitors they were trying to attract, since being a more concentrated theme park.
Best year for Thrill Seekers: 1999
The reason I believe this was the best year for the park for thrill seekers, was the amount of more thrilling rides, to the amount of family/children attractions. 1999 obviously saw the impact of Samurai on the park, and with Rattlesnake still fresh from 1998, along with a fully themed Vampire, Rameses Revenge, and Rodeo, and the complete closure of circus world, the options were more in favour of the thrill rides.
Worst Year for Thrill Seekers: 2005
Yes, can’t see much argument here, the closure of Samurai in 2004, with the eventual replacement of Peeking Heights, Rodeo closing and Rameses Revenge with several months down time, even with Dragon’s Fury, thrill seekers had nothing extra in 2005.
Best year for the Family: 2011
Heading in the right direction 2011 sees the best year for the family, for a few reasons over the 2010 season, even though the biggest point would have to be Wild Asia. With Wild Asia in full flow, including previous existing rides and of course Kobra and the Lorikeet Lagoon, is also joined by a fully open Wanyama Village for the full season, and the return of the Chessington stage area full time. Chessington at the moment is one of the best family parks to visit, whilst it does need that extra thrill, the park looks excellent as years go on. Although a new show is on board for 2012, with the lack of investment seen in both Thorpe Park (The Swarm) and Alton Towers (Ice Age 4D and Nemesis Sub Terra) whilst the park will have a good year, it’s still unfortunately lacking.
Worst year for the Family: 1999
The best year for the thrill seekers has to be the worst for the family, for the very same reasons! Lots of thrill rides, No Circus, depleted animals removed gradually in previous years, and some old children’s rides in the clown coaster, certainly the year before Beanoland main investment had gone into Thrill Seekers.
Best year for the Park: 2000
Yes with investment all over the park, regardless what is said about Beanoland, its a smart choice, and even with Vampire’s few breakdowns, the line up for this year for thrill seekers and family could be regarded as the best, this included continuation of work in decoration (Rameses Revenge, previous year Black Buccaneer and Vampire) and Beanoland. It is getting better and I don’t think it will be long now until Chessington regains some of this magic.
Worst year for the park: 2013
I never thought that 2001 and the closure of the Vampire would be beaten as the worst year for the park, but 2013 was really a low year. The year started with the demolition of the faces on the drop of Dragon Falls with a re-theme only just taken place in 2018 its been a long time coming. This got worse with the Runaway Train closed at the start of the season and once again the rock work being removed from the ride. A serious break down on Rameses Revenge took the ride out for half the season as it was also announced Runaway Train would not re-open for 2013. Although ZUFARI was a solid attraction the breakdown of the rides key water finale and the fire at Creaky Cafe topped off a shocking year for the park.
It’s very difficult to make a list like above and I’m sure that not everyone will agree, but even with big years like 1987, 1990, and 1995, I feel the park is still making progress and if the parks best year was 10 years ago, that wouldn’t say much for its improvement.
The final thing that crops up a lot, is the new direction for the park is families, although sitting, looking closely at the park since its opening hasn’t this always been the case?
I mean yes, Thorpe Park is now a Thrill Park, but did Chessington ever have anything like that in the first place, no.
Its fair to say that when Chessington opened it had some great rides, with possibly the most thrilling being Magic Carpet and that was more through fear of falling out than speed! Even when Vampire opened, right the way up to 1995, there was no ride that inverted, not even a ride with a 1.4m height restriction. Instead there was Vampire, even at the time, a fun, well themed roller coaster, Bubble Works, 5th Dimension, the low restricted Smugglers Galleon, Dragon River, and Circus World with Juggler, even taking the fact that Vampire was more of a thrilling ride, Chessington, was a family park.
1995 brings the first thrill ride to Chessington (and people say its still not now) and by this time, real thrilling roller coasters, in Shockwave, Big One, and of course Nemesis were shadowing Vampire as an entry level coaster. Then in 1999, Samurai really showed what flat rides are about, in a time when they were getting more popular, and much more advance, Chessington struck hard to bring the best in. Was it a thrill park? Alton Towers, classed as a thrill park, had Nemesis, Oblivion, Corkscrew, and a clone of Rameses, which again, means Chessington can’t be with Rattlesnake and Vampire heading the roller coaster outings. But, with those in mind, Chessington was the place to be, because it had something for everyone.
So why the negativity of recent installations? It was obviously disappointing seeing Samurai leave, but should that ride have replaced the Magic Carpet in the first place? Although it’s a question I don’t want to answer, if Thorpe Park hadn’t installed what’s it’s installed since 2001, would Chessington be getting so much stick for thrill rides? Well it never used to, and the years 1991, 92, 93, 96, 97, saw little in the way of major investment, but still the park stayed on top, yet 2002, and 2004, and then in 2010 sees massive investment and people miss the point. Chessington is now established as a family theme park.
Each area is themed and 90% looks fantastic with lots of new additions added every year. Family rides have been getting better and better, as to the attractions with the addition of animals coming back to the park however, what is next? Animal aside the park is running short on space, and some rides look worn and in need of a really good refresh. Also is another thrill ride needed to add to the family lineup. ZUFARI was a great addition to the park and with Rameses the only thrill ride they are in danger of treading on Legoland Audience.