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Blaze destroys historic River Caves
23 April 2009

Pleasureland's owner has vowed to stay committed to the fairground despite their fourth suspected arson attack in two years.

The latest fire destroyed the historic River Caves ride, that had been disused since previous owners Pleasure Beach’s Thompson family left the site in 2006.

Owner Norman Wallis received a telephone call on Tuesday evening (April 21) shortly after the fire broke out at 7.50pm.

“When I arrived it looked like something from a film on the TV,” he said.

“There were great big flames coming out of the top of the building and smoke everywhere.”

Eight fire engines and two support vehicles took two hours to get the blaze under control. Fire crews remained at the scene well into the following day to damp down the scene.

A second fire started at the same time on an advertising hoarding in another part of the fairground.

Mr Wallis said he and his colleagues had finished replacing broken windows in a neighbouring building just an hour before the fire broke out.

The site has been plagued by vandals, he said, and suffered three previous arson attacks. Repair work has cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“You can’t allow vandals to stop progress,” Mr Wallis said. “We are committed to Southport and we have got to look to the future now, not the past.”

The River Caves was opened at Pleasureland, on Southport's Promenade, in 1922, and was one of just two remaining rides in the country.

Passengers rode on a boat through scenes including ancient Egypt, the jungle and the land of the dinosaurs.

Pleasureland’s owners removed the exhibits in 2004 to be replaced by a dinosaur theme. The building was reconstructed with damaged parts of Blackpool’s Big One rollercoaster.

When Pleasureland closed, elements of the ride were rescued by Dreamland heritage park in Margate.

By Natasha Robson


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