13 July 2011

Britain’s Oldest Roller Coaster Given Grade II* Listing

Britain's oldest roller coaster, the Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate, has had its listing upgraded to Grade II* on the advice of English Heritage.

Margate scenic railway

The Scenic Railway, which was built in 1920 by John Henry Iles for his new American-style amusement park, is the oldest surviving roller coaster in Britain and is among the five oldest in the world. Despite historic and recent fire damage, the integrity of the design remains.

Scenic railways are amongst the earlier types of roller coaster design and the one at Dreamland is an internationally important surviving example of this technology and an evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts.

Thirty one Scenic Railways were built in Britain between the first example (the Velvet Coaster at Blackpool in 1907) and the last, in 1938. Dreamland's Scenic Railway is the older of only two remaining in Britain, the other, at Great Yarmouth, dates from 1932.

Emily Gee, Designation Team Leader for the South East, said: "Listing in a higher grade is reserved for a small proportion of designated places nationally. In spite of alteration and replacement to this remarkable timber structure, its age, rarity and design interest mean that listing in Grade II* is fully warranted. Alongside the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie at Dreamland, the remarkable heritage context of Margate is clear."

English Heritage is working closely with the site owner, the Dreamland Trust and Thanet District Council to secure a long-term future for the Dreamland site and restoration of the Scenic Railway as a working roller coaster.