The 1990s: When Camelot was king!

Camelot September 1991
Camelot September 1991
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For nearly 30 years, Camelot filled young children with joy.

A mythical world of Arthurian legend, just off the M6 at Charnock Richard, Mr Etches, then the general manager, wanted to offer a “nationally recognised entertainment experience.”

He said: “We began to create a fantasy world.”

Even the snacks Dragon’s Cheeseburgers were available at the Roundtable Burger Bar, attraction No.42.

The only compromise was moving Arthur four to five hundred years from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages and one early young visiter did ask her father whether “King Arthur really did ride on a log flume, Daddy?”

By the 1980s, the park had definitely moved with the times – Vicar’s son Paul McMaster proved himself adept at falling from a trusty steed twice a day while carrying a shield and lance and wearing 40lb of chain mail.

It was a far cry from his YTS in agriculture he embarked on after leaving Runshaw College.

In August 1989, an axe-wielding barbarian from the Camelot led to a police stand off at Washington Hall Fire Service Training Centre at Euxton.

Dave Flame, whose day job was to scare pleasure seekers, terrified staff when he arrived as part of a birthday surprise, police believing there was a maniac on the loose!

On August 29, he said: “When he opened the door, I went ‘aaaarrrrgh’ and brandished the axe.

“He looked absolutely terrified and slammed the door in my face.

“To carry on with the joke, I started banging on the door, pretending to be trying to get in.

“They thought there was a mad axeman on the rampage, phoned the police and locked themselves in the store cupboard.

“It really got a bit out of hand.”

So good were they at their game, the knights, serfs and minstrels all signed up to be extras in Robin Hood once the season had ended.

He described the men with the flashing blades as: “Our knights are athletes, well trained, professional, well rehearsed. Sometimes they genuinely get hurt.”

Away from the rides and the knights, the park hosted hundreds of visits from groups as diverse as the Mothers’ Union members for a special communion – with the Bishop of Blackburn Rev Alan Chesters seated in King Arthur’s throne - and children from Belarus who had survived the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Bosses even tried to get in the record books – with TV
Gladiator Warrior, Ian McCulloch of the Echo and the Bunnymen and Paul McCartney’s brother Mike helping to released 321,260 helium balloons to help a homeless charity.

Constant investment saw new rides added – In 1994 Falcon and Cobra from The Gladiators – helped Sooty rescue Soo in Matthew Corbett’s new show Sooty and the Dragon then rode a new coaster called The Rack.

In 1996, The Venom Experience which riders heading through a domed jungle complete with waterfall past 11ft boa constrictors and Burmese pythons.

The brave could also walk through a cave that was home to tarantulas, scorpions and poison arrow frogs.

A completely different fight saw park bosses lose a battle to be allowed to sell alcohol.

Charnock Richard parish councillor Ann Bishop said: “Some of the rides are for teenagers and when you get a group of teenage lads drinking, they start messing about and could cause serious accidents.”

The park moved with the times again in 1995 when Shelly Benison became the first women knight on her horse Ziggy, replacing an injured stuntman.

So the rides will be dismantled, the knight’s jousting arena, which featured in It’s a Knockout in the 1970s, will no longer hear the clank of swords and the skies will no longer host soaring birds of prey.