Remembering Kinderland

Kinderland was a children’s activity park that stood on Burniston Road, Scarborough between 1985 and 2007. Originally proposed in the early 1980s, Kinderland was the creation of Dudley Wallis, who had formerly ran the Wallis Holiday Camp at Cayton Bay. The plans were met with letters and petitions from local residents. A councillor who supported it was purportedly booed off stage at a public meeting, and the council was accused of ignoring local opposition.

Wallis Holiday Camp

Above: Dudley Wallis previously ran the Wallis’ Holiday Camp in Cayton Bay (source)

Reports indicate that many believed Kinderland would be a tacky venture – a cross between ‘Battersea funfair and and amusement arcade’. Nonetheless, a model went on display at the town hall, and the attraction was built anyway. Children queued for hours to enter the park when it opened during the May Day Bank Holiday in 1985.

Battersea Funfair

Above: Battersea Funfair (source)

Kinderland was far from being either a funfair or amusement arcade, with ‘not a slot machine in sight’ according to the Scarborough News. Instead the attraction became a reputable and well-loved place for children and their families – popular with locals and tourists alike.  In 1989 Kinderland received an award from Scarborough Civic Society – for outstanding contribution to the town. It had only been open for four years.

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Above: Kinderland postcard (from the author’s personal collection)

Fees were only £2 when the park opened, with a staff of approximately 46 people. Tickets ensured unlimited use of the facilities, which included slides, climbing frames, a pedal car track, clock tower, water chute, boating lake and much more.

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Above: The Water Chute (from the author’s personal collection) – its existence long pre-dates Kinderland

My family and I visited Kinderland at least once every year during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Our yearly summer holiday in Scarborough was never complete without a day riding the water chute (or water splash as my brothers and I called it), clambering through tunnels in the indoor play area and hiding inside the tiny model castle with its barred window.

Kinderland was brilliant for kids – there was plenty to do; lots of play opportunities to explore and children could easily spend entire days there with their families. One family reportedly visited up to 60 times in one year alone.

kinderland1

Above: The miniature castle (from the author’s personal collection)

The Wallis family were all involved with running the park, but in 1991 funding difficulties emerged. Although the park continued to run, it briefly closed in 2001, which is also the year in which park founder, Dudley Wallis, died.

Dudley Wallis

Above: Dudley Wallis – far right (source)

Inspired by his visits to the park as a boy,  Scarborough’s own Kevin Sykes, along with his father Stuart, mother Christine and wife Joanna (operations manager at nearby Atlantis) took on the lease. The family, who owned the town’s M&M Discount Store, wasted no time and re-opened Kinderland the following year, although soon became frustrated by a lack of support and assurance from the council regarding the lease.

Like the Wallis family, they persisted against growing losses, and faced constant threats of closure. A well-attended protest in 2003  highlighted strong local support for Kinderland, and the Scarborough News documents fierce opposition to the eventual closure in 2007.

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Above: Local newspapers report Kinderland’s demise (archived articles photographed with permission from Scarborough Library)

The site was cleared for the Sands redevelopment project, although currently remains empty.

This post is only an introduction to Kinderland and its history, based mainly on local newspaper reports. The author is aware of potential limitations/inaccuracies and welcomes feedback. More details will be discussed in upcoming posts. This research is only in the early stages.

See any mistakes in this post? Want to share any additional information or memories? Please comment below – all contributions are very welcome!

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