In 1800 Blackgang Chine was a steep gaunt ravine situated some 500 feet above the sea overlooking Chale Bay. Stretching some three quarters of a mile down to the shore, it was a wild and desolate place frequented by none other than the local fisherman, although rumours were rife of a thriving smuggling trade!
In 1823, a young man named Alexander Dabell arrived on the Island with his family. They had relocated from Nottingham where he was born in 1808, all with the intention of starting a lace making factory in the central town of Newport.
As a young man he trained in the art of lace making with his father, and soon became an expert in the trade. After his apprenticeship he went to London and worked as a Sales Assistant, before returning to Newport to run his own business in 1830.
He saw himself as a pioneer, an early settler in ‘this far flung barbarous climb’, and, above all, a man out to seek his fortune. His entrepreneurial spirit soon had him trying a number of strategies to make money, including haircutting, selling hair oil and opening up gift shop outlets around the Island.
In 1839 these experiments led him to meet a man who had recently built a hotel at Blackgang, and he immediately recognised the area’s potential. Along with its awe inspiring gorge, it’s newly found chalybeate spring was a huge draw for the Victorians, who were always seeking out new health and holiday resorts.
By 1842 he acquired the land with his ability to throw a stone, and it was agreed the point it landed was the furthest reach of the lease.
This unconventional way of thinking became the founding stone of Blackgang Chine’s success…
Alexander studied the gaunt and awe-inspiring chine gorge, and knew immediately that he could create gardens here, which would appeal to the romantic Victorians!
Pathways were built down the ravine, through previous rough terrain, gardens were landscaped on top of the cliffs, and steps were constructed to the beach from the lower road.
But this was not enough to make Blackgang Chine a fascinating place to visit. In 1842 a huge fin whale had been stranded off the Needles, and Alexander saw his chance.
He bought it at auction, sold off the blubber, had the bones bleached, and transported across the island to a specially built hut, in which he displayed the skeleton to the morbid curiosity of all who visited. And though the pathways to the sea have long since washed away, the skeleton still exists in the park today as the oldest attraction, and it has set the tone for the park to become the home of the weird and the wonderful of the world, and a hive of imagination for all generations.
Today the park is still owned and run by the descendants of Alexander Dabell, and the magic of the park has only grown over the years. Blackgang Chine is now home to life-sized Pirate Ships, Fairy Villages and Castles, Dodo Valleys, restricted area 5 and of course the original Cowboy Town as well as a whole host of magical surprises around every corner. The park continues to expand and develop every year in order to accommodate new generations of curiosity and fun seekers.
So take a visit to the land that never grows old and see where your imagination can take you.
For information on tickets and how to book your trip, click here. We can’t wait to welcome you to the park!