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The Man who sold Alton Towers

Charles Chetwyn Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury (1860 – 1921) was this man, and it turns out that he was a bit of a cad. Having inherited the title at the age of 16, he proceeded at the age of 19 to elope with an older, wealthy, married woman, by which he had two children. As a commoner his wife was never accepted by the aristocracy, whereas the Earl went on to receive several honours, including one from the Queen. The couple separated in 1896, a few months after this letter was written, and Shrewsbury decamped to Ingestre Hall, twenty or so miles south of Alton Towers.

Perhaps Lady Shrewsbury felt her husband was spending more time with his sporting passions and business interests than he was with her. He was, after all, potty about  polo and the letter addressed to ‘ B ‘ was probably sent to Algernon Burnaby, one of his regular polo pals at Alton Towers. When he moved to Ingestre he established the Staffordshire Polo Club there. He also owned a hansom cab service—the vehicles being emblazoned with ‘ S. T ‘ for Shrewsbury and Talbot. He was the first to have those cabs that operated in London and Paris fitted with noiseless tyres. In addition, he was a motoring pioneer. In 1903 his company, Clement Talbot Ltd, began to import from France what became the ‘Talbot ‘car.

According to the official History, Alton Towers was sold to a group of local businessmen in 1920. A year later, The Earl died and the title was inherited by his grandson, his own son, Viscount Ingestre, having died during the War. In 1924 the grounds began to be developed as a tourist attraction and the dowager Lady Shrewsbury was booted out of the house she had known for 44 years and re-housed, probably at Ingestre. She lived on, possibly more accepted by now, until 1940.

After the Second World War Alton Towers fell into decay, but by now the vast grounds had become a popular resort. It was only after 1973 that the Alton Towers amusement park, with its terrifying rides and spectacular features, came into being. The ruins of the house are now part of the Alton Towers Experience.[RR]

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