None of these videos are recent discoveries, they've been posted in various places over the years but I thought it would be nice to post them up again with a bit of analysis and some comparison photos where possible to show some bits as they are today.
British Pathé have a huge collection of video material (approximately 85,000 items) about all sorts of things from a 1961 Rover Gas Turbine Car being presented in Birmingham to Shamrock Rovers winning the 1931 Irish Free State Football Cup. Amongst these they have a handful of videos showing Alton Towers in 1930 and 1966.
Garden Arts | 1930
This video starts off looking towards the Towers from the lake that now contains Battle Galleons. There is then an intertitle that describes the scene quite nicely "Temples peeping through the shady trees - fairy-like lakes and winding walks". Followed by a scene showing visitors walking through the Yew Arches, probably one of the most instantly recognisable features of the gardens. As you can see the arches have grown out quite a bit and become a little bit wonkier over the years.
The next scene shows the Colonade of the Muses, a nine bayed loggia topped with statues (Bonus fact, rumours suggest that the statues were originally housed in the conservatory's before being relocated in the 1820's, however this footage appears to debunk that theory.). In the background the Gothic Prospect Tower can be seen, presumably with its original roof decorations which have sadly been lost. Note, that there's no statues in the video still. Recent photo taken from the opposite direction.
The next scene takes us to the top of the gardens and the Choragic Monument. The view today is fairly similar albeit with some of the greenery cut back around the base.
Following this we're back towards the Colonade on the grassed area next to the retaining wall for the terraces above. This is more or less identical to what you would see now, except for any changes in planting. Then even further into the gardens past the Colonade and past the Yew Arches we are at the Corkscrew Fountain.
Continuing the theme of jumping around the gardens we are now back near the top at the Rock Garden, one of the prettiest parts of the gardens in my opinion. The video only shows the lower section of the Rock Garden and waterfall, it actually extends quite a bit more in height, as shown in the recent photo. This area does look slightly different, in the video it is quite overgrown where as now it has been cut back meaning the rocks are much more visible.
At the base of the rock garden is the Canal (the gardens feature a number of mock canals), this being the grandest. This is where the film takes us next.
We then get another intertitle reading "And discreetly round the corner in sheltered dales - the fairy fountains unique in their beauty". After this we descend to the lower reaches of the main gardens to the 44 foot tall Pagoda Fountain (another bonus fact, it was originally planned to be twice as tall). In the video it's nice to see the fountain actually operating, sadly it's not been in action for the last few seasons.
Fairy Foutains | 1930
This video largely utilises the footage contained in the previous video Garden Arts, with a few extra shots of the Pagoda Fountain. It does however have different intertitles, as seen below."A few miles from Uttoxeter, and once the seat of a famous Peer, Alton Towers is famed for its wonderful grounds.""Temples, lakes, winding walks and shady trees - leading to the unique fountains."
I hope you've enjoyed reading about and watching these two videos, I'll do something similar with the 1966 videos shortly. It may be perhaps more exciting if the gardens aren't really your thing - it features some rides!