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Byline: jon griffin Business Editor

DRAYTON Manor Park founder George Bryan, who turned 80 acres of wasteland into one of the UK's most successful tourist attractions, has died, aged 92.

The businessman, who had been ill for some time, passed away in his sleep at his home on the theme park estate in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Mr Bryan, OBE, and wife Vera bought the derelict Peel Estate for PS12,000 in October 1949 - complete with brambles, mounds of rubbish, old army huts and pastureland.

He has said of the original venture: "The estate was a total rubbish heap when we took it over. Much of the ground was swamped and both lakes were blocked up with all kinds of rubbish. People in the locality thought we were barmy to want to undertake such a project."

The park opened at Easter 1950, with one tiny restaurant, a tearoom, three handoperated rides, six rowing boats, pedal cars and a set of second-hand dodgems.

"In the wake of the war, Britain was still a destitute country,'' Mr Bryan had said.

''It was almost impossible to buy anything new - and food rationing was still in existence. We were truly living in the land of make-do and mend." The park has remained in family hands ever since and has grown into one of the UK's most popular tourist attractions, with visitors from as far afield as Ireland, Norway and Japan.

The year to February 2013 was the second best year in Drayton's history, with around 1,120,000 visitors to the now 280-acre site.

Mr Bryan, who is survived by his wife Vera, now aged 95, was awarded the OBE in 2004 for his contribution to tourism and hospitality.

The couple had three children, Colin - currently chief executive at Drayton - Andrew and Jane. Colin's sons William and George and niece Helen Pawley, are all involved with the running of the park.

A statement from Drayton Manor Park said yesterday: "George Bryan inspired all people he met, with his passion and humility. He was also a known philanthropist, supporting a number of local charities, which is part of his legacy.'' our say: page 22


George Bryan at Drayton Manor and, inset, one of the park's rides.

Revellers at the park in the 1950s, George and Vera Bryan, below left, and with their family, below.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 21, 2013
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