The site is home to the
Blackgang Chine amusement park, established in
1843 by Victorian entrepreneur Alexander Dabell,
whose descendants have owned it ever since. It
is allegedly the oldest theme park in the UK,
and famous for its life-size plastic dinosaurs.
Originally a general-purpose scenic and
curiosity park, it featured a whale skeleton and
landscaped paths down the chine to a waterfall
and the beach below. The paths were swept away
in the early 1900s, and the continuing coastal
erosion has since obliterated the chine itself
and forced the owners to repeatedly move the
cliff top facilities inland. The park's focus
now is themed entertainments for families with
young children. The same owners run a sister
site, the Robin Hill countryside adventure park.
The owners were considering
moving all of the attractions at Blackgang Chine
to Robin Hill due to the continuing erosion.
However it has been decided to phase out the
children's attractions, and aim for a more
adult-orientated heritage centre.
Blackgang is also the name of
the nearby village. According to a May 2000 talk
to the Isle of Wight Postcard Club by the
present owner, Mr Simon Dabell, the etymology is
simply "black pathway" (the original appearance
of the chine), but the theme park understandably
fosters the interpretation of a smuggling
origin. Thus visitors to the park are greeted by
a gigantic fibreglass smuggler between whose
legs they must pass to enter.
Cliff top walks in and around
the area give panoramic views of the English
Channel and the south-western Isle of Wight
coast. Blackgang is also notable for dinosaur
fossils and the nudist Blackgang Beach.
Blackgang was the birthplace
of the actress and comedienne Sheila Hancock.