1994 was a bit of an annus horibilis for Noel Edmonds. It signified the very moment that he overreached – over-estimated his popularity, and built not one but two theme parks based on his Saturday night TV show ‘Noel’s House Party’, and its terrifying, manic mascot, Mr Blobby.
The idea was to replicate Noel’s wacky world in real life, his tumbledown manor house – the hilariously-entitled ‘Crinkly Bottom’ – being at the centre of what was hoped would be a successful branching out into the leisure industry. A tangible extension of the Edmonds brand.
One site popped up at Cricket Park in Cricket St Thomas, Somerset, in the grounds of the existing manor house, these days a smart hotel in cider country.
In its grounds was built ‘Dunblobbin’, the home of Mr Blobby, Noel’s pink sidekick. The design was Tellytubbies-esque, a weird hovel with bulbous, chintzy, out-of-shape furniture, enough to send children screaming into the arms of their parents. There were gift shops, and the ‘Crinkly Bottom Haute Cuisine Emporium’ (or restaurant, to give it a less incessantly jovial name).
The outbuildings made up ‘Blobby Land’, which also featured picnic areas, food stalls, areas for arts and crafts, and watching wildlife. It was expected to be a money spinner.
But interest fatally dwindled, and after five years it closed down. And while the rest of the estate was renovated and converted into the hotel and wildlife park, Dunblobbin was left to rot and became overgrown. For a time, it became a ‘notorious’ spot for illegal raves. With graffiti daubed on its walls, its then deeply sinister appearance was documented by an urban explorer before its final demolition in 2014. “It was a very strange experience for me,” Urbanexboi admitted to the Daily Mail.
Scrawled on one wall in black paint was the wounding barb: “Noel Edmonds, stop pretending Deal or No Deal is more than it is.”
To add insult to an already fresh injury, it wasn’t the only failed theme park Noel could add to his CV of bitter disappointments. There was also a considerably less successful Mr Blobby park which also opened in the summer of 1994, in Happy Mount Park, near Morecambe.
Launched under Edmonds’ umbrella company the Unique Group, The Crinkly Bottom Theme Park was even less well received. It had promised to bring in 240,000 additional visitors to Morecambe every year, and was dubbed ‘the resort’s most ambitious tourism venture in decades’. ‘Blobby mania’ was promised. It was never delivered. Complaints flooded in that there wasn’t enough to do, and it was too expensive. “It certainly wasn’t Disney,” said local DJ Steve Middlesborough, who was at the opening. “People were coming up to me and asking ‘Where is it?’ And I told them: ‘You’ve just been through it!’”
6000 people signed a petition to scrap it. It closed after just 13 weeks, costing the city council £2.5 million. A lengthy and acrimonious legal battle followed, after which Noel was – amazingly – awarded £950,000 in damages. It was a huge scandal for the council, which still resonates today.
In 2004, a decade after its closure, council leader Ian Baker said: “I think Morecambe became briefly a laughing stock because of it, but I think it got over that.
“It has been a running sore in the reputation of the council for a very long time – I think those wounds are now healing… I think at long last we can start to put Blobby behind us.”
Perhaps we can, Ian. Perhaps we all can.