Mrs Vera Bryan, obituary


Drayton Manor Theme Park regrets to announce that the park’s co-founder, Mrs Vera Bryan, passed away peacefully this morning (Wednesday 16th October) at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.

Mrs Bryan, 96, dedicated her life to Drayton Manor and her family. Her passion helped bring joy and laughter to millions of families from the UK and abroad.

After leaving school at the age of 14, Mrs Bryan began working at California-in-England pleasure park in Berkshire, which was owned by her father, and by 1935, Vera had taken over the running of the tea shop with all the responsibilities that role involved.

However, following the outbreak of the Second World War, California-in-England was shut and the restaurant was converted into a factory manufacturing aircraft parts. Mrs Bryan understood her duty and swapped her apron for overalls and spent five years working at the factory, much of the time as a welder.

It was in May 1942 that Vera met her husband, Mr George H H Bryan and they married later that year.

California-in-England reopened after the end of the war but by the late 1940s and inspired by her father’s business, Mrs Bryan and her husband were ready to embark on their own legacy – Drayton Manor Theme Park.

The couple first arrived at the 80-acre site near Tamworth 64 years ago today, 16th October 1949, and the land was covered with 4ft-high brambles, mounds of rubbish and old army huts. Undaunted by the challenge, the couple, along with a small, dedicated team of engineers and mechanics, spent six months transforming the site.

In April 1950, Drayton Manor Park opened and for decades, Vera and her husband worked side-by-side transforming the small attraction into a major national tourism destination. From organising the catering and supervising staff, to making curtains and other furnishings for the tea rooms and restaurant, Mrs Bryan was an inspiration to all.

In addition to the running of Drayton Manor Theme Park, being a mother to Colin, Jane and Andrew, grandmother and great grandmother, Mrs Bryan was also a passionate supporter of various charities, including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). In 2004, Vera named the new Drayton Manor lifeboat, which was purchased following fundraising activities by the park.

Mrs Bryan’s passing comes less than a month after her husband’s, who died peacefully on Friday 20th September and they are now reunited once more.

We ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this sad time. Mr and Mrs Bryan will be remembered and never forgotten.

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