The house and estate itself, was called Alveton Lodge, or Alton Lodge, during it's early life, and was the summer residence for the Earl of Shrewsbury and his family. When Charles, became the 15th Earl, he took more interest in the house and its grounds, and decided to extend it. Work began in 1800, and continued, with major work being done, or planned every year until 1852. The lakes, and pools were dug by hand, and water was diverted from a spring at Ramsor, two miles away. In the years 1806-1807, 5,000 conifers, and 8,000 other trees were planted in the grounds.
Major work on the house began in 1811, and after this was renamed to Alton Abbey, though it could hold no actual claim to be called an Abbey. In 1827, Charles died, but his nephew, John, shared his vision for the estate, and took over his work.
In 1837, the Shrewsbury's main residence in Heythrop burned to the ground and everything that was recovered, was moved to newly renamed Alton Towers. Further work was done on the house from 1839, when Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, began working for the Earl. Much of the house as it is seen today is the work of Pugin, and he also continued to develop the surrounding grounds and gardens.
When Earl John died in 1852, legal battles began by family members believing to have right to the estate. Henry Chetwynd Talbot, won the battle for the house, but due to the massive costs incurred, he would next sell the contents of the house. In 1860, with the Earl needing to raise money to restore parts of the house that were in dire need of repair, he decided to open the grounds to the public. That year he raised enough money from this to refurbish parts of the house.
It was the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury, Charles Henry Talbot, who then began to develop the estate as a tourist attraction in the early 1890's, He organised fetes, illuminations and firework displays, as well as exhibitions of instruments of torture, and balloon festivals.
In 1924, the Alton Towers estate was sold to a group of local businessmen. Once again, an auction was held, and all the contents of the house were sold to the highest bidder. The estate was still open to the public during this time, and some of the rooms were converted into cafes and rest rooms for the thousands of visitors it received every year.
Shortly after the outbreak of the second World War, the estate was requisitioned by the army to be used as a cadet training centre. During this time, no repairs were carried out, and so the buildings continued their demise. It wasn't until 1951, that the Towers were returned to the Alton Towers Company, and due to the post-war shortage of metals such as copper and lead, the whole interior of the house was removed for sale leaving what we see today, with only small glimpses of what once adorned the bare brick and stone walls.
The whole house was abandoned, with the exception of the Chapel, that housed a model railway, and the Armoury, that became a gift shop. In the 1970's, the new owners, decided to restore parts of the house, and reinforced the floors and ceilings to allow public access. A few attractions were constructed in the grounds to keep the public amused while they strolled around the estate.
In 1980, with John Broome in charge, things began to turn around for Alton Towers. He decided to turn the 500 acre site into a leisure park for the family. The park already had a few attractions, but he knew they needed something more. On land to the east of the Towers, he constructed the U.K.'s first double corkscrew rollercoaster. Visitors began to come from all over the country, and from the then on we know what happened.