For hundreds of years, Blackpool was little more than a quiet seaside village. It was hard to reach being surrounded by bogs and forests. It wasn’t until 1781 that the first road was built into the town, which enabled people to arrive by stagecoach. Even then the resort wasn’t easily accessible because the journey was uncomfortable and time consuming: it could take a whole day to travel from Manchester and two days from Yorkshire. It should be noted as well that there was very little in terms of recreational facilities for visitors in Blackpool at this time. There was a short narrow grass promenade, a theatre, a bowling green and an area for archery. The main attraction was the sea shore: people walked or rode along the sands and swam in the sea. They even drank the seawater which apparently was a highly fashionable thing to do in those days.
What really changed everything was the arrival of railway in the Blackpool area. In 1840 a railway was constructed with the original objective of transporting passengers to Fleetwood a town lying to the North of Blackpool. Sir Peter Hesketh, the founder of Fleetwood proposed to build a seaport and holiday resort on his land there. The development of Fleetwood never came to full fruition, however, and the railway ran into financial difficulties. It was only rescued by passengers from the Lancashire mill towns, many of whom went on from Poulton station to Blackpool traveling by horse drawn forms of transport such as wagons. In 1846 a railway station was constructed in Blackpool itself enabling visitors to come directly into the resort. It was now fairly cheap and easy to get to Blackpool and people began arriving in ever increasing and unexpected numbers. They came not only from Lancashire but from all over the North of England. In 1863 another railway station was built in the centre of Blackpool to help cope with the thousands of people who wanted to get to the resort.
The huge numbers of people now coming to Blackpool provided the impetus for local business people and the municipal authorities to improve recreational facilities. In the next forty years Blackpool was transformed. Three piers
were opened; Blackpool Tower was constructed, the Winter Gardens
and Opera House
were built, the Illuminations began, the development of the Golden Mile was initiated, and ambitious plans were put in place to create a large amusement park – which would eventually become Blackpool Pleasure Beach
, the most popular holiday attraction in Britain.
The infrastructure of the town was vastly improved. A gasworks was built with gas street lighting, a water company was formed and a piped water supply was provided, electric street lighting was introduced, and work began on the tramway system
. Some idea of the impact of tourism on the resort can be gauged from the fact that in the late nineteenth century Blackpool could accommodate around a quarter of a million visitors – over seven times the permanent population of 35,000 people. The expansion of tourism in the town saw an increase in the availability of Blackpool accommodation
including hotels, guest houses and holiday flats
. The success continued into the following century, with visitors staying in ever increasing numbers. At its peak, Blackpool was receiving around 19 million holiday makers a year – nearly half the population of England. Photographs of Blackpool in the period after the Second World War vividly illustrate the popularity of the resort, showing the entire length of the Promenade and beach crowded with people
In the early 1960’s Blackpool went into decline, as did all British holiday resorts. Just as cheap rail travel brought the crowds to Blackpool in its heyday so cheap air flights took them to the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean coast and their more dependable weather. However decline is a relative concept. Blackpool still attracts around ten million people every year and many supposedly flourishing resorts would consider themselves fortunate to have such large numbers of visitors.
Blackpool Tower - The History And Building Of Blackpool's Most Important Landmark
Blackpool Tower is undeniably the most famous symbol of the resort. Standing over 518 feet high it dominates the Promenade looming over the Golden Mile like a colossus. It is without doubt the most distinctive seaside building in Britain. The tower can be seen from all over Blackpool and its images are everywhere. It is depicted on ornaments souvenirs, brochures and business cards. Blackpool would be unthinkable without the this grand Victorian monument.
It was modelled on the work of Gustav Eiffel who, of course, had the distinction of creating the even more famous Eiffel Tower, and the Blackpool version is a little over half the height of its French counterpart. The actual design was by Charles Tuke and James Maxwell two Manchester architects who also supervised the construction of the building. In 1889 John Bickerstaffe (often described as ‘the father of Blackpool tower’) visited the Great Paris Exhibition during his term as Mayor of Blackpool, and was captivated by the sight of the tower there. It inspired him to create a similar landmark in his home town of Blackpool, and he organised a consortium of local businessmen to finance the project.
The Blackpool Tower Company was registered in February 1891 and the foundation stone was laid in September of that year. Three years later the work was complete. By the standards of the day it was a staggering achievement. When it was constructed it was regarded as the greatest single piece of British engineering of the time. Two thousand five hundred tons of steel, over ninety tons of cast steel and in excess of five million bricks were required in its completion and the total cost was around £300,000 which would be roughly twenty-one million pounds in modern currency. At any given time there were two hundred men working at great height to finish the work. Such is the construction of the tower that if it ever collapsed it would fall into the Irish Sea, rather than on the surrounding buildings – which will be reassuring for those people living in its vicinity.
The public were first admitted on May 14th 1894, Whit Sunday, and the price of entry was six pence with an additional six pence to go to the top. Blackpool tower
is a Grade I listed building and belongs to the World Federation of Great Towers, being the oldest tower on the membership list. It takes about seven years to paint the building and the painting is a continual process; as soon as the decorators have worked their way to the top, they start at the bottom again, using six tons of paint each time.
In addition to being a stunning piece of architecture, the tower is a multi-level entertainment complex, attracting around six hundred and fifty thousand visitors every year. The Majestic neo-baroque Tower Ballroom was the creation of the highly esteemed theatrical architect Frank Matcham and with its mahogany, walnut and oak floor, beautiful tiles with their Pre-Raphaelite figures, and large intricately ornate crystal chandeliers is regarded by many authorities as the most magnificent ballroom in the world. Every day throughout the holiday season, the ‘mighty’ Wurlitzer Organ rises from under the stage playing a traditional waltz or popular tune. Reginald Dixon who was resident organist in the ballroom between 1930 and 1970 had a jaunty way of playing which he made world famous as the ‘Blackpool Sound’, typified by his signature tune – “Beside the Seaside”.
The Tower Circus with its stunning golden Arabesque walls is situated in the basement auditorium. It is animal free and for the last four years has been voted Best UK Circus by the Circus Friends Association. The tower has an observation platform at four hundred feet above sea level, and on clear days this affords views of the Isle of Man, the Southern Lake District, North Wales and much of Lancashire; and the tower can also be seen from those places. Other attractions in the tower include an undersea world aquarium, dinosaur ride, adventure playground and the “Walk of Faith” - a two inch thick glass pane 380 feet above the ground which people are dared to walk across.
The tower is the centrepiece of the famous Blackpool illuminations
, on which occasions it is decorated with ten thousand light bulbs and it has a huge searchlight which sweeps across the town all evening. A nice illustration of the significance of the tower to the resort is provided by the telephone number it was assigned between 1913 and 1946. This simply stated: “Blackpool 1”, which seems a fitting tribute.
Blackpool and the Industrial Revolution
Blackpool is a holiday resort on the Lancashire coast in the North West of England. Attracting some ten million visitors a year, the town is the most popular coastal resort in Europe. Historically, Blackpool owes much its success to its proximity to the industrial towns of Lancashire with their large urban populations. Lancashire, and in particular Manchester, was the centre of the Industrial Revolution which took place in Britain during the nineteenth century. At this time Manchester was the greatest industrial City in the World; it was a centre of engineering and of every kind of manufacturing from needles to heavy machinery. Manchester was the focal point of the cotton trade (indeed it was known as “cottonopolis”) being surrounded by mill towns such as Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, and Oldham with their spinning and weaving industries. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked from the countryside and from further afield such as Ireland to work in these factories and mills, and the population of Manchester and the nearby mill towns expanded rapidly. By the middle of the nineteenth century Manchester alone had a population approaching half a million people. These developments took place around fifty or so miles from Blackpool – if only people could get there.