History of Blackpool

History of Blackpool

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History of Blackpool

The Fylde coast, once an area of forest and impassible bogs, now boasts UK's number one tourist resort. Blackpool as we now know it began in the 1700's when word was spread that 'at Blackpool, near the sea, there are accommodations for people who come to bathe.' The lower classes started to visit the town, not for recreation, but for health reasons and could not resist paddling in the sea.

Holiday Accommodation (1780s)

By the late 1780's four substantial hotels had been erected to cater for the more well-to-do visitor. Development of the resort was painfully slow until the early 1800's when Henry Banks, often referred to as the Father of Blackpool purchased large amounts of land and built Blackpool's first holiday cottages whilst his son-in-law Dr John Cocker built the first assembly rooms, much of which still stands today.


Whilst Blackpool was fast becoming popular with visitors all over the United Kingdom, travel to the town involved much discomfort with a journey from Yorkshire taking 2 days and one day from Manchester. In the 1840's the situation was vastly improved with the development of the railways.

Gas lighting was introduced in 1852, but piped water was not brought into the town until 1864. Entertainment was still scarce in Blackpool. Uncle Tom's Cabin, little more than a shack at this time had started to provide refreshments, music and dancing.

Piers (1863, 68 and 93)

The first of the famous Three Piers, the North Pier, was erected in 1863 and soon became a meeting place for the 'more exclusive' visitor. Four years later the South Jetty (now known as Central Pier) was erected along with a number of additional assembly rooms and theatres, but was not well patronised until 1870 when open-air dancing for the working classes was introduced.

The South Pier was the last to be erected, to compliment the new development of South Shore when John Outhwaite erected an American Carousel amongst the sand dunes, and a partnership with George Bean, who leased an adjacent 32-acre site for an amusement park - the first seeds of the modern Pleasure Beach.


Pleasure Gardens boasting a lake, racecourse, football and cricket ground, skating rink, aviary, monkey house, ballroom, theatre and many other attractions were opened to the East of the town, but as the attractions by the sea grew the popularity of these amusements waned and eventually closed.

In 1875 a private Aquarium and Menagerie was opened to the public, part of which survives in Blackpool Tower to this day. Despite the opening of additional theatres and play houses, the town was still seen to be lacking indoor facilities and so the Wintergardens Company was formed to build an indoor promenade and pavilion. It opened with much pomp and ceremony on the 11th July 1878.

Winter Gardens (1878)

With the extension of the railways, the growth in attractions and accommodation as well as the Council's concerted efforts to promote the town, Blackpool's popularity grew once again. A previous novelty ride at the Winter Gardens was the foundation of the UK's first permanent electric tramway was introduced in 1885. The Blackpool Tram was born.

Illuminations (1877,1897,1912-)

The population of Blackpool was now almost double the previous decade and Blackpool became an official Borough. However the following year, 1877, saw the resort in a midst of economic depression. The Council tried to find a saviour, and save the town from impending economic failure and decided to hold a grand fete and carnival between the piers to publicise the installation of its pioneering electric street lighting. Blackpool Illuminations in its infancy! Over 100,000 people of all classes flocked to the town.

The first illuminated trams were seen in 1897 as part of the celebrations for the Queens Jubilee, but static illuminations were first erected in 1912 when the Princess Parade was opened. They were so well received that it was decided that they would be revived in the late summer. It was a season that broke all records and thus became an annual event. The Great War stopped the shining of the lights between 1914 and 1925 and were again discontinued between 1939 and 1948. In 1955 the Borough boundaries were extended and whilst the principal role of the town continues to be that of a holiday resort many other industries now form part of the employment sector.

Trams (1885-)

The Blackpool Electric Tram Company was formed in 1885 making it the first town to have such a system. The first trams offered free rides along the promenade and were also used to transport building materials around the rapidly expanding town. There were numerous difficulties with the tram system, mainly due to local weather conditions and it was not uncommon to see trams being pulled by horses. As the town's population grew inland tracks were laid down. The lines often ran through rural areas and the trams were used to transport farm produce as well as passengers.

In bids to improve the tramways many designs of trams have been seen, a few of which are still in use today. By the 1970's the use of the inland routes had declined and so were discontinued leaving the only route that of the main promenade. However due to an increase in road traffic, increased car parking fees and environmental awareness the use of trams has seen a revival. In Blackpool the trams have never been more popular.


The 1890s saw the development of entertainment attractions with the building of the Opera House in the Wintergardens Complex, Blackpool Tower including the circus and ballroom. The South Pier and the Grand Theatre also opened in this decade along with the Gigantic Wheel that at 220 feet high was the largest in the world (now demolished but Central Pier boasts a slightly smaller version).

Golden Mile (1900s)

The Golden Mile began its development when stall holders were banned from the beach and had to sell their wares from the gardens and forecourts of houses on the promenade. The properties along what was then known as the 'Golden Acre' developed into open fronted shops and amusements. The Golden Mile remained much the same until 1964 when the Central Station was closed and demolished leading to the rejuvenation of the whole area. A few buildings such as the Waxworks remain but most of the original area has been replaced by luxury arcades and more modern attractions.

Pleasure Beach (1905)

At the same time the foundations for the famous Blackpool Pleasure Beach began in the sand dunes beyond the South Shore, which was for many years home to the gypsies. Over the years many attractions have been added to the first rides to create the present 40 acre theme park.

Recent Developments

In the last twenty years the town has seen the development of their first indoor shopping centre, the opening of the M55 making it even easier to reach the town by road, the building of the Sandcastle Waterworld and the Sealife Centre.


Blackpool economy is still dominated by tourism in terms of entertainment and accommodation. However the town is gaining a reputation as a good quality shopping centre. The Council continues to promote other interests in industrial expansion to ensure the town remains prosperous.

Future of Blackpool

'Blackpool's Masterplan' is the exciting new project that aims to rejuvenate the town both in terms of visitor attractions and local quality of life. Blackpool Council believes that the government's proposed relaxation of the gaming laws has opened up the gates of opportunity for a rejuvenation program that will ensure that Blackpool remains the UK's number one resort for the twenty-first century. Whilst it is believed that the development of Casino Hotels and their attractions will bring a flood of investment to the town, the Council has assured that with or without the casinos Blackpool will undergo an ongoing plan of transformation.

In the years to come visitors can expect to see an improved main entrance to the town, enhanced setting for the football grounds, an extended and improved Pleasure Beach, rejuvenated and extended shopping centres, a new conference centre, the restoration of many older Victorian-style buildings and the transformation of the famous three piers, as well as improvements to pedestrian and public transport accessibility. It is estimated that to bring the plan to completion will take ten to fifteen years, however some major improvements are already being seen in Blackpool today.


More information about Blackpool, it's history and future can be found:
Websites: Blackpool Council  Blackpool Tourism  Blackpool's Masterplan
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