Central Beach, Blackpool
Google Street View (approximate)
In 1919 Thomas Luke celebrated Blackpool as “one of the wonders of the world”; and fifteen years later J B Priestley proclaimed it “the great roaring spangled beast”. Both were alluding to the scale, colour and brilliant lights of Britain’s most popular resort, which provided visitors with entertainment and accommodation on an industrial scale. The Winter Gardens and The Tower offered holidaymakers opulence for sixpence, relying for their success on the millions of visitors who arrived each year, and Blackpool’s three piers and the rides at the Pleasure Beach were further evidence that the technologies that had transformed industry were providing visitors with new thrilling pleasures.
“Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage”, Allan Brodie & Matthew Whitfield, 2014
By the middle of the 18th century, the practice of sea bathing to cure diseases was becoming fashionable among the wealthier classes, and visitors began making the arduous trek to Blackpool for that purpose. In 1781, Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Hoghton built a private road to Blackpool, and a regular stagecoach service from Manchester and Halifax was established. A few amenities, including four hotels, an archery stall and bowling greens, were developed, and the town grew slowly. The 1801 census records the town’s population at 473. . . . >Blackpool rose to prominence as a major centre of tourism in England when a railway was built in the 1840s connecting it to the industrialised regions of Northern England. The railway made it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach Blackpool, triggering an influx of settlers . . . The growth was intensified by the practice among the Lancashire cotton mill owners of closing the factories for a week every year to service and repair machinery. These became known as wakes weeks. Each town’s mills would close for a different week, allowing Blackpool to manage a steady and reliable stream of visitors over a prolonged period in the summer.
In those early 1860’s there was little entertainment to enjoy in Blackpool. The original Uncle Tom’s Cabin was offering refreshments, music and dancing. What remained of the first building was demolished in 1907. It had to be knocked down – because the crumbling cliff it perched on was eroding rapidly. The current Uncle Tom’s was built afterwards. In 1863 North Pier was the first of the three to be built – made in cast iron on screwed piles. It’s now a Listed Building. In 1867 the Prince of Wales Arcade opened (now the site of The Blackpool Tower). The following year saw new attractions opened including:
– the Talbot Road Assembly Rooms and Theatre Royal (the former Yates’s Wine Lodge and Addison’s night club)
– South Jetty
Central Pier, only became well used in 1870 when Robert Bickerstaffe introduced open-air dancing for the “working classes”.
North Pier, Blackpool
Publiser: “J M & Co London Series”
Google Street View.
Residents met in December 1861 to discuss a new pier and work began in June 1862. Designed by Eugenius Birch, it opened on May 21st 1863. A landing/fishing jetty was added in 1866 and extended in 1869, bringing the pier’s length to 1410 feet. The pier was damaged in 1867 by wreckage from Nelson’s former flagship, the ‘Foudroyant’, which had been moored off the pier for an exhibition. In the 1870s, the pier-head was enlarged and the Indian Pavilion and bandstand were built. There were further ship collisions with the pier in 1892 and 1897. The deck was widened in 1896, and shops and an arcade were added to the shoreward end in 1903.
National Piers Society
In 1861 a group of the town most prominent movers and shakers had gathered in the Clifton Arms Hotel to discuss the idea of building a Pier. There the most ‘in vogue’ Victorians could exercise in the pastime of promenading in the open air. It was suggested in response to the new pier which had opened at nearby Southport. . . . Blackpool North Pier was built between 1862 and 1863 by R.Laidlow and Son, to the designs of Eugenius Birch. Eugenius Birch was most acclaimed for his seaside pier constructions. During his life he was responsible for no fewer than 14 of them, including some of the best known ones. They include Brighton West and of course Blackpool North Pier. Most piers of the era were made using cast iron. Birch thought that if wrought iron was to be used it would take a lot of repairing if the pier were to be damaged. North Pier was constructed with cast iron screw piles and columns, in turn supporting iron girders and a wooden deck.
North Pier is the most northerly of the three coastal piers in Blackpool, England. Built in the 1860s, it is also the oldest and longest of the three. Although originally intended only as a promenade, competition forced the pier to widen its attractions to include theatres and bars. Unlike Blackpool’s other piers, which attracted the working classes with open air dancing and amusements, North Pier catered for the “better-class” market, with orchestra concerts and respectable comedia.ns
. . .
The pier, which cost £11,740 to build, originally consisted of a promenade 468 yards (428 m) long and 9 yards (8.2 m) wide, extending to 18 yards (16 m) wide at the pier-head. The bulk of the pier was constructed from cast iron, with a wooden deck laid on top. . . . The pier was intended primarily for leisure rather than seafaring; for the price of 2d (worth approximately £4.90 in 2012) the pier provided the opportunity for visitors to walk close to the sea without distractions. This fee was insufficient to deter “trippers'”, which led to Major Preston campaigning for a new pier to cater for the ‘trippers’. In 1866, the government agreed that a second pier could be built, despite objections from the Blackpool Pier Company that it was close to their pier and therefore unnecessary . . . . To differentiate itself from the new pier, North Pier focused on catering for the “better classes”, charging for entry and including attractions such as an orchestra and band concerts, in contrast to the Central Pier (or the “People’s pier”), which regularly had music playing and open-air dancing. The pier owners highlighted the difference, charging at least a shilling for concerts and ensuring that advertisements for comedians focused on their lack of vulgarity.
Pier, 1862-3, by Eugenius Birch, contractors R. Laidlaw and Son of Glasgow. Cast iron screw piles and columns supporting iron girders and wooden deck 1,405 feet long, with jetty of 474 feet (added 1867). Pierhead enlarged with wings 1874 (for Indian Pavilion later destroyed by fire) now has modern theatre on north side, and curved glass and iron shelters on south side. Promenade deck lined each side by wooden benches with ornamental open-work backs of cast iron: a continuous band of stars in circles surmounted by semicircular fan-shaped backs in groups of three, the centre one having a grotesque in the middle, and the groups divided by voluted armrests. Two pairs of original kiosk-bays on deck have kiosks built c. 1900: each an elongated hexagon of wood and glass, with 2-tier swept- out lead roof bearing octagonal lantern of blue glass and minaret roof with finial.