Britain’s answer to the Eiffel Tower and only five years younger, is the famous tower at Blackpool, for many decades the tallest building in the British Isles (besides the somewhat taller, short lived one at New Brighton.) The Blackpool Tower was inspired by the enormous success of the Eiffel Tower. Five million Accrington bricks, 2,500 tonnes of iron, 93 tonnes of cast steel were used to construct the tower. A workforce of 200 were employed on the tower’s construction, and it was opened to great fanfare on 14th May 1894. It is a Grade 1 listed building.
The Tower’s 125th celebration image. Source: Facebook
The tower is 518 feet to the top of the mast, the main observation deck is 380 feet, the upper enclosed observation deck is 401 feet. There are 563 steps in total from ground to the topmost floor of the tower.
Merlin Entertainments’ poster for the Tower’s 125th anniversary. Source: Linkedin
Placing the special 125th anniversary flag at the top of the tower! Source: Facebook
John Bickerstaffe had never been to Paris so had not seen the Eiffel Tower contrary to popular opinion. Instead it was the entrepreneur William Darker Pitt who conceived the idea. The rationale behind it was the new tower would be purely for pleasure just as the Eiffel Tower was, and generate lots of money. Blackpool Tower made £30,000 profit in the first two years of its existence.
In 1891 the Blackpool Tower Company was formed and in June of that year it held a board meeting at which John Bickerstaffe, Mayor of Blackpool, was present. It is said Bickerstaffe was appointed chairman of the company at this meeting, so he becomes a prominent person in the quest to build a tower on the Fylde coast.
Blackpool before the Tower was built. Source: Twitter
The tower was designed by James Maxwell and Charles Tuke from Manchester and built by Heenan and Froude. The company is notable for having employed the first ever electric crane in the world to assist in the tower’s construction.
Maxwell & Tuke – Plans for the Tower. Source: Grace’s Guide
Invite to the tower’s foundation stone ceremony, 25th September 1891. Source: Twitter
The tower’s foundations. Source: Twitter
The tower’s base takes shape. Source: Twitter
The tower going up. Source: Twitter
The foundation stone was laid on 25th September 1891 and the tower completed in December 1893. The buildings at the base of the tower were not completed and so the opening of the tower had to wait until this was done. And that happened on 14th May 1894 when three thousand people, having paid their 12p admission, were able to ascend the tower, and which meant the new lifts were practically working overtime!
Really nice early postcard view of the North Pier and the famous tower. Source: Twitter
No sooner than the Tower had been built came plans for a big wheel. Known as the Great Wheel it was built and opened in 1896 and the next few scenes show both tower and wheel.
The Tower and the Great (or Big) Wheel, probably early 1900s. Source: Twitter
Lovely view of the tower and the big wheel. Source: Twitter
The famous big wheel and the tower in the 1890s. Source: Twitter
The Tower probably circa 1900’s. Source: Facebook
There’s me thinking I’ll have to write about the famous trams, but I’d never be able to go one better than the excellent book ‘Always a tram in sight.’ Not to worry there’s actually a post in preparation which covers a subject common to Blackpool AND London – and its not trams!
I have been to Blackpool quite a few times and even documented the now lamented Fleetwood Tuesday (not the current Fleetwood Tram Sunday) this being the one day of the week when practically each and every one of Blackpool’s trams was dispatched to Fleetwood in order to serve the town’s highly popular market. This continued until about 2010. Today a number of extra trams are still dispatched to Fleetwood on Tuesdays but nothing on the scale it once was done.
The Great Wheel was dismantled in 1929 thus this aerial view of Blackpool Tower is probably late 1920s. Source: Heritage Open Days
The tower from the air. September 1929. Source: Twitter
Renewing a cross girder c 1933. Source: Twitter
Repair work to the Tower c1937. Source: Twitter
Seagulls galore and the Tower c1937. Source: Twitter
Inspecting the very top of Blackpool Tower probably 1938 (because of construction behind the Winter Gardens to build the new Opera House.) Source: Pinterest
The tower in post-war years. Source: Twitter
Fielding and Platt of Gloucester supplied equipment for the original hydraulic lifts. This was delivered to the tower in June 1893. The company had also provided hydraulic equipment for the Paris exhibition of 1889 (at which the Eiffel Tower was the star exhibition) although specifically what the equipment was for is not known.
Fielding & Platt also supplied equipment for another innovation used at Blackpool Tower. Earlier we saw that the tower had used the world’s first ever electrically operated cranes. It too used hydraulic power to assemble the thousands of rivets used in the construction of the tower, the tools being supplied by Fielding’s.
Heenan & Froude, as main contractors for the construction of the tower, were responsible for assembling the lifts. These worked for more than sixty years before being converted to electric operation in the fifties. Those later ones have since been replaced. In 1992 higher speed lifts were installed and these recently had a major overhaul.
Blackpool beauty contest with the tower in the background. 1954. Source: Twitter
Painting the Tower, prob early sixties. Source: Pinterest
Eric Morcambe, Ernie Wise and others get up to high jinks on the beach with the tower as background. Source: Twitter
The main public viewing floor (and the one where the lifts reach) is 380 feet high. The topmost floor, the fifth, was at 430 feet in height although its no longer open. Visitors can use four of the public levels, including the larger open air viewing balcony (the current topmost public floor) which was previously closed for many years.
King Kong at the Tower, 1984. Source: Pinterest
The much lamented Princess Diana visits Blackpool Tower 1992. Source: Twitter
The Queen visits Blackpool Tower for its 100th anniversary in 1994. Source: Twitter
The glass floor at the top of the tower, installed in 1998. Source: Twitter
Fantastic aerial view of Blackpool and its tower. Source: Twitter
What is the furthest one can see from Blackpool Tower? Well it depends on weather conditions and time of year. The Lake District is no problem much of the time when it is clear as its on the other side of Morecambe Bay. England’s other mountain range the Pennines can too be seen from Blackpool Tower.
Its just about possible to see Snowdon summit with the aid of powerful binoculars although one can more easily see Blackpool Tower from Snowdon. However the Great Orme can be seen fairly easily, as well as the Carneddau in general further back. The Isle of Man can be seen from Blackpool Tower no doubt and this Flickr image proves it whilst this image shows Blackpool Tower can be seen from Rivington near Bolton and it can also be seen from Pendle Hill.
Although Blackpool Tower can be seen from the many summits belonging to hills and mountains dozens of miles away its because there is nearly always a clear view in the direction of the tower itself. Naturally its much harder to see the various summits in question from the top of tower itself.
The tower lit up in 2018 for LGBT History Month. Source: Twitter
One of the tower’s gang of painters right at the very top! Source: Twitter
The guy who deals with the tower’s lights!
Unusual view looking up the centre of the tower where the lifts travel! Taken during engineering work. Source: Telegraph