As one of England’s favourite seaside resorts, Blackpool has a long history of entertaining its customers for over 200 years.
With miles of sandy beach, a fairground unrivalled anywhere in the world and incredible views from the Tower, Blackpool is a town with a colourful past and a bright future.
Here are eight things you should know about the history of the town.
1. It began as a destination for sea bathers
Although now famous for its diverse entertainments, Blackpool owes its existence to an interest in sea bathing, first recorded there in the 1750s.
By the early 19th century, purpose-built facilities were being built for the resort’s customers.
Significant numbers of working people from manufacturing towns travelled in carts or on foot to enjoy Blackpool’s charms.
2. It rivalled Brighton as the resort of choice
When the railway arrived in the 1840s, Blackpool was just a large village. But during the mid 19th-century, it began to grow more quickly.
In the 1860s, two piers and a large hotel (the Imperial Hotel) opened, which gave Blackpool facilities to rival Brighton, then the resort of choice for the wealthy.
3. It had some of the earliest electric lights in the world
In the 1870s, Blackpool again demonstrated its ambition by the opening of one of the first Winter Gardens in England.
Next came an early aquarium and a set of electric street lights in 1879, which were among the earliest in the world.
Blackpool’s love affair with electricity continued in the 1880s with the creation of one of the world’s first electric tram lines.
4. Blackpool Tower was once Britain’s tallest building
During the 1890s, the seafront was adorned by the Tower, Britain’s tallest building when it opened in 1894. Its design was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Tower offered a huge range of entertainment for the entry price of sixpence. For this fee, visitors would find an array of attractions including a zoo with big cats, a monkey house and aviary, a refreshment bar and roof gardens.
5. It’s been called one of the wonders of the world
In 1919, commentator Thomas Luke celebrated Blackpool as ‘one of the wonders of the world’. Fifteen years later, the writer J. B. Priestley declared it ‘the great roaring spangled beast’ in his book English Journey.
Blackpool had created entertainment on an industrial scale. Visitors could enjoy the elegant interiors of the Winter Gardens, walk along its three piers, ride increasingly exhilarating (actually terrifying) roller coasters and marvel at the breathtaking views from the Tower.
6. At its peak, it drew around 10 million visitors per year
In the 1930s, Blackpool’s numerous theatres and cinemas could seat more than 60,000 people each night.
After the First World War, the Blackpool Corporation undertook substantial investment to give the Victorian resort a fresh look and modern facilities.
This included a vast new lido, an indoor swimming pool, tram stations and a very early multi-storey bus station and car park for the growing number of visitors arriving by bus and car.
7. It became less popular after the Second World War
Blackpool remained England’s busiest resort following the Second World War, but a growing number of its traditional visitors could now afford holidays abroad or were attracted to other British destinations.
Blackpool was also perceived by some to be old-fashioned and run-down. The council responded to these concerns in 2003, publishing a plan of proposals to regenerate the town’s distinctive neighbourhoods, its town centre and the seafront.
8. It’s being regenerated
In recent decades there have been major investments in Blackpool, transforming the arrival experience for motorists, creating new sea defences and building a modern promenade and tram system.
In 2006, a heritage initiative was launched and many historic buildings have since been refurbished. The streets have been repaved and new, futuristic lighting has been installed.
The Winter Gardens and the Tower were bought by Blackpool Council in 2010 and ambitious restoration programmes have begun to revive these key attractions. We have contributed grant funding towards repairing the Spanish Hall in the Winter Gardens.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite things about Blackpool in the comments below.