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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > History > Local landmarks > Local landmarks: Blackpool Tower

Blackpool Tower

Local landmarks: Blackpool Tower

Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Blackpool Tower rises 518ft 9ins over the Lancashire coast...

Great Britain has some truly fantastic buildings of immense historical interest, one of them being Blackpool Tower, the county and indeed the town of Blackpool are very proud of this Grade 1 listed building.

The Tower has provided entertainment for the people of Britain for some 114 years. In that period of time - and through two world wars - the Circus has never missed a season.

But let's start from the beginning and one man's dream, Mr John Bickerstaff. He took pride in his hotel situated on the golden mile, and took a keen interest in the town of Blackpool. He was a town councillor, and was made Mayor in 1889. He took his family on holiday to Paris and fell instantly in love with Gustav Eiffel's tower. His immediate thoughts were, "I want one of those - this is just what Blackpool needs!" The town was rapidly becoming the number one resort in the country.

Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Blackpool Tower Ballroom

On returning home John Bickerstaff set up a committee, and on February 19th 1891 he set up the Blackpool Tower Company, and commissioned two architects from the city of Manchester - Messers Maxwell and Tuke.

John was informed that the cost for his venture would be £290,000 (£40m in today's money). How could he raise such a sum? He had a fantastic idea and contacted the cotton barons of Burnley, Blackburn and Preston, and found the funds.

The Tower took three years to build using 2,500 tons of steel and five million Accrington bricks. Sadly Maxwell and Tuke never witnessed the building's completion as both died a year before. Blackpool Tower was officially opened to the public of the United Kingdom on the 14th  May 1894. You can just imagine the proud moment as the doors opened for the first time.

The Tower stands some 518 feet nine inches. Maxwell and Tuke's design was ahead of its time, as in the event of the building collapsing it would fall directly in to the Irish Sea. In heavy winds the building will gently sway, what a magnificent Victorian engineering masterpiece.

Blackpool Tower Circus

Blackpool Tower Circus

The Circus and Ballroom were designed by Mr Frank Matchum, and the ballroom  can only be described as stunningly beautiful - the artwork is truly amazing.

Painting the Tower's steel takes some seven years and the lads who paint it are lovingly called stick men. The illuminations are undoubtedly the resort's busiest time when the Tower is covered with 10,000 light bulbs. The building had a telephone number that had the simple phone number Blackpool 1.

For me personally, I think the sound of that Wurlitzer organ playing "I do like to be by the sea side" makes any true blooded Lancastrian's hair stand up on end. For many years the great Reginald Dixon played this superb instrument, and was a regular on BBC radio. He was followed by Mr Phil Kelsall.

In 1956 the ballroom was nearly lost due to a discarded cigarette, causing some considerable damage, fortunately some of the original workmen were still alive and they restored it to its original state.

In terms of ghost sightings the Tower has many.They say Bickerstaff loved the building so much he couldn't bear to leave it. The Ballroom seems to be the most haunted area, an elderly gentleman and a little girl, both dressed in Victorian period dress, have been seen in the balcony overlooking the stage area.  They have been seen on a number of occasions these past two centuries. The Circus also boasts a Victorian lady who sits by the orchestra area complete with Victorian bonnet and fan.

For me personally I regard this outstanding building as a national treasure, and rate its importance to be in the same league as York Minster and Stonehenge. As for John Bickerstaff, he was knighted and will go down as one of Blackpool's famous sons - his dream still providing entertainment in the 21st century.

Article sent in by website user Simon Entwistle

The views expressed on this page are those of the contributor and the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the BBC.


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last updated: 18/04/2008 at 15:03
created: 15/04/2008

Have Your Say

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animals have not appearedin the towercircusperformancesince 1990 for how many years did animals appear in the circus

Hi I have just come back from blackpool and I visited the tower I fell in love with it the building is amazing.I took a lot of photos while I was there and have some strange orbs that apered when I downloaded the photos on my laptop.The orbs are on photos that were taken in the ballroom in the balcony.

mark tomkiss
blackpool is full of heritage, donkeys, the piers the list is endless. lets not let them have a big money casino n long live the seaside family resort blackpool!!!!!!!!!!!!

denise procter
blackpool is good to look a round

Shibat Whardell
According to family history my great granfather Simeon Wardle was scenery painter who we are told was responsible for painting the ceilings in the Tower Ballroom. Is there any record of this?

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