Map of the month – Blackpool before the tower 1891

Blackpool

Blackpool (Ordnance Survey County Series 1:1,056 – Surveyed  C.1891, published in 1893)

For centuries Blackpool was a small hamlet by the sea. Its name stems from a historic drainage channel that ran over a peat bog, discharging discoloured water into the Irish Sea, which formed a black pool (on the other side of the sea, the name “Dublin” (Dubh Linn) is derived from the Irish for “black pool”).

By the middle of the 18th century, the practice of bathing in the sea to cure diseases was becoming fashionable among the wealthier classes, and visitors began making the trek to Blackpool for that purpose. The 1801 census records the town’s population at only 473, but by 1851 the population had risen to over 2,500.  However, Blackpool only grew into a substantial town when the railway was built connecting it to the industrial towns of the north. The first railway in the area opened in 1840 but it only ran as far as Poulton. In 1846 a branch line was built from Poulton to Blackpool, making it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach the coast.

Blackpool Tower was built between 1891 and 1894, but before the tower visitors flocked to Dr. Cocker’s Aquarium, Aviary and Menagerie, which had existed on the site since 1873. It was kept open to earn revenue while the tower building went up around it, and then became one of the tower’s major attractions. It housed 57 different species of fresh water and salt water fish and the largest tank held 32,000 litres of salt water. The menagerie and aviary, one of the finest collections in the country, included lions, tigers, and polar bears.

The Blackpool Tower Company bought the Aquarium on Central Promenade in 1890 with the intention of building a replica Eiffel Tower on the site. Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, designed the Tower and oversaw the laying of its foundation stone, on 29 September 1891

When the tower opened on 14 May 1894, 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top. Tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top (the option was 563 steps from the roof of the tower building to the flagpole at the top) and a further sixpence for entry to the circus.

The Tower Circus, which is positioned at the base of the tower between its four legs, first opened to the public on 14 May 1894 and has not missed a season since. The circus ring can be lowered into a pool of water that holds 42,000 gallons at a depth of up to 4 ft 6 inches, which allows for Grand Finales with Dancing Fountains. The Tower Circus is one of only four venues left in the world that can do this.

The tower was not painted properly during the first thirty years and became corroded, leading to discussions about its demolishing. However it was decided to rebuild it instead, and between 1921 and 1924 all of the steelwork in the structure of the tower was replaced and renewed.

With attractions like these, the building of the Promenade, the three Piers (North, Central and South), tram rides and the famous Illuminations, Blackpool continued to grow until by 1951 the population had grown to 147,000. Today the population of Blackpool has settled back to a healthy 142,000.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

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