NORTH WEST – Blackpool

NORTH WEST – Blackpool

NORTH WEST - Blackpool

NORTH WEST – Blackpool

Department of Tourism & Attractions, 1 Clifton Street, Black-pool, FYI 1JD. 0253 25212.

(posted Nov 2011): Preston (0772 59014).

Ever since Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Houghton laid a road across the salt marshes from Preston to the edge of the Fylde coast people have made their way to this nub of land, which shoulders the Irish Sea, to enjoy themselves. The hamlet of Blackpool, within the township of Layton-with-Warbrick, does not seem at first sight to have had much going for it. The sands were shifting, the cliffs were slipping down into the sea, there were no great houses or grand families and the only reference to it in the history books records a brief skirmish with the Danes – but then they skirmished everywhere.

Since the eighteenth century Blackpool has grown into one of the great pleasure-satisfying centres in Britain. Unashamedly it lays out its wares to entertain: ‘Give ’em what they want’, was what Bill Holland set out to do a hundred years ago and Blackpool has been doing just that ever since. The popularity of the town was assured with the coming of the railway in 1846 with connections to Manchester and Leeds, Bolton, Liverpool and Scotland. Blackpool then sported bathing machines and sand-yachts, the inns had their singers and musicians, places of entertainment were opening up and the beer-houses were thriving. Theatres were opening, as were the Winter Gardens and the piers, and there were Sunday concerts.

Oscar Wilde lectured at the Theatre Royal on 11 December 1883 to a mere fifty people on ‘The House Beautiful’, the takings being just 14 shillings. Sarah Bernhardt had been at the Winter Gardens the year before, as Blackpool’s first real international star attraction, in Dumas’ La Dame aux Camellias and had been a spectacular flop. The play was in French, which few could understand, and in the event the acoustics were so appalling that nobody could hear her. Since then star names have shone through Blackpool nights and days – Reginald Dixon, Houdini, George Formby, who at one time got the staggering pay of �140 a week, before World War II – and there is hardly a top entertainer who has not been here and today you can almost guarantee that a top comedy show from television will be here ‘live, on stage’l

The Tower, open Easter to October, was so designed that if it collapsed all four thousand tons of it would fall into the sea. But there it stands today, 5 l8ft 9in to the top of the flagpole, its two lifts waiting to take you up 480ft, and its legs firmly bedded down four square in 35sq ft of concrete.