Blackpool Out of Season


Blackpool Promenade looking south (2)

Last week I wrote a post about our day out to the pine woods and sand dunes at Formby, a few miles down the coast from my hometown of Southport. It was fantastic for me to be by the sea again. I can’t tell you how much I miss it…

The following day, we decided to be totally reckless and head off to Blackpool:

Location map of Blackpool (2)

Map of Lancashire with Blackpool highlighted. Source: OS Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Creative Commons.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the town in saying that, it’s just that in February many seaside towns are notoriously ‘dead’ and, on this occasion, Blackpool proved to be no exception.

Here are a few photos of the Promenade as we walked along it. Admittedly the absence of sunshine didn’t help . . .

Like most seaside towns around Britain, Blackpool’s heyday has been and gone. The 1950s and 60s saw these towns thriving – until a mix of factors, including cheaper air fares, longer holidays, higher pay etcetera – led to the great increase in Brits heading abroad in the following decades, mostly to Spain and other Mediterranean countries. The British seaside towns saw a gradual decline, many looking very sorry for themselves and sadly neglected. (But it’s good to see that many are now undergoing a ‘rejuvenation process’.)

Blackpool got its name from a historic drainage channel called Spen Dyke, which ran over a peat bog. Blackened water was discharged into the Irish Sea, forming a black pool on the other side of the sea. Dublin (or Dubh Linn) comes from the Irish name for ‘black pool’.

The area behind the town, known as the Fylde, was once inhabited by a Celtic tribe called the Setantii, a sub tribe of the Brigantes (whose most famous queen was Cartimandua, who stayed loyal to the Romans at the time of the Boudica rebellion).

Cartimandua delivering Caractcus to the Romans

Caractacus, King of the Silures, being delivered to the Roman general, Ostorius, by Cartimandua. Author: Francesco Bartolozzi (publisher, printer: 1728-1815). Public Domain

The area developed very slowly for hundreds of years, some of the small, coastal villages eventually becoming part of Blackpool. But it wasn’t until the 18th century, when the practice of sea bathing to cure diseases became fashionable with the wealthier classes, that Blackpool really began to grow.

By 1781 a private road was built to the town and a regular stagecoach service to Manchester and Halifax started. A few amenities, hotels, an archery stall and a bowling green developed – and the town steadily grew By 1801, the population was 473. But the most important factor in Blackpool’s early growth was the arrival of the railways. By 1851 the population had reached 2,500.

With the sudden increase of visitors came the need for more accommodation, and more attractions. Gas lighting was introduced in 1852 and piped water in 1854.

By this time, the Lancashire cotton industry was thriving and it became the practice among mill owners to close for one week a year for servicing and repairing machines. Many mill workers would stream into Blackpool. Fortunately, each mill closed for a different week, enabling the town to keep a steady flow of visitors throughout the summer.

Between 1863 and 1893, three piers were constructed out over the sea (North, Central and South Piers) – and Blackpool proudly became the only town in Britain with three piers.

Blackpool North Pier opening. Author: Mr. W. Woods of Liverpool, 1863. Public Domain

Blackpool North Pier opening. Author: Mr. W. Woods of Liverpool, 1863. Public Domain

The Winter Gardens (a larger entertainment complex including a variety of venues, including a theatre and ballroom and conference facilities) was opened in 1878.


And the town’s most famous building, the Blackpool Tower, was first opened to the public in 1894.


Blackpool Tower, general view. Author: Creative Commons

Inspired by the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, Blackpool Tower was built at a total cost of £290,000 (for design and construction). It is now a Grade 1 listed building. It houses several attractions, including the famous Blackpool Tower Circus and equally famous ballroom:

Jazz event in the Tower Ballroom. Author Lukasz Nurczynski. Creative Commons

Jazz event in the Tower Ballroom. Author Lukasz Nurczynski. Creative Commons

At 518 feet high, it is the 103rd tallest freestanding building in the world. On clear days it can be seen from as far away as North Wales and the Lake District. At the summit is a flagpole and buried beneath the foundations is a time capsule. How exciting! (No, I’m not being sarky.) The picture below is looking south from the top of the Tower.  The Central and South Piers can be seen.

Blackpool's ' Golden Mile' viewed from the top of the Tower. From Author: Mike Hartley. Creative Commons

Blackpool’s ‘ Golden Mile’ viewed from the top of the Tower. From Author: Mike Hartley. Creative Commons

Two years after the Tower was completed, the Pleasure Beach (amusement park/fairground) was founded and has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in the UK and one of the top twenty most visited amusement parks.

Blackpool 'Pleasure Beach'. Author Gambitek. Creative Commons

Blackpool ‘Pleasure Beach’. Author Gambitek. Creative Commons

It holds the record for having the most roller coasters in Europe. Of the ten it has, five are wooden.

In 1897, Blackpool became the first municipality in the world to have electric street lighting as long stretches of the Promenade were wired. This lighting, and the accompanying pageants, played a big part in the development of the Blackpool illuminations in the autumn – a Lights Festival which runs for around 60 days.

Illuminated Trawler at Blackpool. Author Mark Jobling. Public Domain

Illuminated Trawler at Blackpool. Author Mark Jobling. Public Domain

Blackpool has seen many changes in fortune over the years, but it still has the reputation of being one of the UK’s most well known seaside resorts. The following picture (which is looking north) shows what the Promenade was like in 1898:

Blackpool Promenade c 1898. Author Detroit Publishing Co. under license from Photoglob Zurich. Public Domain

Blackpool Promenade c 1898. Author Detroit Publishing Co. under license from Photoglob Zurich. Public Domain

Today, Blackpool manages to maintain a steady stream of holidaymakers and day trippers during the summer, and the town still has a thriving tram route, which runs from Starr Gate to the south of the town to the fishing port of Fleetwood to the north – a distance of 9.9 miles:

Tram at Tower tram stop. Author: Chris Wharton. Creative Commons

Tram at Tower tram stop. Author: Chris Wharton. Creative Commons

Large numbers of people visit the illuminations every year. In 2016 they will be ‘on’ from September 2nd until November 6th (66 days). As a child, my parents took us to see the illuminations on several occasions, and I found the lights, the Disney characters and all the other features totally magical.

Blackpool Illuminations and Tower. Author: Mark S. Jobling. Public Domain

Blackpool Illuminations and Tower. Author: Mark S. Jobling. Public Domain

References: a variety of Wikipedia pages (for images other than my own, plus additional historical detail).

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
This entry was posted in Travel and History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Blackpool Out of Season

  1. I nearly got to Blackpool once; we ended up at Scarborough instead!

    Great pics again, Millie!

    Hedgey xx

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Hedgeblog! Well, Scarborough’s a lovely town, Hedgeblog, so you probably made a good choice! I’ve been to Scarborough a few times. I have to confess, I’ve never been a great fan of Blackpool since I outgrew my childhood love of the ‘lights’.As I come from Southport, I see Blackpool as a place lacking in the elegance and beauty that Southport had in earlier days. Unfortunately, being ‘taken over’ by Merseyside in the 70s ruined Southport for several years. I was horrified at how run down it had become when we went back for visits. Now they’ve ploughed some money in and remedied things. But Blackpool was never a ‘nice’ looking place to me. 🙂

  2. anroworld says:

    Lovely, so interesting, I found out so much! Fantastic!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Ann! Although Blackpool isn’t my favourite seaside town, I find its history interesting. But it’s still a popular place with many holidaymakers. 🙂

  3. I admit I don’t like Blackpool in the least. Mind, I haven’t been there for a very long time.

    • milliethom says:

      I can only agree with you, Bekki. I was trying not to make my opinion too obvious in the post, but Blackpool isn’t very impressive. It’s so different as a seaside place to my hometown of Southport. Our visit the other week was the first time I’d been there since the mid 80s. It does have an interesting history – but then again, most places do if you look into it. 🙂

  4. This place is so beautiful

  5. Lina says:

    Great post! I loved the pictures….I hope you are doing fine with the book and everything..ATB!

  6. A nice read about Blackpool and lovely pics too Millie:) hope everything is good at your end 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Freda. Blackpool’s one of those places that people either love or hate. I must confess, it’s not my choice of holiday resort – but I don’t like amusement arcades and ‘laid on’ entertainment. I just wanted to see if the place had changed in the 30 years since I last visited. But to be fair, it was February, and the ‘bleakness’ was to be expected.
      Yes, I am fine. Thank you for asking. I’m still busy writing my books (Book 3 of my trilogy and a book of short stories and flash fiction). I really wish I had more time for my blog. I miss being on it regularly. I hope to be back to normal later this year. Hope you are keeping well, too. I’ll be over to your blog later on today. 🙂

  7. cynthiamvoss says:

    Interesting photos and info, Millie. I like the tidbit about the mills being closed and the town having a steady stream of visitors. I imagine how people used to look forward to their “beach days,” much like I do in the summer.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. You’re right. In those days, people got very few days off work, and a trip to ‘the seaside’ would have meant the world to people from the mill towns inland. And, of course, they helped those seaside towns to grow and flourish. It’s an interesting period of history (during the ‘Industrial Revolution’, I mean.) We have things so easy nowadays by comparison. 🙂

      • cynthiamvoss says:

        We do have things easier today, but sometimes I feel that all of the advances since those old days have made life overly complicated for us!

      • milliethom says:

        I can’t disagree with that, Cynthia! I’m hopeless with anything remotely technological (old dog, new tricks thing going on here). Those bygone days are very alluring and, as a history lover, I really enjoy finding out about them all. One of the main problems (for me) of life today is the fast pace and expectations of success that everyone seems to have. The rat race was never for me. Which, to some people, might sound as though I’ve never had any ambitions – which certainly isn’t true. I just go about it at my own steady pace. 😀

      • cynthiamvoss says:

        I guess there are things from the modern world that I wouldn’t want to live without, like the medical advancements haha. It’s an interesting point you make about the expectations of success. There’s definitely a feeling of pressure to succeed. I think possibly because we are so connected and aware of what others are achieving.

  8. Gosh Millie, that is interesting. I didn’t know anything about Blackpool but I love all the history you have given. What a remarkable change seen in the pictures from then to now….Fascinating.
    Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  9. Rhys Jones says:

    Great photos and an interesting post. But you would have to pay me to go back to Blackpool.

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Rhys, thanks for visiting! It’s a while since we chatted. I can only agree with you about Blackpool. This was our first outing there since the 80s. I can’t bring myself to like the Promenade – too many amusement arcades and stalls selling rock etc. that make it look ‘tacky’. Yet is atill gets plenty of visitors in the summer. I suppose many non-locals want to see the Tower and ‘Pleasure Beach’, as well as the illuminations in the autumn. I just wished the town had a better ‘look’ to it!

  10. I love Blackpool. It really is one of those places that does exactly what it says on the tin. No frills fun!!

    • milliethom says:

      Blackpool is certainly known as the place to go for a fun time, Cameron. Coachloads used to head there in the past, even from Southport, where I lived. They may still do for all I know. If you like fairgrounds and amusements, Blackpool’s the place to go. In the 1960’s, teenagers loved it there, as well as families with young children. But it’s a place that people tend to either love or hate. February wasn’t the best time of year for a visit!

  11. empathy75 says:

    Very informative and lovely post. You are a responsible author.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you Nninn. I haven’t been on my blog much since Christmas (as I’ve been getting on with my writing) so I’m out of touch with so many blogging friends. Hope all is well with you. I’ll pop over to your blog at some stage over the next couple of days before I go back to my book. 🙂

      • empathy75 says:

        Haha. Its ok Millie. Plz focus on your writing. Its difficult to gather thoughts if you do many things simultaneously. I m reading more blogs now. But after a few days, I will focus on an exam.

  12. So very interesting and great pictures!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks for the nice comment, Jack. Blackpool isn’t the most inspiring town in the world, especially at this time of year, but it has quite an interesting history. It’s suffered many years of decline but I believe money is now being put into rejuvenating it. But I don’t think it will ever give Benidorm or Malaga cause for concern! 🙂

  13. Joy Pixley says:

    Another interesting post that blends past and present to great effect, Millie! I’m fascinated by the old photo in particular, and thinking about how exciting it must have been to visit this seaside resort at the turn of last century. Especially for those mill workers — what a change of environment, all that fresh air. It’s so odd to think that people were still riding in horse-drawn carriages, but already had amusement parks and ferris wheels!

  14. nowathome says:

    So interesting to learn about a new place! Great info and photos Millie!

  15. Susan Langer says:

    Thanks for the History lesson and the pictures. I enjoy them a lot. 🙂

  16. Sharifah says:

    Very interesting post and photos, Millie. Thanks for sharing. I’ve always enjoyed learning about the history and the life of seaside towns.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you Sharifah. The seaside towns in the UK simply can’t compete with the resorts in hotter, sunnier places, especially now travel abroad is so much cheaper than it used to be.

  17. Very interesting history and I love the photos as always! A whole different world for me Millie!

  18. inesephoto says:

    Thank you for sharing the history I didn’t know about. The photograph taken from the tower is so impressive! I wouldn’t climb up to save my life.
    I love visiting such places ‘out of season’.

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