There can’t be many people who have never heard of Blackpool Tower. It is one of the most iconic buildings in the UK and has been a beacon for holiday makers across the country. Unfortunately, it also once attracted an unwanted visitor in the shape of a ship that mistook it for a lighthouse.
Its design is based on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Standing 518 feet above ground it looks out right across Blackpool and beyond. It was designed by two local Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke who worked for the same company. It was the commercial success of Blackpool Tower that set the company off on a journey designing other major iconic buildings such as the New Brighton Tower.
The foundation stone was laid on the 29th September 1891 and by the time the tower opened on the 14th May 1894, five million Accrington bricks had been used along with 2,500 tonnes of iron and 93 tonnes of cast steel.
Unlike its inspiration, the Eiffel Tower, Blackpool Tower is not ‘free standing.’ Its base is hidden away by the building that houses Blackpool Tower Circus. Its foundations also hide a time capsule buried deep inside as a legacy of the time when the tower was constructed.
A BBC journalist once wrote: “In heavy winds the building will gently sway, what a magnificent Victorian engineering masterpiece.” The tower cost around £290,000 (£40 million today) to build and when it opened 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top.
The first people to explore the tower were journalists. During September 1893 they, unbelievably, scaled the structure using the builder’s ladders.
Although, the engineering design and construction of the tower was described as a ‘masterpiece’ the maintenance of the building was sadly neglected and for the first 30 years of its life the exterior was very badly painted causing corrosion of the steel structure.
This was very nearly its demise with talk of demolishing the tower. However, it was saved when it was decided to rebuild all the damaged structure and replace the corroded steel work. This was carried out between 1921 and 1924.
A NEVER ENDING JOB
Painting the Tower’s steel takes around seven years and the lads who paint it are lovingly called stick men. As with the Forth Bridge in Scotland, as soon as they finish they have to start painting again.
The tower contributed to a sea disaster when, on the 22nd December 1894, a Norwegian ship the Abana was sailing from Liverpool to Savannah, Georgia, when she got caught in a storm in the Irish Sea. The crew had mistaken the newly built Blackpool Tower for a lighthouse and had sailed too close and the ship was spotted floundering at end of the North Pier.
The ship fired off flairs to alert the lifeboat and the landlord of a nearby hotel raised the alarm.
The Blackpool lifeboat had to be taken seven miles overland to the village of Bispham because of the weather conditions but managed to rescue all the crew of the Abana as well as the ship’s dog. The wreck can still be seen at Little Bispham during low tide.
In 2013 the popular television series ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ was being filmed in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. After the show some of the contestants noticed that things had been stolen from their dressing rooms. The mystery was how the thieves got in and out without being seen. This gave rise to the theory that they may have used a series of long lost Victorian tunnels that are rumoured to run under Blackpool. Neither the tunnel entrance nor the thieves were ever found.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Edisford Road, Clitheroe
Lancashire, England, BB7 3LA
+44 (0)1200 425 294
- Address: 60-63 Promenade, Blackpool FY1 4QU, UK
- GPS: 53.81588899201705,-3.0552679005247682
- Phone: 0044 (0)1253 622 242
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: FY1 4BJ
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply
- Disabled Access: Good - Restrictions apply
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Paul Daniels