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How Was Blackpool Tower Built?

Celebrating 125 years of history this year, Blackpool Tower stands over its surroundings at 518 feet and 9 inches tall. And it’s just a few minutes’ walk away from the Grand Theatre!

Designed by Lancashire architects James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, the Tower’s construction started on 29th September 1891. They wouldn’t, however, live long enough to see it being completed.

Open since 1894, the Tower can be seen from the Lake District and Wales when the day is clear.

 

William Henry Cocker and the ‘Father of Blackpool’

William Henry Cocker, son of John Cocker who had the Victoria Promenade built, married Henry Banks’ daughter. Fondly known as the ‘Father of Blackpool’, Henry Banks owned a lot of valuable land and buildings that Cocker inherited.

In 1893, the Central Property Company Ltd demolished a hotel to make space for the Tower. Cocker opened his aquarium on the Promenade in 1875, which in 1880 became a Company under a Central Property Company’s title.

The Standard Debenture Corporation Ltd acquired it in 1889 and formed the Blackpool Tower Company two years later in 1891. William Cocker’s aquarium would later be incorporated into the Tower’s South Wing.

 

The Tower’s Foundation Stone is Laid

William Darker Pitt was the first to put forward the idea of building a tower for people to pay to ascend. Brothers John Bickerstaffe and Tom Bickerstaffe saw the business possibilities in this, putting £20,000 of their own money towards its construction.

After raising all the money the Company needed, £300,000, the foundation stone was laid down on 25th September 1891 by Sir Matthew White-Ridley. A Time Capsule was placed under the foundation stone with Sir Matthew White-Ridley’s voice recorded on a phonograph, newspapers, and items of the time period.

A search was conducted in 1991 for the Time Capsule, however, not even remote sensing equipment could find it.

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The Tower’s Construction

The buildings’ brickwork was laid by Blackpool’s James Cardwell and Sons. Heenan and Froude was the company who build the Tower itself. They built an electric crane in 1893 – the first of its kind in the world! – to help the Tower’s construction.

Materials used for both Tower and base:

  • 5 million Accrington bricks
  • 3,478 long tons of steel (or 3,534 tonnes)
  • 352 long tons of cast iron (or 358 tonnes)

The flagpole was lifted into its position in December 1893; however, the buildings’ completion was delayed until 1894.

 

The Tower Opens!

The official opening of the Blackpool Tower was on Whit Monday on 14th May 1894.

Admission was a sixpence, valued at one-fortieth of a pound, and another sixpence was charged if you wanted to ride the lifts up to the top. If guests wanted to visit the circus, they needed to pay sixpence more.

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It’s estimated that 70,000 people were given admission to the Tower. The Tower’s two lifts run independently from each other. They can hold up to 45 people but only 30 are taken up every time, as the weight of both passengers and lift cars can’t exceed 10 tonnes.

One of the most recognisable attractions in the lovely Blackpool, the Tower has provided many generations with days of fun and entertainment since it opened. And it keeps doing so 125 years later – and we hope for many more years!