A History of Blackpool

By Tim Lambert

Early Blackpool

For centuries Blackpool was a hamlet by the sea. Then during the 18th century, it became fashionable for the well-to-do to travel to the seaside during the Summer. (In those days people believed that bathing in seawater could cure diseases). Visitors came to Blackpool from the middle of the 18th century. However, Blackpool remained a very small place until 1781. In that year two men, Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Hoghton built a private road to Blackpool. That made it much easier to reach.

The same year stagecoaches began running to Blackpool from Manchester. In 1782 they began running from Halifax.

Nevertheless, Blackpool grew only slowly in the early 19th century. A man named Henry Banks developed Blackpool in the early years of the century. He erected new buildings. His work was carried on by his son-in-law, a man named John Cocker. However, in 1801 Blackpool had a population of less than 500. By 1851 it had risen to over 2,500. Meanwhile, St John’s Church in Blackpool was consecrated in 1821.

19th Century Blackpool

However, Blackpool only grew into a substantial town when a railway was built connecting it to the industrial towns of the north. The railway made it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach Blackpool. The first railway in the area opened in 1840 but it only ran as far as Poulton in the Fylde. Nevertheless, the Preston and Wyre railway boosted the growth of Blackpool. In 1846 a branch line was built from Poulton to Blackpool. Then the resort began to boom. Another line was built through Lytham in 1863.

Meanwhile, Victoria Terrace was built in 1837 and St John’s Market was built in 1844.

Amenities in 19th century Blackpool quickly improved. In 1851 a Board of Health was formed in Blackpool. From 1852 Blackpool had gaslight. Blackpool gained a piped water supply in 1864.

In the years 1856-1870, a Promenade was built along the seafront. Then in 1863 North Pier opened. Central Pier followed in 1868. Then in 1871, a company was formed to buy Raikes Hall and its grounds and to turn them into gardens. The Raikes Hall Garden opened in 1872. Winter Gardens followed in 1878. Meanwhile, Blackpool was given a Mayor and Corporation in 1876.

Then in 1879, some electric lights were switched on in Blackpool. At that time electric light was very new and exciting and the event attracted many visitors.

An electric tramway opened in Blackpool in 1885. In 1889 the First Opera House was built. South Pier opened in 1893.

Blackpool is famous for its tower. Blackpool Tower was built between 1891 and 1894. North Promenade was built in the years 1893-1899. The older Promenade was widened in the years 1903-1905.

Modern Blackpool

In the late 19th century Blackpool grew at a phenomenal rate. In 1881 it had a population of 14,000. By 1901 the population of Blackpool was 47,000. By 1951 it had grown to 147,000. Growth then leveled off.

Blackpool Town Hall was built in 1900. Grand Theatre was built in 1904. The first cinema in Blackpool opened in 1905. In the 1900s the Pleasure Beach began to develop and the first rides were built. Grundy Art Gallery was built in 1911.

Blackpool illuminations were first switched on in 1912. They were put on hold during the First World War but were switched on again in 1925.

The first Blackpool Carnival was held in 1923. Stanley Park opened in 1926. Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks opened in 1929.

Blackpool Technical College opened in 1938.

Today Blackpool is, of course, a thriving resort with many attractions. Blackpool Zoo opened in 1972. The Hounds Hill Centre opened in 1980. The Sandcastle opened in 1986. Blackpool Sea Life Centre opened in 1990. In 2020 the population of Blackpool was 139,000.