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Blackpool’s Big Wheel of 1896

Blackpool has a wealth of attractions which between them help attract millions of visitors to the seaside resort each year, however many don’t realise that there are a great many iconic structures that have disappeared over the years. The most notable of these was the ‘Great Wheel’ which was built as a rival to the nearby Blackpool Tower in 1896.



Blackpool’s Big Wheel of 1896


Blackpool’s iconic tower dominates the skyline at the famous seaside resort with nothing to challenge it, however that wasn’t always the case. In 1896 it had a rival in the form of the ‘Giant Wheel’ although in reality it was never a genuine challenger and lasted a mere 32 years.

Designed by Walter B Bassett and situated next to Blackpool Winter Gardens, the structure was the second wheel out of four that the British Naval Engineer was to erect between the years of 1895 and 1898, the others being located at London (Earls Court), Vienna and Paris. He was taken to court by American giant wheel inventor James Weir Graydon who had invented and patented the big wheel idea, however Bassett won the case and either way, all four of his wheels were in operation by then. Nevertheless he dies penniless in 1907 and since then all of his wheels have long since disappeared.

Blackpool’s giant wheel (commonly referred to as the ‘Jolly Wheel’) closed to the general public on October 20th, 1928. Each carriage was dismantled separately from each side once by one to ensure balance and the demolition company put these up for sale at £20 each.

Today the Blackpool Giant Wheel is but a distant memory, however the Big Wheel on the Central Pier is a nod back to the time when Blackpool Tower had a big rival back in the day.