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Early Blackpool: How the seaside resort really took off

Early Blackpool

Blackpool is one of the premier seaside resorts in England with millions of visitors flocking to the town each year, however few will realise that until the 19th century it remained an insignificant village with very few visitors.



For many centuries, Blackpool was little more than a tiny hamlet on the Irish Sea although this has changed by the later years of the 18th century. By this time, many people had begun to believe that bathing in the sea could cure many diseases and visitors started to arrive in increasing numbers. Nevertheless, it remained a small place until 1781 when Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Hoghton constructed a small private road to the village, thus making it far easier to reach. Stagecoaches started to operate from Manchester to Blackpool that same year, followed in 1782 by a service from Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Blackpool’s real growth started once the railway arrived in town and connected it with the fast growing industrial towns and cities of Lancashire and further afield. The first railway arrived in the area in 1840 although this only ran as far as Poulton in the Fylde. Six years later a branch line connected Poulton with Blackpool while a second line arrived via Lytham in 1863. At this point, Blackpool really started to boom as more and more visitors arrived and as a result, amenities had little choice but to improve to meet the demand.

In the 1850s and 1860s, Blackpool got gaslight and piped water while a Board of Health was formed at this time. In 1856 construction of the famous promenade started and this was completed 14 years later. The first of the Blackpool piers – the North Pier – was opened in 1863, followed by the Central Pier in 1868. The Winter Gardens followed in 1878 and the electric lights were first switched on in 1879. The electric tramway arrived in 1885 and South Pier completed the trio in 1893.

Blackpool is well known for its iconic tower and this was erected between 1891 and 1894, the design modelled closely on the recently-opened Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In the latter years of the 19th Century, Blackpool grew at an impressive rate. The population in 1881 was around 14,000, however by 1901 it had increased to 47,000. In 1951 the total population of the town was 147,000 and the growth levelled off at this point.

Today, Blackpool is a booming seaside resort with a record number of visitors expected in 2023. With some world-class attractions and events on offer, the town can expect to remain one of the principal seaside resorts in the UK for many years to come.