8 Oct 2008
The town that the Blackpool Tower rises above was once nothing more than a tiny farming and fishing community set on marshy land along the Fylde coast of Lancashire. What transformed its fortunes, from the mid-18th century, was the craze for sea-bathing. Blessed with miles of broad, sandy beaches, it proved a natural magnet for those whose idea of a good time was to rush to the coast at the weekend and plunge into a bracingly cold sea.
Before too long, enterprising locals were setting up small hotels and guest houses on the seafront to cater for the bathers. The thrill-seekers were only too happy to part with their money. An industry was born.
When the industrial revolution produced a large, overworked urban labour force, the need for leisure time that involved a change of scenery, rather than just being away from work, came to be keenly felt. Blackpool became the number one spot for day trips and short breaks.
In 1889, an event that took place on the other side of the English Channel was to transform Blackpool's visual identity forever. An enormous cast-iron tower, the tallest structure in the world, was built in the centre of Paris for the International Exhibition. In response to a property investment scam by a London-based company, which had produced bogus proposals to build replicas of the Eiffel Tower all over Britain, the mayor of Blackpool, John Bickerstaffe, decided to see his own project through.
The harsh reality of the outside world recedes into the dim distance which is exactly why the Blackpool Tower was built.