A Trip Down Memory Lane With The Blackpool Tower

Fireworks Fire from Tower

Bold Beginnings

Crowds fill the beach in 1920 as the Tower and big wheel are both clearly visible in the background (Credit: Central Press/Getty Images)

The land that the Tower now stands on was once an aquarium!  It was purchased by a London based company in 1890, who established The Blackpool Tower Company.  The goal was to build a replica of the Eiffel Tower on the site of the aquarium.

Former Blackpool mayor, John Bickerstaff, became the chairman of the newly formed company and in July 1891, shared went on sale for The Blackpool Tower.  The plan to attract shareholders to raise the funds for the tower wasn’t as successful as planned, and Bickerstaffe found himself forking out for a large amount of the investment needed.

The Tower was designed by two local architects.  Lancashire born James Maxwell and Charles Tuke were there to see the laying of the foundation stone on September 29th 1981 but they did not survive long enough to see their creation being completed and opened to the public.  The grand opening of the attraction was on 14th mAY 1894 and thankfully, the huge investment of almost £300,000, which was big money back in those days, was a good gambol as The Tower Company made a £30,000 profit in 1986.

The Tower Construction

The total cost of building the Tower was around £290,000.  It was made from 5 million Accrington bricks, 3,478 long tons of steel and 352 long tons of cast iron.

Fireworks Fire from Tower
Fireworks fire from the top of the tower at the illuminations switch on 2021

The Tower itself is not freestanding like the Eiffel Tower is.  The part of the Tower that also houses the Tower Circus makes up the base and is 6,040 square yards in size.  Right at the top of the Tower is a flagpole.  Measured to the top of the flagpole, the tower is 518 feet and 9 inches from the ground.

Buried beneath the foundation stone is a time capsule.


Tower Eye

The west side of the Tower Eye’s lower platform featuring a glass floor and wall.

At the top of the tower is a viewing platform and walkway which is currently known as The Tower Eye.  It is so called to bring it in line with other Merlin attractions such as The London Eye.

The Tower Eye is the highest viewing platform in the North West and was previously known as the Tower Top before it reopened in September 2011 after major renovation work.  Blackpool Council had recently acquired the attraction and Merlin Entertainments was chosen to manage it along with several other local attractions.

Prior to the renovation work, the Tower Eye was simply a viewing point but after its revamp, it is now part of an experience where visitors first watch a short 4D film before heading up to the viewing area.  The film is based in the tower itself and is viewed in the majority from the viewpoint of a small boy, seemingly with superhuman powers.  The film takes viewers to the ballroom, circus and shows a little of the history of the tower.  It’s suitable for all ages and whilst insightful, isn’t too long.

South view of Blackpool
South view of Blackpool from the top of the tower

There are 4 levels to the Tower Eye.  The lower level is fully enclosed and features a glass floor and glass wall long the west of the tower overlooking the promenade and out to sea.  You can walk around the full perimeter of this level but the rest of it is made from a sturdy and very opaque flooring, which is ideal for those who don’t feel brave enough to walk on the glass panels.  The second and third levels of the tower eye are not open if the weather conditions aren’t favourable.  They are open and allow the sea air to flow through.  They are well enclosed for safety so you can’t fall from them but they offer a slightly more thrilling experience to the adventurous.  It is not possible for the general public to access the 4th level, which is the crow’s nest.  This is accessible to employees only.

The top of the tower is closed for safety purposes if the wind speed reaches 45 miles per hour.  The tower structure is designed to sway by an inch if the wind speed reaches 70 miles per hour.

Tower Ballroom

The Tower Ballroom is just as popular today as it was in 1932. A number of major events are still held here annually from dance championships to television programs,

The Tower Ballroom opened in August 1894 as the Tower Pavilion.  It was much smaller than the current ballroom, which was opened just a few years later in 1899.  A staggering 20,602 blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut wood make up the 120 x 102 ft dance floor.

The chandelier in the ballroom consists of many pieces of crystal, all of which can be lowered to the ground level for cleaning, which takes over a week to complete.



In December 1956, the original ballroom was damaged by a fire.  The dance floor and a restaurant beneath it were completely destroyed.   It cost £500,000 to restore it over 2 years, with many of the original workers, who had retired by that point, returning to the building to work on the project.

Tower Circus

The Tower Circus is actually the very base of the Tower structure and the audience are seated next to the tower’s 4 legs, with the ring itself at the centre.  Opening to the public on 14th May 1894, the circus has never missed a season!

The floor of the circus ring can be lowered to reveal a pool of water, which is 4ft 6in deep and contains 42,000 imperial gallons of water!   It is frequently used in performances as a grand finale and can be used with fountain features.  There are only 4 circus rings in the world that can do this!

One of the circus elephants plays in the sea on its day off in bygone days

The circus featured animals until the 1990 season.  At the end of the 1990 season, plans were in place to close the circus entirely to make way for an animatronic attraction instead, but with opposition from the public and with the proposed attraction not being ready in time, the circus remained open.

The circus is now produced and directed by Hungarian born Laci Endrez and members of his family.  The circus show runs throughout the year and in the winter, a pantomime is scheduled instead of the usual circus show.  This has a popular theme and features a circus aspect with performers.

The resident clown Mooky is portrayed by Laci jr and his brother stars alongside him.

Menagerie and Aquarium

Tiger cubs in the long gone Blackpool Menagerie

Since 1873, an attraction called Dr Cocker’s Aquarium, Aviary and Menagerie was in business on the land where the tower now stands.  In order to keep money coming in whilst the tower was being built, the attraction remained open and the scheduled works carried on around it.  After the tower was opened, the aquarium continued to be a popular part of the attraction.  There were 57 species of fish in the aquarium and the menagerie and aviary featured lions, tigers and even polar bears (oh my!).

The menagerie continued to run until Blackpool Zoo was opened in 1973.  In 2010, the aquarium closed to make way for the dungeon attraction that is now operating in it’s place.  Merlin Entertainments owns the nearby Sea Life Centre so it didn’t seem logical to have two aquarium style attractions so close to one another.

Maintenance Work

This photo of maintenance workers taken in 1934 is enough to make anyone feel queasy!

Making sure that the tower remains in good and sturdy condition as well as being presentable and inviting takes a lot of time and work.  Just painting the tower structure takes 7 years to complete!

There are 563 steps from the roof of the tower building to the top of the structure to allow the maintenance teams to access the structure.

Have you ever noticed the tower in the evening when it is lit up?  There are 5 miles of cables that power the 10,000 light bulbs to light up the tower!  That is one big Christmas Tree!

The tower’s maintenance team was featured on Britain’s Toughest Jobs on BBC One in April 2002.

Scaffolding on the tower
Scaffolding on the tower during maintenance work in 2019.

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