Blackpool Tower
Blackpool Tower is a tourist attraction in Blackpool, Lancashire in England which was opened to the public on 14 May 1894. ( grid reference SD306360). Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris it rises to 158m (518 ft 9 inches). The Tower is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. The tower can be seen from most places within a 30 mile radius including Barrow-in-Furness, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Southport. It is a Grade 1 listed building.

The idea for the tower came when Blackpool Mayor John Bickerstaffe commissioned the design of a new landmark for the town after he visited the Great Paris Exhibition in 1889 and was impressed by the Eiffel Tower. When he returned to Blackpool he set up a committee of businessmen in order to raise the funds to build a similar design in the town. He invested £2,000 of his own money to form, with other local investors, the Blackpool Tower Company Limited, registered on 19 February 1891. Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, designed the Tower and oversaw the laying of its foundation stone, on 29 September 1891 with a time capsule buried beneath it. By the date the Tower finally opened on 14 May 1894, both men had died. The total cost for the design and construction of the tower and buildings was about £290,000. Five million bricks, 2,500 tonnes of iron and 93 tonnes of cast steel were used to construct the tower. The cast steel and iron are distributed in such a way that if it did ever collapse it would fall into the sea. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, Blackpool Tower is not free-standing. Its base is hidden by the building which houses Blackpool Tower Circus. The building occupies a total of 5,050 sq metres (6,040 sq yards). At the summit of the tower there is a flagpole.

When the tower opened, 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top. Tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top, and a further sixpence for the circus. The first members of the public to ascend the tower had been local journalists in September 1893 using constructors' ladders. In 1897 the top of the tower caught fire, and the platform was seen on fire from up to fifty miles away. The tower was not painted properly during the first thirty years and became corroded, leading to discussions about demolishing it. However, it was decided to rebuild it instead, and between 1921 and 1924 all the steelwork in the structure was replaced and renewed. On 22 December 1894 Norwegian ship Abana was sailing from Liverpool to Florida but was caught up in a storm, and mistook the recently-built Blackpool Tower for a lighthouse. Abana was first seen off North Pier, and later drifted to Little Bispham where she was wrecked, and can still be seen at low tide. The ship's bell still hangs in St Andrews Church in Cleveleys. In 1940, during the Second World War, the crow's-nest was removed to allow the structure to be used as a Royal Air Force radar station known as RAF Tower, which proved unsuccessful. In 1949 a post box was opened at the top of the tower. The hydraulic lifts to the top of the tower were replaced in 1956-57 and the winding-gear replaced by electric. The top of the tower was painted silver in 1977 as part of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee celebrations. A giant model of King Kong was placed on the side of the tower in 1984. In 1985 escapologist Karl Bartoni and his bride were married suspended in a cage from the tower. The lifts and winding gear were again replaced in 1992. The same year the tower complex was renamed Tower World and was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales. The tower is usually painted in dark red, except for its centenary year in 1994 when it was painted gold by abseiling painters. In 1998 a "Walk of Faith" glass floor panel was opened at the top of the tower. Made up of two sheets of laminated glass, it weighs half a tonne and is two inches thick. In October 2007 a laser beam installed on the tower for the duration of the annual Illuminations was criticised by astronomer Patrick Moore, presenter of The Sky at Night television programme, who said, "Light pollution is a huge problem. I am not saying we should turn all the lights out, that is not practical, but there are some things which are very unnecessary. The Blackpool Tower light is certainly something I do not think we should be doing. I very much oppose it." The beam could be seen 30 miles away; Moore called for it to be stopped. The Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston said the laser has added to a spiralling problem affecting astronomy. The tower has transmitters for local FM station Radio Wave 96.5 and some non-broadcast services. The Tower continued to be owned by the Bickerstaffe family until 1964, when the Blackpool Tower Company was sold to EMI. Since then it has been owned by Trust House Forte, First Leisure and Leisure Parcs Ltd, owned by Trevor Hemmings. In March 2010 it was announced that Blackpool Council had bought Blackpool Tower and the Merlin Entertainment Group would manage it and add various attractions including a new Dungeon attraction and a something similar to the London Eye. The company will also manage the Blackpool Louis Tussauds waxwork museum to be rebranded as Madame Tussauds.

Blackpool Tower in popular culture
  • Artists who have performed at the tower include Arthur Askey, Duke Ellington, Paderewski, Dame Clara Butt, Cleo Laine, Peter Dawson and th band Busted.
  • Comedian Peter Kay performed his show on 10 and 11 April 2000 in the circus arena, later released as Live at the Top of the Tower on DVD.
  • The 1947 film Dick Barton Strikes Back featured a fight scene on the tower.
  • The 1995 film Funny Bones features the tower in several key scenes.
  • In April 2007, punk rock band, Revisit performed on the Walk of Faith at the top of the tower.
Blackpool is a popular seaside resort, and the beach-front tower is still a major attraction. It is lit during the annual Illuminations, when the town and seafront are decorated with colourful illuminated displays for six miles along the promenade.

Tower Ballroom
The original ballroom, the Tower Pavilion opened in August 1894. It was smaller than the present ballroom and occupied the front of the tower complex. The Tower Ballroom was built between 1897 and 1898 to the designs of Frank Matcham who also designed Blackpool Grand Theatre and it opened in 1899. It was commissioned by the Tower company in response to the opening of the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens. The ballroom floor is 120 ft x 120 ft and is made up of 30,602 blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut. Above the stage is the inscription, " Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear" from the poem Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. Each crystal chandelier in the ballroom can be lowered to the floor to be cleaned which takes over a week. From 1930 until his retirement in 1970 the resident organist was Reginald Dixon, known affectionately as "Mr. Blackpool". The first Wurlitzer organ was installed in 1929, but it was replaced in 1935 by one designed by Reginald Dixon. The current resident organist is Phil Kelsall who has been playing the organ at the Tower since 1975 when he started in the circus. The ballroom was damaged by fire in December 1956, and the dance floor was destroyed along with the restaurant underneath the ballroom. Restoration took two years and cost £500,000, with many of the former designers and builders coming out of retirement to assist, the restaurant then became the Tower Lounge. The BBC series Come Dancing was televised from the Tower Ballroom for many years and it has also hosted shows from Strictly Come Dancing including the grand final of the second series on 11 December 2004. The Blackpool Junior Dance Festival ("Open to the World") has been held each year in the ballroom since 1964. Dancing was not originally allowed on Sundays; instead, sacred music was played. The ballroom also originally had very strict rules including:
  • "Gentlemen may not dance unless with a Lady" and
  • "Disorderly conduct means immediate expulsion".
The ballroom has had a number of resident dance bands including Bertini and his band, and Charlie Barlow. Other smaller dance bands have also appeared as residents including the Eric Delaney Band and the Mike James Band. Under the management of Leisure Parcs,and the direction of bandleader Greg Francis, the Blackpool Tower Big Band was reformed in 2001 after an absence of 25 years. The New Squadronaires, The Memphis Belle Swing Orchestra and The Glenn Miller Tribute Orchestra also performed. Themed nights were also introduced along with the sixteen piece orchestra, with resident singers, including Robert Young,(born Robert Parkes Stockport 1953) Tony Benedict, Lynn Kennedy, and Mark Porter. In 2005 the Empress Orchestra became resident in the ballroom alongside the specially created and smaller Empress Dance Band. The Ballroom has also hosted rock concerts, such as the the White Stripes concert in January 2004 from which their Under Blackpool Lights DVD was created.

Tower Circus
The Tower Circus is positioned at the base of the tower, between its four legs. The circus first opened to the public on 14 May, 1894 and has not missed a season since. The present interior was designed by Frank Matcham and was completed in 1900. The circus ring can be lowered into a pool of water and holds 42,000 gallons at a depth of up to 4 ft 6 inches, which allows for Grand Finales with Dancing Fountains. The Tower Circus is one of four left in the world that can do this. During more than a century of entertainment, the world's greatest circus stars have paraded across its ring. The clown Charlie Cairoli appeared at the tower for 39 years. Britain's best-known ringmaster Norman Barrett worked the ring for 25 years. Animals appeared in the circus until 1990. It was planned to close the famous circus at the end of the 1990 season and replace it with an animatronic attraction. Public opinion and the fact the animatronics were not ready meant the circus continued. Today, the circus is produced and directed by Hungarian Laci Endresz. A live band (sometimes accompanied by Mooky the Clown) provides all the music for the show, often dynamically syncing with the performers' movements. The circus band play a variety of different songs, usually Latin for the acts. In the winter the circus stages a pantomime instead of the regular show. A third show, starting in 2008, was created for Blackpool festival, ' Showzam'. It lasts 1 week and has become a firm favourite among circus fans and locals.

The oldest part of the building is the aquarium which was part of Dr Cockers' Menagarie and Aquarium in the 1870s. It was kept open to earn revenue while the tower building went up around it. The aquarium was modelled on the limestone caverns in Derbyshire. It houses 57 different species of fresh water and salt water fish and the largest tank holds 32,000 litres of salt water.

Other attractions
Other attractions within the tower complex include

Restaurant 1894
The Hornpipe Galley was removed at the end of 2007 and has now been reopened as Restaurant 1894

Jungle Jim's Towering Adventureland
Jungle Jims is a large indoor children's adventure playground situated within the tower. On 9 October 2007 it was revealed that Leisure Parcs had submitted plans for a new play area, stage and food court to replace Jungle Jims. The new £3M play area, is called Jungle Jim's Towering Adventureland and is now open. It is an interactive play scheme covering over 2,500sq metres. Based on a lost city, children can tackle a series of adventures in search of hidden treasure.

Jurassic Walk
Jurassic Walk includes a 3D cinema and a walk through a dinosaur landscape. The attraction replaced the dark ride The Dawn of Time. This is the newest attraction to the tower.

Charlie Cairoli Exhibition
An exhibition looking back at the life of the famous clown Charlie Cairoli, and his legacy.

Tower Top
The enclosed Tower Top situated at 116 metres (380 ft) contains a small gift shop and Britain's highest post box, with letters and post cards so deposited being franked, "Posted from the top of Blackpool Tower." The Tower Top contains an additional three levels to climb:
  • The top level has views on a clear day of the Furness Peninsulas, Bowland Fells, The Lake District, North Wales, and at sunset on a clear day, the Isle of Man.
  • Two other platforms and the crow's nest are accessible only to staff.
In the lower platform, which is fully enclosed, visitors can look down to street level through a glass floor above the south-west leg, the "Walk of Faith". In July 2006 local Cub scouts pitched a tent on the Walk of Faith as part of the 90th anniversary of the Scouting movement.

Tower Heritage Trail
A trail that takes visitors on a journey looking at the Tower's unique past.

Tower Lounge Bar
The Tower Lounge Bar is a large pub with a capacity of 1,700, but staff usually limit occupancy to 1,400 for a more relaxed atmosphere.

Tower maintenance
Painting the tower structure takes seven years to complete, and the workers who maintain the structure are known as "Stick Men". There are 563 steps from the roof of the tower building to the top of the tower which the maintenance teams use for the structure's upkeep. If the wind speed exceeds 72 km/h (45 mph) the top of the tower is closed as a safety precaution. There are 8 kilometres (5 miles) of cables to feed the 10,000 light bulbs which are used to illuminate the tower. In April 2002 the Tower maintenance team was featured in the BBC One programme, Britain’s Toughest Jobs.


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