Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 14th  

On this day in history in 1894, Blackpool Tower was opened.  

Blackpool Tower was, at the time of its building, the greatest British construction of the time, and is now a great icon of British Victorian engineering.  

The Tower was conceived by John Bickerstaffe, a Blackpool hotelier, who, in 1889, during his incumbency as mayor of Blackpool, visited the Great Paris Exhibition, and was amazed by Gustav Eiffel’s tremendous tower. Immediately upon his return home, Bickerstaffe set up a committee of businessmen to raise the funds to build a similar tower in Blackpool. They commissioned a design from Messrs Maxwell and Tuke, architects, of Manchester, who assured the worthy dignitaries that it was feasible, and indeed laudable, for a 500 foot tower to be built alongside the Blackpool seashore.  

On 19th February 1891, the Blackpool Tower Company Limited was registered. The company purchased the land and laid out foundations. The Tower is built on a foundation of cotton bales, to ensure flexibility in high winds, and to ensure that in the unlikely event, Heaven forbid, that the Tower should topple, then it would land safely in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea.  On 29th September 1891, the foundation stone was laid, at a ceremony attended by luminaries from the borough and from numerous other northern towns.  

The building took three years to complete, using 5 million bricks and 2,500 tons of steel, at a cost of £290,000 (£40 million in today’s money). About 200 workmen were engaged at any one time, scaling the dizzy heights and amazingly only one fatality was recorded of a young man who lost his grip and plummeted 100 feet to the ground. While construction was underway, the lower part of the building exhibited an aquarium, modelled on the limestone caves of Derbyshire. The aquarium is extant and is still open to the public, showing 57 species of marine creatures.    

The Tower was opened to the public on Whit Sunday, 14th May 1894, and has been open in every summer season since that date. In 1897, the top of the Tower caught fire and the platform could be seen blazing from fifty miles away. Despite high winds, storms, hurricanes and minor earthquakes, the famous Tower has never flinched from its position. Although the interior of the Tower has been modernised, much of its original decoration remains in place, including the exceptional Pre-Raphaelite figures on the ballroom tiles. The Tower is continually being painted, workmen starting from the base and finishing at the top, and then immediately starting work again on the base, using 6 tons of paint each round. The Tower is now a ‘Grade 1’ listed building, but not as yet a World Heritage Site. The instigator of the Tower project, Sir John Bickerstaffe died in 1930, and is buried in Blackpool. [Layton Cemetery, Talbot Road, Blackpool, FY3 7BB]

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