Leisure and pleasure

Blackpool, night view

Blackpool tower and promenade_530x377

Blackpool, night view
Artist: Alan Hollington (1978)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection

Blackpool’s signature view is the beach, its wide promenade, and commanding all the Blackpool Tower (1891-94). Some 518 feet high, this Victorian iron masterpiece is based on the Eiffel Tower (1889). And, as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, so the Blackpool Tower is to the Lancashire resort.

High towers were built in many resorts in the later nineteenth century. They were part of a portfolio of buildings that every fashionable holiday centre needed: a promenade, piers, pavilions, hydrotherapy centres, cliff railways and observatories. As the most visited resort in the country, Victorian Blackpool had the greatest collection of visitor attractions: six miles of promenade, three piers, numerous theatres and ballrooms, plus the pleasure beach, with its many rides, dating from 1896 onwards.

What’s more, Blackpool has its Illuminations.  First tried out in 1879, the world famous light show really took off in 1912, when the extravaganza became an annual event drawing hundreds of thousands to the town. In 1978 this became the subject of a project by the architectural student Alan Hollington. His designs for the light show are breathtaking. The jumbled buildings of the resort front, by day a clash of styles, are together transformed. Most spectacular of all is the tower, whose iron grids have become strings of lights, dangling high in the night sky. 


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

Top of page