Located on the Fylde coast of northern England, Blackpool today is a
popular center for leisure and entertainment, with pleasure-seekers
flocking there from all over Europe as well as the UK. Blackpool's
history as a port town dates back to Roman times, however. It was thick
with forests and swamps that made movement in the area extremely
difficult. The Romans referred to the region's inhabitants as "the
dwellers in the country of water." Roughly a couple of thousand years
later, Blackpool is considered by most to be quite a bit more inviting.
During 1999 alone, more than 16 million tourists filled the town's
hotels and guest houses.
But such a transformation has come relatively recently. In 1801, there
were still a mere 473 people who called Blackpool home. By 1901, that
number had risen to over 47,000. The main reason for this 1,000-percent
increase was the railroad, which connected to Blackpool in 1840, which brought
the masses to this seaside town. Although at first it hardly
qualified as holiday-class travel. In the very early days, people were
transported in cattle trucks that often had hardly been cleaned out, and
by the time the travelers got to Blackpool they were bruised and
battered ... and very determined to enjoy themselves.
The steady increase in travel to Blackpool prompted further developments
and innovationsthe first real blooming of which occurred in the latter
part of the 19th centuryand also began to steer the town towards a
largely tourism-based economy.
In 1879, Blackpool achieved the distinction of becoming the first town
in the world to have a system of electric street lighting. Many of this
resort town's best-known attractions were built during this time as
well, including North Pier (1863), Central Pier (1868), South Pier
(1894), the Tower (1894), and the Grand Theatre (1894). The famous
Winter Gardens were opened in 1878 and after a shaky start, were made a
roaring success by impresario William Holland, known as "the British
Barnum." He understood his customers and gave them what they wanted,
which was inexpensive all-day entertainment, even offering a
1-shilling dinner and a 1-shilling tea, plenty of everythingand
possibly a precursor for the now ubiquitous all-you-can-eat buffets.
The 20th century brought its share of additions to Blackpool's tourist
offerings, Pleasure Beach and Stanley Park being two. But the late 20th
century also brought competition from a wide range of other affordable
holiday destinations both within Britain and on the European continent.
Today, as much as for its entertainment appeal, Blackpool is perhaps as
well known within the UK for its frequent hosting of national political
conferences at the Empress Ballroom, which also served this season as a
venue for the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW UK.
To learn more about Blackpool, visit: www.blackpool.gov.uk.