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Program 109



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 innovations—the first real blooming of which occurred in the latter part of the 19th century—and 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 everything—and 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:


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