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Blackpool Electricity & Illuminations

Home > History > Blackpool Electricity & Illuminations

Much of Blackpool's growth and character from the 1870s on was predicated on the town's pioneering use of electrical power. In 1879, it became the first municipality in the world to have electric street lighting, as large parts of the promenade were wired.

The lighting and its accompanying pageants reinforced Blackpool's status as the North's most prominent holiday resort, and its specifically working class character. It was the forerunner of the present-day Blackpool Illuminations. In 1885 one of the world's first electric tramways was laid down as a conduit line running from Cocker Street to Dean Street on the Promenade. The line was operated by the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company until 1892 when their lease expired and Blackpool Corporation took over running the line. A further line was added in 1895 from Manchester Square along Lytham Road to South Shore, and the line was extended north, first to Gynn Square in 1899, and then to Fleetwood. The tramway has remained in continuous service to this day.

By the 1890s, the town had a population of 35,000, and could accommodate 250,000 holidaymakers. The number of annual visitors, many staying for a week, was estimated at three million. 1894 saw the opening of two of the town's most prominent buildings; the Grand Theatre on Church Street, and Blackpool Tower on the Promenade.

The first decade of the new century saw the development of the Promenade as we know it today, and further development southwards beyond South Shore towards Harrowside and Squires Gate. The Pleasure Beach was first established about this time. Seasonal static illuminations were first set up in 1912, although due to World War I and its aftermath, they only enjoyed two seasons until they were re-introduced in 1925. The illuminations extended the holiday season into September and early October.